Wednesday, August 14, 2019

BH90210 S01E01: The Reunion

The characters we love to loathe are back ... sorta
by Kim Tibbs-Krober

BH90210 premiered Wednesday night on FOX, and an estimated 3.8 million viewers tuned in to find out what had happened to their favorite spoiled teens from the '90s. However, if you were expecting to catch up with your favorite characters to see what their lives had amounted to within the 20 years since the original show went off the air, you may have been sorely disappointed. I know I was. Yeah, it was good to see everybody again (Brandon Walsh, Kelly Taylor, Donna Martin, David Silver, Steve Sanders, Andrea Zuckerman, and even Brenda Walsh), but why did the show's producers decide to go with the format they chose? Your favorites are back, but they're playing washed-up alter-ego versions of the actors who portrayed the characters. It made the reunion feel bizarre and a tad uncomfortable at times. It was also confusing trying to weave fact from fiction. Why would real-life Jason Priestley and Jennie Garth hook up now in their mid-50s? Did Tori Spelling really lose her virginity to Brian Austin Green back in the day? What was that kiss about for Gabrielle Carteris, was that more of a commentary about her character Andrea or herself?

Maybe the show's producers thought it was a clever twist on the traditional reboot to offer us an Inception-like take on the reboot craze currently sweeping Hollywood. Maybe the show's forerunners thought it would be fun to play themselves this time instead of the angst-filled teens and 20-somethings they were forced to portray for a decade. Maybe they all felt like taking a creative risk to see if the gamble paid off. Whatever the reason, I'm not sure how I felt about the first episode of what promises to be a six-episode roller coaster of mixed feelings and waves of nostalgia. It felt like everybody was playing a gross exaggeration of themselves - the version painted by the paparazzi and the prying eyes of the public for the past 30 years. And it rang hollow in several places - hollower than the souls of this spoiled in-crowd once felt.

Since Luke Perry's stroke and subsequent death in March, I have made it my personal mission to binge-watch all 10 seasons of the original series that aired on FOX from 1990-2000. I remember when the show was on in its heyday and even when it lingered on the airwaves long past the time when anybody thought it was the cutting edge of cool. I graduated from high school in 2000, and I can say from personal experience none of my friends were still faithfully watching the series when it went off the air. It had become somewhat of a joke by then, riddled with too many repetitive storylines of date rape, drug addictions, failed engagements, petty lies, and one-night stands. Throughout the course of the show, I think everyone lived in Casa de Walsh at one point or another except for maybe Donna. And don't get me started on how many times it felt like the Peach Pit and After Dark changed hands. By its final season, Beverly Hills, 90210 had become a pale reminder of what it once had been, but it's also something that's hard to walk away from completely. It's been like this train wreck I couldn't stop binging all summer, as I waited to see how it would all end in anticipation of seeing where it would all go when it came back full circle.

I was actually looking forward to seeing if Janet and Steve were still married and how their daughter turned out. I wanted to know how many times David and Donna got divorced and remarried. I was curious if Kelly ever got back with Brandon and what kind of a blaze of glory Dylan McKay went out in since Luke Perry was no longer alive to reprise his breakout role. I wanted to see a cat fight erupt between Brenda Walsh and Valerie Malone (Tiffani Amber-Thiessen). I wanted to see Ray Pruitt (Jamie Walters) carrying pumpkins and humming 'How Do You Talk to An Angel?' again. And now I just feel cheated out of all of this because the show decided to go in a different direction for its reboot. However, it's still a train wreck of sorts that I can't look away from. God help me, but I'm curious to see where it goes. I'm also hoping it all makes sense and provides a sense of closure by the end.

There were a few stand-out moments during the premiere. I enjoyed watching the actors occasionally poke fun at themselves, such as their failed marriages, bad career moves, and their tendency to be overshadowed by more successful spouses (looking at you, Brian Austin Green, but I still love you). I loved it when Tori Spelling stole her former Donna Martin prom dress in an insane attempt to recapture something that was lost. And the moments in the end where the ensemble grew somber on the airplane felt eerily compelling. I think it was Tori who remarked something like, 'We're not all going to be around forever, but something we created will be.'

I think that sums up the show pretty well. Luke Perry the actor may be gone, but his rebellious heartthrob Dylan McKay still beats strong in the hearts of the generations who watched this show in the 1990s and the generations who haven't yet discovered the Aaron Spelling melodrama. Time marches on for everyone, even your favorite TV characters. Although Ian Ziering never seems to age at all. I swear he will be 80 and still sporting that mischievous Steve Sanders grin I've come to love. Out of the entire 10-year first run, his character is the only one I didn't grow to hate at one point or another. Who knew an egomaniac could be so likable?

Let's face it: Beverly Hills, 90210 was never the show winning all the accolades for its thought-provoking commentary or Shakespearean levels of acting. It's a fluff piece focused around some of the most selfish characters ever created. But they're the selfish characters we love to loathe or loathe to love, I'm still not quite sure. Ask me in another 20 years. Now cue the catchy theme song I'm going to have stuck in my head all week.

What did you think of BH90210? Tell us in the comments section below!

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