Back to Beverly Hills with a slice of cheese
IF this is 90210, where are the sideburns? And the baby- doll dress and Doc Marten combos? Could they not even rustle up one pairing of a bodysuit with high- waisted jeans, just for old times’ sake?
We can at least be grateful that they’ve kept up the old Beverly Hills, 90210 tradition of casting as high school students actors who look as if they’re old enough to be picking up their own kids.
Spinning off the 1990s series is no easy task. You risk tarnishing the memories of those who loved the original ( well, tarnishing it even more than the post- Brenda years managed to), but you also have to cater for the younger demographic: those who don’t know who Donna Martin is, let alone care whether she graduated.
Luckily for 90210 there was a smaller- scale template from an almost contemporary show. The successful Degrassi: The Next Generation, a revival of the edgy Canadian 1987 teen drama Degrassi Junior High, struck a balance by mixing new characters with old. The main character, Emma, was the daughter of Spike, whose teen pregnancy was a crucial story arc in the original.
90210 has followed a similar route. Erin Silver and the minor character Hannah Zuckerman- Vasquez appeared in the original, in baby form. And the show has worked in the old characters of Kelly ( Jennie Garth) and, at least temporarily, Brenda ( Shannen Doherty).
It’s also brought back the original’s premise of a wholesome middle- class family transplanted into the alien, pampered world of 90210, with the Wilsons, whose children ( as in the case of Brenda and Brandon) are the same age, albeit not twins: Dixon is adopted. The attempts to reference the original series have thus far been clunky, such as the reunion between Brenda and Kelly, with references thrown in to the actors’ notorious offscreen tension.
However, there are other non90210 moments that work well for older viewers. Dixon and Annie’s grandmother, Tabitha, is played by Jessica Walter, who basically revives her awesome drunken, belittling character Lucille from Arrested Development, and I wasn’t the only one cheering Linda Gray’s ( Dallas ) brief appearance in the first episode.
Whether it works for the teen audience is a different matter. You’d think in the age of Paris Hilton, a soap set in this world would be a nobrainer. However, although Beverly Hills, 90210 was the first prime- time teen soap, it was followed by The OC and Gossip Girl, which upped the ante dramatically. The writers have thus far done well to show how much more indulged rich kids are these days, but the stories are cheesy enough to have been ripped from the original. However, well- done cheesy drama is why I watched Beverly Hills, 90210 in the first place, and until I find out whether Brenda ended up with Dylan, I’ll go along for the ride.
School for scandal: The cast of the new 90210