Central Park West
(also known as CPW
) was an American prime time television soap opera that ran from September 1995 to June 1996 on CBS
. The series centered around the Fairchild siblings (played by Madchen Amick
and John Barrowman
), the stepchildren of the wealthy editor of a trendy New York-based fashion magazine. The two became immersed in a world of backstabbing socialites, sex, drama and intrigue while working to further their own careers and ambitions.
The series was created and executive produced by Melrose Place
's Darren Star, and was set in the affluent Central Park West area of Manhattan, New York
. When the show premiered, it boasted a cast of heavyweight drama actors (including Lauren Hutton and Mariel Hemingway, among others).CPW
had the misfortune of being greenlit right after one of CBS' worst television seasons ever (1994-95), where many stations departing to Fox because of that network grabbing NFL rights from CBS didn't care a wit to market it, and stations coming into CBS just wanted people to know they existed first before promoting anything. Despite a huge marketing push (geared towards younger viewers, it was the most promoted new show in years) and an attempt to portray the show as the Spiritual Successor
to 80's soap operas like Dallas
and Knots Landing
, the ratings didn't climb.
The show was removed from CBS' schedule and brought back a few months later, heavily retooled
and missing half the cast (Hemingway left by this point, and Raquel Welch was brought in). The retooling was not enough to save the show, which was canceled soon thereafter. The failure of the series quickly returned the network back to their traditional broadcasting focus.
challenged the normal conventions of prime time soap operas
of the decade. While most other soaps had long-running storylines, CPW
had multiple fast-paced (and short) storylines running concurrently that could be dropped within a moment's notice. The show was also notable for being filmed entirely in the downtown NYC area (even in winter), a trait that hasn't been seen in many other productions since then.
This show contains examples of:
- Aborted Arc / Left Hanging: The series ends with one supporting character dead, one main character in limbo, several character arcs unfinished and a cliffhanger ending.
- Almost Kiss
- Ax-Crazy: Alex (Peter Fairchild's girlfriend) who suddenly goes crazy in the second season after Peter discovers her fake pregnancy scheme, so she tries to stab him to death in their apartment. She ends up dying instead.
- Big Screwed-Up Family: When your mother is denying that you accidentally killed your wife, and your stepfather offers to smuggle you out of the country because he cares, you know things are bad.
- Butt Monkey: Rachel Dennis (the fashion editor at Communique) hits this trope with record speed during the first season. She's hit with a divorce settlement when rumors of her infidelity are caught on tape, thrown out of her hotel because she can't pay her bills, is scared that she'll be deported for not having a valid passport, has several schemes backfire spectacularly on her, is rejected twice by Peter (even after she openly admits her feelings for him), gets fired shortly after she finally takes control of Communique, and is made a laughing stock when the former editor produces a "fashion sucks" issue of the magazine that puts her clothing-themed editorial supplement to shame. All this happens before she humiliates herself in order to get her old job back.
- Cat Fight: Linda Fairchild and Dianna Brock in the second season. Complete with them falling into a pool.
- Evil Feels Good: Alex uses her fake pregnancy scheme to marry Peter and bilk money, free gifts and sympathy out of the Fairchild family.
- Follow Up Failure: Much like Models Inc, CPW was a failed attempt by Darren Star to create a Sequel Series to Melrose Place.
- Gambit Pileup: Every character sets up a long-term plan to screw someone else over at least twice during the series.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Mark (Stephanie's husband) is killed by his own gun after he ties Carrie up and plans on making her death look like a suicide.
- Hotter and Sexier: Inverted. The show started out as this, and regressed to a milder soap opera-esque drama. (In fact, the character's clothing styles markedly change during the jump from the first to second season.)
- Insult Backfire: Stephanie Wells angrily confronts her stepdaughter, Carrie, after finding out she had an affair with Stephanie's husband:
Carrie: Shouldn't you be hurling your cheap rage at the man who hurt you?
Stephanie: No. I reserve my cheap rage for cheap whores like you!
- Large Ham: After being attacked by her ex-lover Mark in a hospital room, Carrie runs into the lobby screaming at the orderlies to find him. Her dialogue devolves into this:
Carrie: That man attacked me in my room! Don't let him get away! No, that's not him! Mark attacked me in my room and...there...there...(shrill screaming) YOURENOTDOINGANYTHINGAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!
- Manipulative Bastard: Rachel, who tries to destroy everyone's relationship...over and over again.
- The Masochism Tango: Rachel and Gil (Peter Fairchild's best friend). The way they're written, the two characters are supposed to be totally at odds with each other, yet they keep playing emotional and sexual games with each other over the course of the series.
- Melodramatic Pause
- Missing Episode: Half of the second-season episodes only aired on international stations.
- Network to the Rescue: CBS spent so much money making the show (the first season alone cost roughly $13-15 million, at a million per episode plus advertising) that when it suffered in the ratings, they had no choice but to stick with it in the hope that it would get better.
- Parent with New Paramour: Linda Fairchild's relationship with Allan; he doesn't get along with her daughter Carrie.
- Put on a Bus: Stephanie and Peter
- Re Tool: As explained above, the show had several elements changed in the hiatus during its second season, including a more mellow soundtrack, the addition of new characters and the discarding of several major plot threads. Several online reviews claim that the series started to work after this, largely because the writers dropped the original premise and started having fun with the material. It didn't last.
- Rich Bitch
- Rule of Pool: Deliberately invoked in the second season.
- Screw the Rules, I Have Money!
- Shoot the Money: Many of the scenes filmed in the downtown area include long panning shots, expansive cinematography and wide-angles. Given how much it was costing per episode to film in NYC, this was expected.
- Shoot the Shaggy Dog: The character Nikki Sheridan, who is attempting to open up her own art gallery and wants to buy an art piece from Carrie and Peter's stepfather, Allan. The whole story climaxes with Allan ordering an assassin to kill Nikki, but said assassin has second thoughts and tells her to run away instead.
- Shotgun Wedding: Alex and Peter
- Stalker with a Crush: Mark Merrill and Alex
- Stealth Parody: During the final string of episodes in season 2, it became clear (both to the writers and the viewers) that the show would soon be cancelled due to its low ratings. The writers apparently decided to go for broke, as a number of Stealth Parody elements were written into the scripts. Dianna Brock comments on the ridiculousness of her relationship with a fellow business tycoon and mocks the most over-the-top elements of the story - in one episode, she calls Peter (who killed his wife and fled the country) a "little wife-killer" to his mother. The normally-stoic playwright Mark Merrill turns into a raging psychopath who microwaves puppies and stalks the main character. There's a Cat Fight between two of the supporting females, along with commentary by other characters on how insane the whole incident is. An assassin is hired to kill an art gallery owner at the insistence of a magazine publisher. This continued all the way to the finale, which never aired in the U.S. due to its cancellation.
- Tagline: CBS' original promotional tagline: "So hot it may just set your TV alight."
- Teacher/Student Romance: Between Peter and a student in his law class.
- Villainous Breakdown: Alex goes crazy after learning that her attempted scheme to have a child (via artificial insemination) and marry Peter has failed.
- Welcome Episode: Stephanie Wells moves from Seattle to New York in the pilot, becomes the editor of Communique and meets all the major players, including her stepchildren.