In its new time slot, the heat is on 'Melrose Place' in more ways than one


What’s the biggest change caused by Melrose Place‘s moving to Mondays at 8 p.m. (7 p.m. Central)? ”My family in Iowa is wondering how they’re going to be able to watch it at seven,” says Laura Leighton, who plays bad seed Sydney.”They’ll have to move dinner up.”

* The movers and shakers behind the show don’t seem too shaken up by the move. ”It breaks the 90210/Melrose habit, but 90210 moved from Thursday at nine to Wednesday at eight (in 1992), and the ratings went up,” says Darren Star, creator and executive producer of both shows. Adds Aaron Spelling: ”I was worried when Fox made the decision, and they said, ‘What can we do to alleviate your fears?’ I said, ‘Pick up the show for two years.’ And they did.”

* Yeah, but won’t they have to de-steam Melrose for the family hour? As Courtney Thorne-Smith, who plays squeaky-clean (by Melrose standards) Alison, points out, ”It’s just not an 8 o’clock show. (Are they going to say), ‘You can only sleep with three people this week’?”

* ”I did have to change ‘son of a bitch’ to ‘scum’ in one of my scripts,” says Leighton, ”but that’s the most compromising we’ve had to do so far.”

* Among the other twists planned for this season (skip the next four paragraphs if you don’t want to know the secrets):

* Sisters Sydney and Jane (Josie Bissett) will both become suspects in the attempted murder of Michael (Thomas Calabro), but neither will be convicted.

* Jo (Daphne Zuniga) will have her baby, while ex-beau Jake (Grant Show) will get snared in a triangle between Amanda (Heather Locklear) and a married woman he rescues from drowning (supermodel Kathy Ireland, who’ll guest-star in at least four episodes).

*Though Alison ditched Billy (Andrew Shue) at the altar in last season’s cliff-hanger, Thorne-Smith says, ”I bet you anything (they) get married. In soaps, the happy couple is annoying and whiny. They have to break you up so they can have the excitement of getting you back together.” Alison will also confront her sexually abusive dad (Monte Markham). ”They tell me she’ll be a bad girl for a while,” says Thorne-Smith. ”But that probably just means she’ll whine louder.”

*Matt (Doug Savant) won’t see the guy he smooched off-camera last season, but the sailor he dated returns. Don’t expect too much. ”There is a line that, when one crosses it, a company suffers financial hardship,” says Fox’s boycott-fearing president, Sandy Grushow. ”We are not interested in suffering that hardship.”

Though Melrose‘s shift originally took it out of competition with Home Improvement, it faces tough sitcom blocs on all three other networks. Everyone is shoring up for the challenge:

*NBC is adding kid power to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Blossom, figuring teens and twentysomethings will flee to Melrose. Ross Bagley, 5 (The Little Rascals‘ Buckwheat), will play Will Smith’s cousin, and Courtney Chase, 6, will play Mayim Bialik’s stepsister.

*ABC has moved the top 10 show Coach to Mondays at 8 and paired it with Blue Skies. Craig T. Nelson’s Coach Hayden Fox gets a slick image consultant (Jessica Walter) and sees a counselor about his inability to conceive a child with Christine (Shelley Fabares).

*CBS is sticking with sophomores The Nanny and Dave’s World, both of which did well in reruns. ”It’s the freshest choice. Pardon the pun, but The Fresh Prince has been on since 1990,” says CBS Entertainment president Peter Tortorici. ”And Coach has been on even longer.”

While Melrose is often hilarious (sometimes even intentionally), it could be strong counterprogramming against this comic barrage. ”Monday is a very hot battleground,” says Howard Stringer, president of the CBS Broadcast Group. ”It will look like Normandy after the invasion. There will likely be some casualties.” –BF

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