Late summer TV is scoring big with some west coast 90s nostalgia. The reboot of Beverly Hills 90210, creatively named BH90210, was the top show last Wednesday and is the highest rated new show of the summer. Most of the original stars are back, save for Luke Perry who died earlier this year and, of course, Brenda and Brandon’s parents, who were
deported sent to Hong Kong after season five and rarely heard from again.
I tuned in for the premiere and feel compelled to watch again tonight, although I’m not completely sure why.
Maybe it’s a connection to my young adulthood. The show premiered my freshman year of college, and there were watch parties every week in the common area of my dorm. We watched while munching on microwave popcorn and sipping on Diet Coke (cocktailing was prohibited in the dorm. You could quietly get away with it in your room, but not in common areas). Being just out of high school ourselves we could relate to the trials and tribulations of the West Beverly student body. It was fun and was a great way to make some new friends.
And now they’re back. Sort of.
Larger Than Life
Nearly thirty years later they’re back to mirror our lives. Only this time they’re playing exaggerated versions of themselves. On the show, Brian Austin Green is in a marriage where his wife is exponentially more famous than he is (IRL he’s married to Megan Fox). The BH version of Tori Spelling has her teetering on bankruptcy with a house filled with kids and a less-than-responsible husband. It’s like she’s looking in a mirror. For all their storylines the names have been changed to protect the innocent (and the guilty), but a quick Google search will reveal the back stories. In the age of reality TV and eating up every second of behind-the-scenes videos posted social media, it’s easy to see why this is successful.
They also reference romances had and grudges harbored from back when the show was on in the 90s. Jennie Garth said they’re trying to play up the perceived drama from back in the day. A Garth-Priestly rivalry was a strong element of the first episode, but quickly resolved by a quick romp in a Vegas hotel.
The show also has the crew confronting each other about the tabloid fodder we’ve all seen. How can Tori be broke when her dad created the show? Is Gabrielle Carteris really a lesbian icon?
It’s all done with a wink and a nod, while consciously trying to avoid looking self-conscious. And I guess that’s where my problem lies. It feels like it’s just trying too hard. But the chemistry between the group is still solid enough that it manages to carry the show. BH90210 is decidedly not a return to my youth (and, mercifully, pretends the wretched reboot on the CW a couple years ago never happened). It’s more of like checking in on old friends. Sure their actual problems may be glamorous on the outside (flying coach, wife being on tour while you’re home with the kids), but the nature of their problems like infidelity, aging, self-worth, are things we all confront as we move past middle age and into our nascent twilight years.
The Critic’s Cocktail Recommendation
Diet Coke with Crown Royal. I seem to remember someone in the common area getting away with it back in the day.