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<I>Melrose Place</I>: Did Heather Locklear Make Everything Better?

I was very excited when it was announced that Heather Locklear was returning to her Melrose Place roots as the bitch-in-heels Amanda Woodward. This new series, while oddly watchable, needed a jolt of something to really get it going. Since she'd saved the previous incarnation from dullness/cancellation, it seemed fitting that she'd boost this version as well. But now that we've actually seen her first episode, I'm not sure her appearance is helping matters much.

The problem is that Locklear's role puts her directly in the path of Katie Cassidy, who is playing Amanda 2.0, a.k.a. Ella, and frankly, that's the one character that doesn't need any help. Ella is the most consistently interesting person on the series (with the best wardrobe to boot) and Cassidy is hands-down the best actress. Her storylines about a conflicted publicist trying not to screw over her few friends are often the only ones worth watching in any given episode. Adding Amanda to that mix now makes that arc light years above everything else on the show - but does nothing to fix everything that's not working.

After all, Locklear can't make the stupid Lauren prostitution whore thing play out any more interestingly, unless she becomes her madam. She clearly wasn't able to put a stop to the music supervisor's obsession with seemingly using every pop song that is currently available on iTunes in every episode. She's not really even remotely believable as the murder suspect that they tried to make her out to be when we saw her breaking into Sydney's safe. And if she ever has to be in a scene with Ashlee Simpson-Wentz, she'll eat her alive. Actually, maybe that would be fun to see. Like the zombies in those Jane Austen retellings.

And while her appearance might provide a ratings boost for fans of the classic MP who are curious about her character, when she eventually leaves, so will those ratings. In so many ways, this is just like when producers tried to infuse 90210 2.0 with Brenda/Kelly drama -- making them the centerpiece just did a disservice to the new characters by giving them less screentime to win viewers over. With Michael and Amanda butting heads next week, expect the spotlight to be taken completely away from the new Melrose kids.

But on the plus side, Locklear's introduction did bring about some much-needed changes. She finally fired Ella's annoying boss, Caleb, who was the least interesting gay character on television since Will Truman. Amanda also had the pleasure of making Ella squirm, which is a side of this tough, confident gal that we really haven't seen before. And if it takes Amanda to remind the writers that Ella's supposed to be bisexual, then I'm all for that. And if this incarnation of MP ends up getting cancelled after only one season, I would definitely tune in for an Amanda-Ella spinoff set at a PR agency. Now that could be good drama.

Your thoughts on Amanda's return? Leave 'em below.

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