Back to Bev­erly Hills with a slice of cheese

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv -

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.

Kerrie Mur­phy

School for scan­dal: The cast of the new 90210

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