Beverly Hills 90210 and 90210

Beverly Hills 90210 (1990-2000)
90210 (2008-    )
Type: Spin Off
Group: 12

   Oh those wacky Beverly Hills kids. In 1990 they helped create a huge hit for the Fox Network and in 2008 The CW Network hoped they'd work the same magic for them.

   The original show, Beverly Hills 90210, jumped off with the Walsh family moving from the Midwest with their Midwest values to swanky Beverly Hills, California where the family dynamics were a bit...different. Twins Brandon and Brenda Walsh would have to learn to fit in with a whole different group of kids than they were used to. Kelly Taylor was the pretty but self involved blonde. David Silver was the new underclassman struggling to fit in. Andrea Zuckerman was the poor but smart girl who lived just inside Beverly Hill's city limits so she could attend West Beverly High and get a better education (When the actress playing Andrea got pregnant she also became the show's teenage mom). Then there was Dylan McKay, Steve Sanders and a bunch of other kids but for our purposes that first batch of kids are who are worth noting. Also worth noting was their hangout, a restaurant called The Peach Pit run by Nat Buccigio. While the show started off about Midwest values versus the temptation of the rich and famous, in the end soapy temptation tended to be what brought in the viewers. Not that the show went entirely sleazy but love triangles and betrayal are more fun to watch than rich party kids discovering the joys of old fashioned family values. Getting through high school takes 4 years, college another 4. That's 8 years. This teen soap was popular enough that viewers followed it for 10 years! They sort of had to stop it at that point. Hard to do a teen soap when your stars start needing walkers.

   After the success of Fox, two more upstart TV networks sprang up: The WB and UPN. They both had some hits, did okay for awhile but, in the end, neither of them was making a solid go of it. To stay afloat the two consolidated into the single CW Network. But just like its predecessors The CW didn't always have an easy time making a go of it. As the 2008 season was starting they needed a hit. The network's aim was for a young audience so they needed a teen drama kids would flock to. Hey, what about bringing back 90210?

   And so they did.

   The title changed from Beverly Hills 90210 to, simply 90210. Makes sense. 90210 became such a famous zip code because of the original show it does stand on its own. As with the original series, the new one started with a family from the Midwest moving into town. Instead of the Walsh family we got the Wilson family from Kansas. They had a bit more elaborate back story too. As before they came with a son and a daughter Annie and Dixon. Only these kids weren't twins. Dixon was a black kid adopted by the white Wilson family. Turns out before being adopted Dixon had a pretty rough life. But he was a good kid and a good athlete. Annie had girl next door looks and a flair for theater. And they were both solid students. And they better be! Their dad Harry was going to be the new principal at West Beverly. Dad was played by Rob Estes, veteran of the other Beverly Hills 90210 spin off Melrose Place although here he played a different character. While the family came from Kansas, Harry was originally from Beverly Hills. His mom was an aging former starlet and the whole family was moving to Beverly Hills to help keep an eye on grandma. Rounding out the family was mom Debbie played by Lori Laughlin.

   On the original 90210 the focus was almost exclusively on the kids. The adults were really just supporting players. With Rob Estes and Lori Laughlin on board you might have already guessed that the adult characters would get more of the action this time around. Part of the reason for that decision had to be the desire to pull in fans of the original show. This wasn't going to just be about the new kids in Beverly Hills, it would also be about keeping up a bit with the characters and plots from the original show. Back from the original series was Jennie Garth as Kelly Taylor, now a guidance counselor at West Beverly. Also back for the start of the new series was Shannon Doherty as Brenda Walsh. That was a pretty big get. There had been some drama about Brenda on the original show. A certain segment of fans grew to hate Brenda on screen and behind the scenes there was drama with Doherty that led to her being written off the show and never returning. To have her come back for the new show? Big. There was also talk of Tori Spelling returning as her character Donna Martin. That didn't happen although there was talk of her popping up later in the series. Clearly you're not going to bring back the old cast and not give them some juicy plots. Right off the bat Kelly was revealed to have a child by one of her former classmates...but who? WHO???

   Okay, it was Dillon.

   Some of the younger characters on the new show also had ties to the original. Early into the first episode we got a look at a girl who was clearly one of Andrea Zuckerman's kids. Then there is Silver who, in a way, was a character on the original show. On the original show Kelly Taylor's mom ended up marrying David Silver's dad. They had a daughter together named Erin, better known as Silver. Between the old and the new shows, things changed a lot for the Silver family. Dad cheated on mom. Silver trusted her best friend with that information. Her friend then let the secret slip leading to Silver's mom finding out, the marriage breaking up and her mom tumbling back into alcoholism. In one fell swoop Silver lost her family and her best friend. As the new show started Silver was alienated from her mom and leaning on Kelly as her family.

   The pros to the new 90210 working out for the CW? 90210 is a known quantity. It was a hit show. People liked it. They hired people behind the scenes who worked on other quality teen shows like Veronica Mars and Freaks And Geeks. The cons? The original 90210 was eight years ago. It's hard to resurrect an old show successfully. Teen shows in particular you want to feel new and of the moment.

   I think the plan was to, out of the gate, cause a lot of buzz and interest that they could then use to keep viewers tuned in while the show got up to full speed. I'm not sure they nailed it though. Maybe a little bit too much immediate "now" hype that could too quickly die away. Getting original cast members back was a good move. Getting Shannon Doherty back was huge. Only it turns out she only signed on for a handful of episodes at the start of the show and will not be hanging around long term. And, so far, she hasn't had much to actually do on the show. If they brought her on for a quick but well written arc that would be one thing. But this feels too much like they just gave her a bag of money to do very little just so they could have the buzz that she was back on the show. What's the point if she's not doing anything? The show also had a scene almost at the start of the first episode where a male character is caught by another character getting, ahem, oral favors in his car in front of the school. Really, the show is written fairly well and is better than that. I think the entire point of the scene was to shock the public, draw more press (and hopefully more eyes to the show), prove to people the new show was current and relevant. But, come on, really it was a stunt move amounting to nothing in the long run.

   The plan partly worked. The show coming back with old cast members, the portrayal of casual teen got viewers to show up for the first episode. But sadly the hype wasn't big enough to carry the start of the show much beyond that. The following week ratings dropped by quite a bit. But did they drop so much as to be a concern?

   As I write this the show is still in its early days. Will in fly or flop? Hard to say yet. First word was the ratings drop was a concern. But then the show got picked up for a full season and it was being heralded as a hit. So...who knows? I actually kind of hope it makes it. So far it's not too bad. Of course they are still in the early stages, the wholesome versus temptation stage. They actually have some of the Beverly Hills kids coming to appreciate the Wilsons' family values. I personally like that a lot. But, really, if they want this show to be a barnburner they are going to need to kick up the soap factor. Twists, turns, love triangles, betrayals... they got to lay on the cheese. Well written cheese but cheese. And stop with the exploitation sex stunts. You want kids watching you don't want their parents so pissed they ban the thing.

Other Beverly Hills 90210 Crossover Links
Beverly Hills 90210 and Melrose Place

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