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Friday, August 17, 2012

Melrose Place's Kimberly Shaw Mancini

I'd like to believe that in this world, most of us have a basic sense of what is right, and what is wrong. I'd also like to believe that there are people who are not completely evil, just as well as there are people who are not completely angelic either. We all have days in which we are very, very good...and conversely, we have days in which we are very, very bad.

But I think that's part of day-to-day life. The vast majority of us live a balanced life. Not too good, not too bad...just the right amount of each side to keep us in check.

Granted, there are a few people out there in this world whose evil qualities are irredeemable.  But, this blog entry is not one of those.

Today's blog entry will be discussing a fictional character who many people might consider to be one hundred per cent pure evil.  And yes, on the television show that she appeared on, she ended up doing a lot of terrible things.  She committed adultery, she stole another woman's baby, attempted to kill several people, and actually succeeded in killing an innocent victim when she blew up an entire building!

I know what you must be thinking.  What a terrible, terrible person!  She should spend the rest of her life in prison, or be put to death in the electric chair, or be institutionalized in a looney bin.  Anything to keep this psychopath off the streets, right?

Well, what if I told you that I was going to take on a different stance?  What if I told you that after watching a few of her most memorable moments from the show she starred on, I can actually find ways to DEFEND her behaviour?

(Besides, she's a fictional character, it's not as if she exists for real, right?)

Before we put this character under the microscope, let's talk a little bit about the show that this person was featured in.

Do any of you remember the television show "Melrose Place"?  The show was one of FOX's most-viewed television shows at one time...though it didn't start out that way.

Premiering on July 8, 1992, "Melrose Place" began as a spin-off of another Darren Star created drama, "Beverly Hills 90210".  On 90210, Jennie Garth's character of Kelly Taylor began dating an older man named Jake Hanson (Grant Show).  Jake appeared on a few episodes at the end of 90210's second season, and immediately after it ended, the decision was made to have Jake as one of the main characters of "Melrose Place".  Since it was a spin-off of 90210, some 90210 stars made an appearance in the show's pilot, including Garth, Ian Ziering, Brian Austin Green, and Tori Spelling.  Unfortunately for Kelly, the relationship between her and Jake did not last (setting the stage for the Kelly/Dylan/Brenda love triangle storyline of 90210's Season Three), but "Melrose Place" continued on.

The show initially featured eight 20-somethings who were just starting out in the world, looking to make all of their dreams come true, and at first, the shows would have one major plot, with minor plots concluding within the span of an episode.  But when the formula proved unsuccessful, and the low ratings almost caused the show to be cancelled, producers made some changes.  Gone were Amy Locane and Vanessa Williams (not THAT Vanessa Williams), and in their place came Daphne Zuniga and Heather Locklear.  Plots also became more soap opera like, with dozens of twists and turns at every corner.  The changes proved very successful, and the show ended up running for seven seasons, the final episode airing on May 24, 1999.

Now, "Melrose Place" ended up being a show that had a lot of star power.  Certainly, Heather Locklear had major star quality...but did you know that Lisa Rinna, Jack Wagner, and Alyssa Milano once held regular roles on "Melrose Place"?

The show was also one that kicked off the careers of several people.  Some people may not have heard the names Laura Leighton, Kristin Davis, Josie Bissett, Andrew Shue, Doug Savant, and Courtney Thorne-Smith before "Melrose Place", but after the show began airing, they all became instant stars.

TRIVIA:  Thomas Calabro was the only original cast member to stay on the show for all seven seasons without leaving once.

While we're on the subject, here is some more trivia for all of you.  Did you know that two of the main cast members of "Melrose Place" also appeared as regular characters of "Desperate Housewives"?  Doug Savant was one.

The other one was Marcia Cross, who played desperate housewife Bree Van De Kamp.  But she also played the television character that we'll be discussing today.  A character that wreaked havoc on "Melrose Place" for the first five seasons.

This is the story of Dr. Kimberly Shaw Mancini.

Kimberly was not an original character on the show.  Her first appearance was not until September 1992.  And, when the viewer was introduced to Dr. Kimberly Shaw, she wasn't even much of a character at first.  She was a resident doctor at Wilshire Memorial Hospital, and she was on the fast track to a bright future.  At the time of her first appearance, she was the colleague of another resident doctor who was interning at Wilshire, Dr. Michael Mancini (Calabro).  At first, Michael and Kimberly often quarreled with each other, each one seemingly jealous of the other person's accomplishments.  But when Michael's wife, Jane (Bissett) suffered a miscarriage, Kimberly became Michael's shoulder to cry on.

The friendship between Michael and Kimberly became stronger, and Michael even brought Kimberly to a Christmas party held at his apartment building at 4616 Melrose Place, to introduce her to Jane and the rest of the tenants.

But then things get complicated.  Kimberly and Michael develop feelings for each other and embark on an affair, which ultimately breaks up Jane and Michael's marriage.  Michael soon moves away from Melrose Place and purchases a beach house where he and Kimberly decide to live.  But then Jane's sister, Sydney (Leighton) arrives in town, and causes a lot of trouble.  Sydney decides to seduce Michael after he gets a little too drunk, and Kimberly finds out about it. 

I suppose Kimberly never heard the saying "once a cheater, always a cheater."

Of course, Michael tries to convince Kimberly that the affair did not mean anything and that Kimberly was the only one for him (wonder if he said that to Jane as well?) and he proposes to her.  Initially, Kimberly rejects Michael's proposal, but changes her mind on the ride home.  But just as both Michael and Kimberly are celebrating the good news, this happens...

Michael survived the crash, though the accident leaves him temporarily paralyzed.  Because he was under the influence of alcohol while he was driving the car, he convinces his friend Matt Fielding (Savant) to manipulate the test results to avoid jail time.  But when Kimberly falls into a coma and is flown back to Ohio, Michael receives the devastating news from Kimberly's mother that she has passed away.  To make matters worse, Sydney discovers what Michael had Matt do, and blackmails Michael into marriage.

But here's the first of the twists and turns that "Melrose Place" was known for.  Kimberly's mother lied about what happened, and imagine Michael's surprise when a certain red-haired woman from his past waltzes right back into his life.

Michael decides that he wants to be back with Kimberly, and immediately leaves Sydney so he can be with her.  But the accident ended up causing some damage to Kimberly...both mentally, and physically.  First, let's get the physical part out of the way.

What a huge scar, huh?  Seems that when Kimberly was in a coma, she underwent some brain surgery.  The positive was that it saved her life...the negative was that it made Kimberly very unpredictable, moody, and dangerous.  And the only thing on Kimberly's mind was revenge against Michael.

After putting on a blonde wig, Kimberly goes on a drive and purposely runs over Michael with her car, giving Michael amnesia.  At the beginning of the show's third season, Michael is unsure of who ran over him.  Initially, Jane is suspected of the crime, but is just as quickly cleared.  Jane's sister, Sydney however was not quite as lucky, getting charged for Michael's attempted murder.  It doesn't take long for Sydney to be released from jail, and right around that time, Michael's memory began to return, and knowing that Kimberly was responsible, the stage was set for him to confess all, and send Kimberly to jail.  But Michael decided to handle it a different way.  He admits that he is still in love with Kimberly, and whether she decided to love him or kill him, he just wanted her to make up her mind once and for all.

Kimberly decided to choose love over murder, and she and Michael elope in Las Vegas.  But when the happy couple talk about wanting children, Kimberly is devastated to learn that the car accident has left her unable to have any children at all.  The only way they were to have a child was to adopt, but Kimberly was too impatient. 

Enter Jo Reynolds (Zuniga), a photographer who had gotten pregnant by the rapist she had murdered in self-defense.  Turns out, the family of the baby's father were fighting Jo for custody of the child, and Jo was determined not to let them get their hands on the baby.  Kimberly offered Jo a solution.  Pretend the baby was stillborn, and move to New York City with the baby so Jo could raise the child herself. 

But Kimberly never did have Jo's best interests at heart.  Kimberly delivered Jo's baby, forged a death certificate for the baby boy, and cruelly told Jo that the baby had died so she could steal the baby for herself and Michael.  For a while, Kimberly had gotten away with her crime, as Jo couldn't contact the police as she had committed a crime trying to keep her baby.  But if you thought that Jo was going to take this lying down, think again.

The story was resolved eventually.  Michael helped reunite Jo with her son, and Jo made the decision to give her child up for adoption to keep him away from the family of her rapist.  But the conclusion of this storyline cost Kimberly dearly.  She ended up trying to take her own life twice, and she ended up losing Michael to Amanda Woodward (Locklear).  With everyone on Melrose Place turning against her, and with the stress causing Kimberly to lose all sense of reality, Kimberly snapped...and at the beginning of the show's fourth season, Kimberly took her ultimate revenge.

The episode aired on September 11, 1995, and was one of the highest rated episodes of Melrose Place ever.  The disaster left half of the residents homeless, temporarily blinded Allison Parker (Thorne-Smith), and killed Mackenzie Hart (Morgan Brittany).  The blast initially knocked Kimberly into the swimming pool, but Dr. Peter Burns (Wagner) saves her life.  While Kimberly recovers from her injuries, she seemed completely shocked that she could blow up an entire building.  Filled with sudden remorse over what she did, and trying to come to terms with it, she attempts suicide once more.  Peter ends up talking Kimberly down, but after Kimberly keeps seeing a demonic figure named Henry that urges her to kill Michael and Sydney, she is institutionalized.

This is where I start to feel a little bad for her.  And, this is where the viewer discovers a bit of the backstory behind what caused Kimberly to lose her mind.  While Kimberly is locked away, she remembers that Henry was the family gardener.  When Kimberly turned seven years old, Henry attempted to rape Kimberly's mother.  With Kimberly's father out of town, Kimberly was the only one who could protect her mother.  She picked up a knife, and stabbed Henry, killing him.  What followed was years of pain, confusion, and shock that festered inside of Kimberly until she finally snapped.  It was likely that the car accident helped trigger Kimberly's descent into madness, but it had been building up inside of Kimberly for years.

It takes a while for Kimberly to reintegrate herself into society once more.  Initially, Sydney and Michael hire an actor who looked like Henry to torture Kimberly, but with Peter's help, their nasty scheme was exposed, and Kimberly begins to move forward with her life.  She starts to host a radio talk show, and soon rejoins the staff of Wilshire Memorial as a psychiatrist (hey, nobody said that "Melrose Place" was a realistic show), and somehow ends up rekindling her relationship with Michael again after he saves her from an obsessed radio fan.

But, Kimberly's fight to stay sane continued to be a struggle, and eventually she ended up suffering from multiple personality disorder, morphing into a 1950s era housewife named Betsy. And Betsy proves to be even crazier than Kimberly could ever dream of being.  The climax of the story involved Kimberly/Betsy trying to kill Peter, Amanda, and Michael, and Kimberly ending up falling over a balcony.  Kimberly recovers from the fall (and regains her personality), but she realizes that she has to give up her career in medicine, and she ends up taking a job as Peter and Michael's receptionist.

Tragically, Kimberly ends up developing a brain tumour midway through season five, and Kimberly ends up passing away...finally at peace after a lifetime filled with hurt, pain, and confusion.

So, you see, Kimberly Shaw was one television character with a lot of layers, and she wasn't exactly who she appeared to be.  I'd like to think that the real Kimberly Shaw was someone who really had nothing but the best intentions, and who was basically a good person...she just ended up having a lot of bad luck, and had to experience some life-changing events that caused her to lose her mind.  Kimberly Shaw was one of those characters who tried to rise above the mental illnesses and psychoses that followed her through her whole life, and was unable to escape.  Her crimes against everyone on Melrose Place can't be excused...but knowing the motivation behind them, you sort of see how she came to those conclusions.

And, as a credit to Marcia Cross, she owned the role.

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