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Series / Central Park West

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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, and was set in the affluent Central Park West area of Manhattan, New York.

The series centered around the Fairchild siblings (played by Madchen Amick and John Barrowman), the stepchildren of the wealthy editor of the trendy New York-based fashion magazine Communique. Carrie Fairchild (Amick) works as a columnist at Communique, while Peter Fairchild (Barrowman) works as a high-powered attorney. As the series begins, editor Stephanie Wells (Muriel Hemingway) takes control of the magazine while coming into conflict with Carrie. The group becomes immersed in a world of backstabbing socialites, sex, drama and intrigue while working to further their own careers and ambitions.

CPW had the misfortune of being greenlit right after one of CBS' worst television seasons ever: 1994-95, after Fox acquired partial rights to broadcast NFL games. Many local affiliate stations departed to Fox because of this move; the shifts left CBS with programming that primarily attracted an older audience. Central Park West was part of CBS's attempt to rebrand itself and appeal to younger viewers. However, despite a huge marketing push - 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, Dynasty 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.

Interestingly, CPW 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 the following tropes:

  • Aborted Arc: The series ends with one supporting character dead, one main character in limbo, several character arcs unfinished and a cliffhanger ending.
  • All Women Are Lustful: All of the main and supporting female characters barely do anything in the series except have sex.
  • Almost Kiss: Happens several times during Peter and Alex's relationship.
  • Ax-Crazy: Alex (Peter's girlfriend) suddenly goes crazy after Peter discovers her fake pregnancy scheme, so she tries to stab him to death in their apartment. She ends up dying soon afterwards.
  • The Beautiful Elite: The series follows characters who all work in high-profile jobs (Wall Street, magazine publishing, art sales) and get caught up in each other's machinations and problems 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.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Rachel. She's introduced as a long-time friend of Carrie's and a generally pleasant person, but as the series goes on and her Butt-Monkey tendencies become more and more pronounced, she begins to act snarky and devious to everyone around her, including Carrie herself.
  • Butt-Monkey: Rachel (the fashion editor at Communique) hits this trope with record speed during the first season. She's hit with a divorce settlement when her infidelity is revealed to have been caught on tape, she's thrown out of Carrie's apartment because she framed the latter for something she didn't do, 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 at the very beginning of the second season.
  • Cat Fight: Linda Fairchild and Dianna Brock in the second season. Complete with them falling into a pool.
  • Chick Magnet: Peter. Despite the fact that other people claim that he's the biggest bachelor in New York, he states that he's not the type of person who sleeps around, even though several women are seen eyeballing him (including Alex, and one other woman he nearly brings home for a one-night stand) throughout the first season.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl:
    • Deanne, who tries to win Gil back after he dumps her, and ends up trying to sabotage his career after he rejects her advances.
    • Rachel also gets this after she finds out that Peter is dating Alex, trying to sabotage their relationship repeatedly.
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: Much of Carrie's behavior in the second season is motivated by the realization that she made things much worse for herself by repeatedly leading on (and seducing) Mark Merrill, who eventually snapped and decided to stalk her instead when he came back to New York.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Mark, after Stephanie leaves him and Carrie refuses to reciprocate his affections.
  • Dress Hits Floor: Occurs when Deanne attempts to seduce Gil, who dumped her and started dating Rachel.
  • Everybody Has Lots of Sex: At least Once per Episode.
  • Evil Feels Good: Alex uses her fake pregnancy scheme to marry Peter and bilk money, free gifts and sympathy out of the Fairchild family.
  • 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: In the series finale, Mark 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.)
  • Informed Ability:
    • Mark's career as a playwright is constantly talked up by other characters throughout the first season, even though the audience never sees any evidence of his work or the play he wrote in action. It may also be a case of Stylistic Suck, as Mark repeatedly struggles to find a person who will bankroll and produce his play and a fellow writer/producer has to be paid by Stephanie to take a look at it. The one time an event is expressly held to highlight Mark's work (a reading in the Hamptons, as organized by Carrie), viewers can only see the audience clapping as he finishes his last reading. When the audience finally gets to see Mark's work (in the series finale, as Jordan Tate is reading it), it comes off as disposable supermarket literature.
    • Rachel Dennis is hyped up by other characters as a smart, driven woman who led the British division of Vogue Magazine to great success. When she arrives in the U.S., however, she tries to sabotage everyone around her for the first few weeks, is reduced to tears and an Anguished Declaration of Love when news of her infidelity goes public, demonstrates little ability to manage a magazine even after she pushes Stephanie out of New York temporarily, and the one time she does have the chance to produce an issue without any hurdles, it's immediately sidelined when Allan agrees with Stephanie and relegates her work to a supplement within the next issue.
  • 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!
  • Just in Time: Subverted; the series finale involves Mark taking Carrie hostage at her Hamptons home and attempting to kill her by staging her death as a suicide (via tying her to a chair and trying to make her shoot herself). When authorities (who were tipped off to what's happening) arrive at her home and try to bust in, she uses the distraction to free herself from her bonds and struggle over the gun with Mark... and by the time the police get in, she's already shot him dead.
  • Karma Houdini: Tyler (Adam's son) seemingly gets away scot-free at the end of the series after framing Gil for insider trading (and stealing Rachel in the process). Even more bizarrely, he's treated as a hero due to his last-minute change of heart to support his father during Allan's takeover attempt.
  • 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!!!!!
  • Left Hanging: As a result of the Retool, most (if not all) of the lingering plot threads are left this way.
    • Deanne disappears after Gil visits her apartment and threatens her to stay away from him. She doesn't appear again for the rest of the series.
    • In a set of scenes that only aired overseas, Nikki runs away after the assassin ordered to kill her has second thoughts. She does appear one more time in the series (having a drink with Carrie at the Zinc Bar), but she doesn't bring up what happened and disappears for the rest of the series.
    • The series ends with Allan having a heart attack, with his ultimate fate left unknown.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Rachel, who tries to destroy everyone's relationship...over and over again.
  • The Masochism Tango: Rachel and Gil (Peter'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.
  • May–December Romance: Allan Rush (who is in his 60s) and Nikki Sheridan, the much-younger art gallery owner.
  • Meal Ticket: Nikki Sheridan is an art-gallery owner who's only still in business because her rent is being covered by Allan, who she is having an affair with behind his wife's back. Part of the first season involves her trying to navigate getting away from his money and influence.
  • Nepotism: Much of the conflict is motivated by Carrie's relationship with her stepfather, Allan, who publishes Communique and ends up protecting her from Stephanie's attempts to exert control over the editorial side of the publication.
  • Old Shame: In-universe. Rachel tries to keep the details of her divorce well-hidden, for very good reasons. The full details are never fully revealed, but among what's known, she dealt with one of her ex-husband's affairs by seducing the investigator he sent after her to prove her infidelity.
  • Once per Episode: Most/all of the main cast end up at a high-society party, where various conversations lead to new developments, and a verbal confrontation occurs between one or more groups.
  • Parent with New Paramour: Linda Fairchild's relationship with Allan. He (initially) doesn't get along with her daughter Carrie.
  • Psycho Ex-Girlfriend: Deanne, who (after being dumped by Gil for being perceived as crazy) shows up and tries to seduce him, threatens to make his life hell, gives all his possessions to the Salvation Army and hacks his computer at work.
  • Put on a Bus: As a result of the Retool, and because it ultimately became clear that the show would be cancelled, various characters are written out in this fashion.
    • The first season ends with Stephanie scoring a decisive victory over Rachel by producing a "fashion sucks" issue of Communique, then opting to move back to Seattle with Mark. The second season has Mark relay to Carrie and Gil that Stephanie ultimately split from him. This was caused by Muriel Hemingway ultimately deciding not to renew her contract at the end of the first season.
    • Peter is written off midway through the second season as a result of having to go into hiding in South America in order to skirt the murder charges issued by the District Attorney's office. The series ultimately ends with him remaining in hiding, and sending a letter (under an alias) to his mother. While there were allegedly plans to have John Barrowman return if the show was renewed for a third season, this plan was ultimately unrealized.
    • The unaired (in U.S. markets) subplot of Nikki dating an assassin who was hired to kill her, but ultimately has a change of heart due to his feelings for her, is ultimately dropped when she flees after discovering his weapons and supplies and confronting him over the matter. When she returns in the second season for The Cameo, she ultimately summarizes what happened for Carrie's benefit, but the whereabouts of the hitman are left unanswered.
  • Really Gets Around: Carrie, Gil and Rachel have this reputation in-universe. One character even notes that Rachel's divorce proceedings read like "the complete works of Jackie Collins".
  • Retool: 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: Carrie and Rachel exemplify the trope.
  • Rule of Pool: Deliberately invoked in the second season, when two sparring women fall into the pool during a Cat Fight.
  • Sanity Slippage: Mark Merrill, who devolves from a milquetoast husband into a stalker who torments Carrie because she spurred his advances. It culminates in him attempting to have Carrie killed at her Hamptons home, only to have the tables turned on him.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: The show emphasizes this repeatedly, with characters throwing around money in an attempt to flaunt the law or help others.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: The character Nikki Sheridan, who has her own art gallery and is involved in an antagonistic tryst with Peter's stepfather, Allan Rush, while trying to buy a piece of art from him. The whole story climaxes a season later 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, who are forced to throw this by Peter's mother after they learn Alex got pregnant. This later provides the impetus for her death, as she attacks Peter after he learns that their wedding was a sham due to her fake pregnancy.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Mark Merrill and Carrie, starting from the second season. While the first season had them engage in an affair behind Stephanie's back (culminating in Carrie coldly dumping him), the second season has him return to New York in an attempt to make her life a living hell.
  • 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.
  • Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: Alex lasts long enough into the second season to have a couple scenes, then undergoes Sanity Slippage and attempts to murder Peter when he finds out about her pregnancy scheme. It doesn't work, and she falls onto the knife and dies instead.
  • 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. This ultimately ends once the student's second career as a stripper comes to light, and Peter is forced to abandon her.
  • Uncertain Doom: The series finale ends with Allan Rush, now ruined after his failed takeover bid of Brock Communications, suffering from a heart attack after Dianna Brock tries to seduce him. The show ends with Adam Brock getting a call from Dianna, but she only refers obliquely to what happened, without confirming whether Allan has died or not.
  • 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.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The hitman who Allan contracted to kill Nikki is last seen being disappointed when Nikki flees from his apartment after she discovers his cache of weapons at the end of the first season. He never appears again, and when Nikki returns for The Cameo in Season 2, she doesn't bring up what happened with him.
  • Will They or Won't They?: Peter and Alex, for the first half of season 1. Turns into Peter and Robin for the back half of the first season.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • Alex's editors give her this (and subsequently fire her as a result) when she runs with a story that turns out to be based on false information. Notable for the fact that the person who supplied her with this information (Peter) realized he was playing her and tried to stop her, but she didn't listen.
    • Mark calls Stephanie out for paying a producer $10,000 to pretend to like his screenplay. This incident (in part) causes the dissolution of their marriage.