MANY ARE THE DELIGHTS TO BE HAD from watching Fox’s Melrose Place, a show so outlandishly silly it can leave a viewer balmy, but chief among them is Andrew Shue’s sweetly blank nonperformance as Billy Campbell.
Handsome in an equine way, Shue since 1992 has been the nice guy in the midst of endless plot machinations at that tiny but busy apartment complex. At first, his role consisted largely of reaction shots as well as shirtless situps that showed off his torso. His basic expression was one of shock or puzzlement, which he registered in both cases by tugging his mouth to the side and undulating an eyebrow.
This past year, though, Shue was tossed exciting new acting challenges, and he has fumbled each one endearingly. When Billy’s evil wife, Brooke (Kristin Davis), weepingly revealed she had suffered a miscarriage, Shue hugged her and rolled his eyes heavenward, the way virtuous women do in old religious prints. But there was no hurt or sorrow in those milk-chocolate orbs. Shue seemed to be observing the arc of an unusually slow fly.
Lately, for reasons that I find psychologically obscure, Billy has decided he wants to be as ruthless as Brooke (who finally perished in a pool accident). Suddenly desperate to become top dog at the ad agency where he works as an account executive under Amanda Woodward (Heather Locklear), he sleeps with a rival to learn the details of her new campaign. And how he torments his colleague and ex-lover Alison Parker (Courtney Thorne-Smith)! He cruelly waves a champagne bottle under her nose (she’s in recovery) and tries to make her mud-wrestle (to satisfy a kinky client’s request). We are meant to see, however, that Billy really doesn’t want to be bad. Alone in his room, he sadly lets the bubbly dribble onto the carpet. The toppled bottle is more expressive than Shue.
Of course, there is always room for a nonperformance on Melrose—a show comprised of a wild mix of acting styles. Locklear fires off all her lines with a fierce, metronomic flatness. As scheming but dim Sydney, Laura Leighton is a shower of madcap sparks. And masque-faced Marcia Cross, who plays Kimberly Shaw, insane psychiatrist—in her latest breakdown, she compulsively bought Tupperware—does all her acting with flickers of panic in her eyes.
This is where Shue comes in. They also serve who just do situps. If you didn’t have a dead spot between the movements of a symphony, how would you know it was a symphony?