Melrose Place (Tues., Sept. 8 @ 9:00 PM, The CW)

The competition: “Dancing with the Stars” (ABC), “NCIS: Los Angeles” (CBS), “The Biggest Loser” (NBC), “So You Think You Can Dance” (Fox)

Starring: Laura Leighton, Shaun Sipos, Thomas Calabro, Katie Cassidy, Colin Egglesfield, Stephanie Jacobsen, Michael Rady, Jessica Lucas, Ashlee Simpson-Wentz
Producers: Todd Slavkin and Darren Swimmer (“Smallville”)
Network’s Description: In an elegant Spanish-style apartment building in the trendy Melrose neighborhood of Los Angeles, a diverse group of 20-somethings have formed a close-knit surrogate family. Sydney Andrews is the landlady, still beautiful at 40, and a central figure in the lives of all her tenants, especially handsome and rebellious David Breck. Sydney started an affair with David despite her turbulent history with his estranged father, Dr. Michael Mancini. Both father and son learned through experience that Sydney was not above using blackmail to control people. Another tenant, high-powered publicist Ella Simms, once considered Sydney her mentor, but their friendship was destroyed by betrayal, and Sydney threatened to evict Ella and ruin her career. Sydney also played a pivotal role in the career of Auggie Kirkpatrick. After they met at an AA meeting, she became Auggie’s sponsor and encouraged his dream to become a chef. Now a successful sous chef at the trendy restaurant Coal, Auggie has been avoiding Sydney since she began drinking again. The other tenants include Lauren Yung, a medical student in desperate need of money to pay her student loans, and Jonah Miller, an aspiring filmmaker who has just proposed to his live-in girlfriend Riley Richmond, a first-grade teacher. The newest tenant, 18-year-old Violet Foster, has just arrived in LA with her own secret connection to Sydney. When a bloody body is found floating in the courtyard pool, David is the leading suspect. However, as the police are soon to discover, almost everyone living at Melrose Place had a reason to want the deceased out of the way.
The Buzz: There hasn’t been nearly as much excitement about this reboot as there was for “90210.” After watching the pilot, there appears to be good reason for that.
Pilot Highlight: The temptation is to say either the discovery of the body or the discovery of who David’s father is, but by the time the show premieres, it’s a fair bet that both pieces of information won’t be nearly as much of a surprise for you as they were for me. As such, let’s go with the closing moment, when we’re handed a shot which implies that we’re looking at the murderer.
Bottom Line: The characters and scenarios feel clichéd, and as it stands right now, the connections to the original series seem tenuous at best. You can appreciate The CW’s desire to have lightning strike twice, but this just couldn’t feel more rushed…or unnecessary.

The Beautiful Life: TBL (Wed., Sept. 16 @ 9:00 PM, The CW)

The competition: “Modern Family” and “Cougar Town” (ABC), “Criminal Minds” (CBS), “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” (NBC), “Glee” (Fox)

Starring: Sara Paxton, Benjamin Hollingsworth, Mischa Barton, Corbin Bleu, Ashley Madekwe, Nico Tortorella, Dusan Dukic, Jordan Wooley, Elle Macpherson, Audrina Patridge
Producers: Adam Giaudrone, Mike Kelley, and Carol Barbee (“Swingtown”), Karey Burke and Jason Goldberg (“Miss Guided”), Ashton Kutcher (“Beauty and the Geek”)
Network’s Description: The life of a high-fashion model appears glamorous and sexy, but as every new model quickly learns, behind the beautiful façade is a world of insecurity and cutthroat competition. Two teenage models who are about to discover this world for themselves are Raina Collins, a stunning beauty with a secret past, and Chris Andrews, a strikingly handsome Iowa farm boy. When Raina makes an unforgettable impression at a show introducing the new line from designer Zac Posen, she steals the spotlight from her friend Sonja. Sonja has been out of the country for mysterious reasons and is now desperate to reclaim her standing as the reigning supermodel. While Raina and Sonja live at the top of the fashion food chain, Chris is starting at the bottom, having just been discovered by agent Simon Lockridge of the Covet Modeling Agency, which is owned by former supermodel Claudia Foster. At his first photo shoot, Chris’ inexperience almost derails his career until Raina comes to his rescue, showing him how to relax and work the camera. That afternoon, Raina brings Chris to the “models’ residence” where she lives along with other young hopefuls, including Marissa Delfina, Egan, Issac, and the current alpha-male-model known as Kai. At an exclusive industry party that night, Chris is again impressed by Raina’s generosity when she steps aside to make sure Sonja lands a job that will resurrect her career. However, after an ugly scene with Simon, Chris is left to question whether he can survive in this world of dangerous excess and fleeting fame.
The Buzz: The CW is no doubt patting itself on the back for building a companion drama for its longstanding reality-show success, “America’s Next Top Model.” Hey, and it only took them six years!
Pilot Highlight: Well, actually, we haven’t seen the whole pilot yet. All we’ve been given is a so-called “presentation,” which is basically about 30 minutes of the first episode, so it’s possible…even probable…that some changes are going to be made. From what was provided, however, aside from the meet-cute between the show’s male and female leads, where you can’t help but smile at the authenticity of their reaction to each other, it’s Chris’s decision to go with his instincts when responding to the way Simon acts toward him in public.
Bottom Line: Paxton and Hollingsworth certainly have chemistry, and it’s nice to see Barton strutting her stuff again, but there are a lot of clichés on display here, often to the point of inspiring laughter rather than the intended drama. But, really, are the “Next Top Model” viewers really so discerning as to care?

The Vampire Diaries (Thurs., Sept. 10 @ 8:00 PM, The CW)

The competition: “Flash Forward” (ABC), “Survivor” (CBS), “SNL Weekend Update” (Sept. 17 – Oct. 1) / “Community” (Oct. 8 onward) and “Parks and Recreation” (NBC), “Bones” (Fox)

Starring: Nina Dobrev, Steven R. McQueen, Paul Wesley, Ian Somerhalder, Candice Accola, Kayla Ewell, Katerina Graham, Michael Trevino, Sarah Canning, Chris William Martin, Zach Roerig, Benjamin Ayres, Steve Belford
Producers: Bob Levy and Leslie Morgenstein (“Gossip Girl”), Julie Plec (“Kyle XY”), James L. Thompson III (“Swingtown”), Kevin Williamson (“Dawson’s Creek”)
Network’s Description: Four months after the tragic car accident that killed their parents, 17-year-old Elena Gilbert and her 15-year-old brother, Jeremy are still trying to cope with their grief and move on with their lives. Elena has always been the star student; beautiful, popular and involved with school and friends, but now she finds herself struggling to hide her sadness from the world. As the school year begins, Elena and her friends are fascinated by a handsome and mysterious new student, Stefan Salvatore. Stefan and Elena are immediately drawn to one another, and Elena has no way of knowing that Stefan is a centuries-old vampire, struggling to live peacefully among humans, while his brother Damon is the embodiment of vampire violence and brutality. Now these two vampire brothers ─ one good, one evil ─ are at war for Elena’s soul and for the souls of her friends, family and all the residents of the small town of Mystic Falls, Virginia. Based on the series of books by L. J. Smith.
The Buzz: Are you kidding? In a world where “Twilight” is an unstoppable phenomenon, this is already being labeled as the must-see show of the fall (it’s got to give Ms. Smith at least a small surge of pride to know that her books preceded those of Stephenie Meyer’s by fourteen years), making the fact that it’s a Kevin Williamson production mere gravy. The brilliant decision to pair the series with the equally-petrifying “Supernatural” could make The CW a force to be reckoned with on Thursday nights.
Pilot Highlight: The battle between the reunited brothers crackles with action and tension and features some nice verbal sparring between Wesley and Somerhalder as well. But what other kind of dialogue would you expect from the man who brought you “Dawson’s Creek”?
Bottom Line: You’d be a fool to bet against this kind of buzz. It’s not high drama, nor is it the greatest tale of the undead currently on television, but the kids are going to eat it up.