Well, it’s finally done! A week ago, I started the process of cleaning out my DVR. I’ve lost track of how many movies that I have watched and reviewed. And now, finally, I can say that I have finally reached a stopping point. When I started this process, I only had 5 hours of space left on my DVR. I now have 48 hours of space.
I’m reviewing my final two “DVR” films in one post because they really do go together. But before I get to the review, here’s a little background. Lifetime now has it’s very own version of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. True, it hasn’t proven as popular as the MCU nor have any of the films been as critically acclaimed as Guardians of the Galaxy or the first Avengers. But, all the same, these four Lifetime films share a common continuity. Call it the Lifetime Cinematic Universe. LCU for short.
I’m talking, of course, about the Unauthorized films. In these films, Lifetime takes us behind the scenes of an iconic old television show. The first of these films was the absolutely terrible The Unauthorized Saved By The Bell Story. Then, earlier this year, we got the not-terrible-but-extremely-forgettable Unauthorized Full House Story. Finally, on October 3rd and the 9th, Lifetime broadcast the latest two entries in the LCU — The Unauthorized Beverly Hills 90210 Story and The Unauthorized Melrose Place Story.
I was on vacation when both of those films were originally broadcast but, fortunately, my sister had the foresight to set the DVR to record both of them! YAY!
(Seriously, my sister’s the best.)
Of the two films, The Unauthorized Beverly Hills 90210 film was definitely the best. In fact, it’s definitely the best of the LCU films to be released so far. The film starts with a teenage Tori Spelling (played by Abby Ross, who is a lot prettier than the real Tori Spelling will ever be) convincing her father, producer Aaron Spelling (Dan Castellenata), to take a chance on a TV show about high school students. Spelling recruits Darren Starr (Adam Korson) to run the show and together they cast a group of hopeful performers and fight with the nervous TV execs who worry about the slightest bit of controversy.
They also have to deal with lead actress Shannen Doherty (Samantha Munro), who proves herself to be as difficult as she is talented. Whereas the Saved By The Bell and Full House films suffered because of a lack of behind-the-scenes drama, The Unauthorized Beverly Hills 90210 film is all about conflict. From the minute that we first see Shannen, she’s making sure that everyone knows that she’s the star. And yet, despite that, Shannen Doherty remains a compelling and sympathetic character. Samantha Munro (who played Anya on my beloved Degrassi) gives a wonderfully complex performance. When she eventually ends up trying to beat up Jennie Garth (Abbie Cobb, who also appeared on the 90210 reboot), it’s more than just a cat fight. It’s Shannen declaring that she’s a star and she’s not going to let anyone push her to the side. And, even if Jennie hasn’t really done anything to deserve being called out, the film ultimately makes the case that Shannen, alone out of the cast, was the one who understood how Hollywood actually worked. Shannen’s a fighter because she knows the only other option is to be a victim.
Director Vanessa Parise does a good job keeping the action moving and giving us a glimpse of what it’s suddenly like to be world-famous. Some of the film’s best sequences are just the camera tracking through the studio, giving us a look of each star in his or her dressing room and providing a glimpse into the different personalities who make up the show’s ensemble. As opposed to the previous Unauthorized films, you finish the Beverly Hills 90210 Story feeling that it was a story worth telling.
One final note — Alyssa Lynch, who played Tiffani-Amber Thiessen in The Unauthorized Saved By The Bell, shows up playing the same role in Unauthorized 90210. It’s a nice nod to continuity.
The Unauthorized Melrose Place Story picks up where Beverly Hills 90210 ends. Darren Starr (Korson again) decides that he wants to do a show about people in their 20s. Aaron Spelling (Castellenata, again) agrees to produce. Once again, we get a lot of scenes of nervous network executives trying to tell Starr and Spelling what they can and can not do on television.
There’s a great scene in Unauthorized Melorse Place in which Heather Locklear (Ciara Hanna) strolls out on the soundstage, smirks, and says, “Did anyone order a bitch?” It’s a great line (and one that I’ve been using ever since I first saw the commercials for Unauthorized Melrose) but, unfortunately, Locklear’s just talking about her character. Whereas Unauthorized 90210 was all about conflict, Unauthorized Melrose seems to be about how well people get along behind the scenes.
True, there’s a few scenes where the actresses compete for the spotlight and there are hints of jealousy among the cast. Actor Doug Savant (Joseph John Coleman) gets upset because the network won’t let his gay character have a substantial storyline. Otherwise, there doesn’t appear to have been much drama behind the scenes at Melrose Place. That’s a good thing for the people who worked on the show but it doesn’t exactly make for a very compelling unauthorized story.
Along with the characters of Darren Starr and the Spelling family, both the Unauthorized Beverly Hills Story and the Unauthorized Melrose Place Story have one other thing in common, a shared joke. Both films feature actors talking about losing a role to Brad Pitt and someone else replying with, “Who?” It’s kind of an obvious joke but, again, I always appreciate continuity.
And that’s it! With these two reviews, I have now not only cleaned out my DVR but I have reviewed every single original film that has appeared, in the year so far, on both the Lifetime network and SyFy! Thank you for your indulgence and I now return you to regularly scheduled programming…