Monday, July 9, 2012
Soap Dish: Hooked on Hollywood Heights
I must confess that I almost stopped watching Hollywood Heights, Nick at Nite's new daily drama, after its first week, which was all about introducing its large cast of characters. The two young leads, Brittany Underwood and Cody Longo, are both pretty, but their characters - high school senior Loren Tate and her celebrity crush, rock star Eddie Duran - are kind of bland. Fortunately, the show's supporting cast is far more entertaining, so I decided to keep tuning in to see if the series improved. And after sitting through the first 15 episodes, I'm pleased to report that I like Hollywood Heights. I'm not totally in love with it yet, but I'm enjoying most of the storylines - and having watched many soap operas over the years, I know they take awhile to find their groove. So for now I'm happily hooked on the show.
Before I share any further thoughts on the series, here is some brief background information: Hollywood Heights is an adaptation of the popular 1990 Mexican telenovela, Alcanzar una Estrella ("To Reach a Star"), which was about a young girl who meets her teen idol and becomes a singing star herself. Nick at Nite's version was developed by Josh Griffin, who co-created Sunset Beach in 1997 and wrote for As the World Turns, One Life to Live, Santa Barbara and The Young and the Restless, and daytime television veteran Jill Farren-Phelps, the former executive producer of Santa Barbara, Guiding Light, Another World, One Life to Live and General Hospital, is one of the show's executive producers. So Hollywood Heights is definitely in the hands of talented people who know their way around a soap opera.
Now here is a brief rundown of the main characters and their individual dramas:
I've already mentioned Loren and Eddie, the cute but somewhat boring leads. She has entered his songwriting contest, while he is clueless about his girlfriend Chloe's infidelity. Underwood and Longo are both fine in the roles, but other more engaging characters are always stealing the spotlight from them.
Chloe Carter and Tyler Rorke are Eddie's model girlfriend and the hunky bad boy that she's fooling around with behind Eddie's back. Now this devious duo are far more fun to watch than Loren and Eddie as they conspire together and separately to become Hollywood stars. Tyler also knows some sordid secret about Chloe's mysterious past that will destroy her plans to become Mrs. Eddie Duran. And it's always a pleasure to see the six-pack abs of actor Justin Wilczynski, who plays Tyler.
I wish that 26-year-old Ashley Holliday, who plays Loren's best friend Melissa, was the star of the show because she is a total delight. And I especially enjoy Melissa's budding relationship with Adam (played by Nick Krause, who was in the George Clooney film, The Descendants). They are my favorite Hollywood Heights couple.
As for my least favorite characters, I have to go with the annoying Adriana Masters, the show's mean girl who hates the goody two-shoes Loren. Hopefully head writer Josh Griffith will turn her into a more two-dimensional "Erica Kane" because right now she is just a spoiled little rich girl whose bitchy behavior makes me cringe. It's too bad that she's not written more like her boyfriend Phil (played by the handsome Robert Adamson), who causes all kinds of trouble while still being likable. I also find Eddie's manager, Jake, and his wife Traci incredibly dull - except when he is shirtless (actor Brandon Bell does have a nice bod). However, I have a feeling that Traci's friend Kelly might help to spice up their storyline down the road.
Then there is the excellent "older" cast of Hollywood Heights, which includes Jama Williamson (who played Tom's wife on Parks and Recreation) as Loren's single mother Nora, Grayson McCouch (who played Dusty Donovan on As the World Turns) as Adriana's single father Don, and Carlos Ponce as Eddie's widowed father Max. All three of them are wonderful, and I'm hoping that a love triangle might develop between their characters. You can't help but love Williamson, whose Nora is such a cool and supportive mom, while McCouch and Ponce are both easy on the eyes and very good actors. I'm still warming up to Brian Letscher and Meredith Salenger as Melissa and Phil's parents, Gus and Lisa - the former has had nothing much to do so far, while the latter often makes me want to scream as she favors her rotten son over her fabulous daughter. But it's obvious that this couple is hiding a secret about Melissa that might just make them more interesting in the future.
And, finally, I have to mention actor James Franco, who has made a few amusing appearances as movie producer Osborne Silver and uttered one of my favorite lines: "I'm starting to get excited - goosebumps actually - it's like seeing Xanadu for the first time." Although I haven't reached that stage yet with Hollywood Heights, I will give the show a grade of B for its first three weeks on the air. I might not be the target teenage audience that the series is trying to appeal to, but with its increasingly addictive storylines and an attractive amount of male eye candy, this fortysomething gay man plans to keep tuning in.