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Do Over: Beverly Hills, 90210

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Posted May 23, 2012 by Catherine in Ramp Specials
Beverly-Hills-90210

I was three when Beverly Hills, 90210 first aired in 1990 and by the time it ended in 2000, my parents were still telling me I wasn’t allowed to watch such a salacious show at my impressionable age. When the CW Network had the gall to relaunch the classic series back in 2008 in the form of 90210, it reminded me of the original series I was so harshly deprived of during my younger years and I immediately sought out the boxsets, feeling smugly triumphant in my delayed rebellion.

The Walsh Clan was the average, down-to-earth American family transplanted into the fickle and shallow world of Beverly Hills and the show tracked the positive effect the wholesome Walsh Twins had on the local West Beverly kids and in turn, how they managed to fit into this scary new world.

Brenda and Brandon Walsh – one of the most famous sets of twins to ever grace our TV sets, along with the Olsens and the Wakefields. Brandon was the caring, selfless, righteous and talented ‘ying’ to Brenda’s selfish, self-absorbed, malicious and shallow ‘yang’. While Brandon slaved at The Peach Pit to earn his own money, Brenda whined at her parents for clothes and trips to Europe. While Brandon was helpful and respectful to his parents, Brenda went out of her way to disobey them and was usually rewarded for doing so. Brandon brings out the best in flawed characters such as Dylan and Steve, while Brenda – who is more ‘Beverly Hills’ than her actual West Beverly counterparts – brings out the worst in characters like her on-off bessie mate Kelly.

When it came to love affairs, Beverly Hills, 90210 couldn’t be beaten. The tempestuous Brenda and Dylan relationship had viewers enthralled and when Kelly Taylor turns the twosome into a love triangle, nations were divided. Brandon on the other hand, while having a level-headed approach to life, manages to have the craziest relationships of all time, between dating a complete nutcase who attempts to start a fire in his garden and the obsessive nymphomaniac ex-wife of his college mentor.

The show dealt with a wide variety of topical issues and while most were neatly packaged into one episode, it was refreshing to see real issues affecting real teenagers and young adults being dealt with openly. Rape, abortion, racism, alcoholism, eating disorders and drunk driving are the mere tip of the iceberg. One of my favourite storylines revolved around Donna’s desire to stay a virgin until she gets married. The show struck a nice balance with her friends supporting her decision, while also trying to offer her realistic advice on the perceived practicality of this. Her boyfriend David, rather than just unrealistically accepting her request, struggles openly between wanting to get his leg over and wanting to respect the principles of the girl he loves.

Combine thoughtful and relevant storylines with the best and worst of nineties fashion and you have yourself a winner.

There was something accessible about the kids in the original series, while the newer 90210 characters are more similar to those in The OC or Gossip Girl. With the exception of school nerd Andrea, the original cast could actually pass for teenagers and while they lived in a world of privilege, their interactions and the majority of their problems were the same as the average teenager. Something that added an endearing quality was the fact that despite their trust funds, they still spent their time hanging out in a homely diner, eating burgers and drinking milkshakes. Another aspect of the show was how the Walsh parents never really had their own storylines. For teenagers, that’s how parents should be – no lives outside their children. They’re supposed to be old and a little out of touch, but always be there to offer some sensible advice and a bowl of ice cream when needed. The newer version tries to humanise the parents – who the hell wants that!?

Remember when Brenda lost her virginity? Remember when Steve found out he was adopted? Remember when Andrea found out she was pregnant? Remember Kelly struggling with her mother’s addictions? Remember when Nat had a heart attack and every viewer gasped with fright? Beverly Hills, 90210 is a show where viewers truly cared about the characters (well,maybe except for Brenda – I know I cheered when she was packed off to England). It’s a show that, despite its decidedly nineties backdrop in terms of style and fashion, will always be relevant, in the way that Rebel Without A Cause and The Breakfast Club are. As long as there are teenagers struggling to figure out who they are and adults who remember that time in their lives, there’s a place for Beverly Hills, 90210.


About the Author

Catherine

Catherine often dreams about living in a tiny Parisian apartment and penning the next great novel of her generation until she remembers how impossible it is to get a decent cup of tea in France.

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