90210: "We're Not in Kansas Anymore" and "The Jet Set"

90210: "We're Not in Kansas Anymore" and "The Jet Set"



I tried to get into Beverly Hills 90210 when it debuted in 1990. It seemed like the cool thing to do, and why not? It was about teens in California and I was not quite a teen in the Midwest. It seemed glamorous, and all the other kids were watching it. But I really never followed it the way I was supposed to. No joke: Andrea was my favorite. That's a bad sign. So I eventually lost interest (as I have done in most soapy shows, including daytimes and Desperate Housewives). So with this in mind, in addition to the fact that I don't watch Gossip Girl or The Hills or any show that features rich teenagers (OK, except Queen Bees), I wasn't sure how to approach the new 90210. I wouldn't have even really paid much attention to it other than the fact that Michael from The Wire (Tristan Wilds) is in it and how, from the looks of the billboards, his 90210 character would get got like that in Baltimore.

So I wasn't sure what to expect from the show--would it be tedious to watch, a guilty pleasure, or maybe unexpectedly satiric? I was definitely ready to find out: you can only take so much Republican National Convention (in fairness you can only take so much of any national convention).

Well, I don't plan on becoming a devoted fan of the new 90210 but it displayed more tongue-in-cheek writing than I expected (although my standards were quite low). The show isn't just for new fans, after all--it's for the oldies too, who remember the original. Hence a throwaway reference to the new Zuckerman girl: "What is she, 30?" tickled me.

I can suspend my disbelief momentarily to swallow the fact that life does revolve around Beverly Hills High, even for the alumns who should have moved on. I was creeped out, however, by how many of the "adults" and "kids" interacted. At least on the original Beverly Hills you really though that the Walshes could be Brenda and Brandon's parents. If I saw Annie (the new Brenda) and her father in a sex scene in a completely unrelated program, I wouldn't bat an eye. And the way Naomi (the new bitch) and her teacher "fight" with each other at "The Pit" (which Nat still operates and somehow turns into a club at night that admits students and teachers alike from the high school) made me feel a little uncomfortable. The "older" guys are a little too young and handsome, the "younger" girls too, too mature looking, maybe because their skin is stretched tauter across their bones than Jessica Walter's, who is basically reprising Lucille Bluth from Arrested Development here, for better or for worse.

Uh, what's the show about? Same as last time. Family moves from the sticks (Kansas this time) to Beverly Hills and the too-good-to-be-true siblings (One is adopted! Guess which one!) take on high school, where there are plenty of mean kids and drama, some for cynical audiences (like blowjobs before the schoolday begins) and some who like their scandal old-fashioned (cheating and pranks). It still reminds me of a soap opera, what with the extremely convenient exposition and the fact that everybody is up in everybody else's business, but for something that looked so potentially awful, it could have been much worse. It'll be interesting to see if the callbacks and injokes to Beverly Hills: 90210 continue throughout the new series or if they'll drop any attempts to appeal to the oldsters, but I imagine the show will retain, no matter what, one reference to the original series that seems to have been revived with joy: montages, lots of them, and many of them featuring shiny shiny cars and teens frolicking on the beach. Things haven't changed too much in that zip code.

Grade: B

Stray observations:


--"Music by Liz Phair." Discuss.

--A lavish Sweet 16 party took place in the debut episode and somehow I recognized Cobrasnake hipster girl Cory Kennedy making a cameo, illustrating, probably, that this party was totally the shit. So does this mean that 90210 is cooler than it looks or Cory Kennedy is just a pretty face?

--Shannen Doherty looks great except her teeth look... different?

--It should be noted that due to a Chicago Cubs game, I didn't get to start watching this until midnight, so the fact that I didn't scream, "I missed sleep for this?! got factored into my final grade.

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