Amanda Woodward will live to don another micro-miniskirt.

Fox has renewed its lease on Melrose Place, renewing the prime-time soap for a seventh season, the network has announced. With that news is word that Heather Locklear, the series' squatter of a "guest star," has inked a new contract to resume her Amanda ways next fall.

Just last month, Fox execs dared mention Melrose and the "C" word--for "cancellation"--in the same breath. While the prospect of a Melrose-free Monday might seem dismal to die-hard fans, it should hardly be a surprise. The former "It Show"--a pop-culture touchstone for twentysomethings of the early 1990s--has begun the slow fade that is the way of life (or death) of prime-time soaps.

It is now regularly outrated by its time-slot companion, the new "It Show," Ally McBeal. Last week, for example, Melrose attracted just under 10 million viewers; Ally McBeal, more than 13.5 million.

In a concession to its weakened powers, Fox will shelve the series for the spring--including the all-important May sweeps. A two-hour cliffhanger episode airs March 30. Then comes hiatus until June, when the season's seven remaining episodes finally start unspooling.

Few soaps expire with dignity, and Melrose has been no exception. But producers are pledging to make things different next season.

For starters, the apartment complex will get a little less crowded. The 12-member cast will be trimmed to seven or eight so-called "core characters," sources with the show tell today's New York Post.

Already two players have filled out change-of-address cards: Alyssa Milano, who plays Jennifer Mancini, and Lisa Rinna, who plays vixen Taylor McBride--the role that would not be Hunter Tylo's.

Milano and Rinna are leaving by their own choice. Presumably, that leaves two or three more who may be forcibly offed--in the storyline, not real life.

In the absence of a gaggle of characters, the new season will be about, in a word: Amanda. Locklear's edgy heroine will reportedly move frontburner big-time.

Locklear is one of the few Melrose long-timers left. She joined the show toward the end of its first season. Only Thomas Calabro (the bad doctor Michael Mancini) and Andrew Shue (the dim-witted Billy Campbell) have more seniority. Those two are the only original cast members still standing.

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