The recently leaked promotional reel for 90210 — the CW’s quasi-spinoff of Aaron Spelling’s awesomely bad-good nineties teen drama, arguably our all-time favorite soapy drama — pierced us to our rotted cores. We hoped the teen-friendly network might do justice to the glory of Spelling’s cheesy, preachy pastiche of love triangles and after-school special issues. Alas, the uninspiring montage felt dull, predictable, and worst of all, unfashionable.
How do we know after watching only two minutes of young, nubile actors frolicking in American Apparel jumpsuits? For starters, reread that last sentence. While Brenda’s neckties and Kelly’s bodysuits are terrifying today, at the time they felt ahead of the curve and therefore weirdly fascinating. Conversely, the new 90210’s wardrobe already feels desperate and stale: The “hot jock” sports Chloë Sevigny’s infamous white-rimmed Ray Bans, while the “quirky” girl almost exclusively wears things tied around her forehead — be they Bret Michaels’s scarves, or shoelace headbands in the style of Arden Wohl and Mary-Kate (and, come to think of it, the homeless guy who hangs out near our favorite bar). It’s like the show is straining to be Unique and Edgy, when in fact this style has been done, done a lot, and done better, by other people. Including that homeless dude.
The actors seem just as bored. Jessica “Lucille Bluth” Walter — who played the booziest, horniest senior citizen this side of Blanche Deveraux on Arrested Development — offers only that her character is “not your typical grandmother,” while Lori Loughlin blandly beams that she plays a mother who is — wait for it — just as cool as her kids. Not even Tristan Wilds, a.k.a. Michael from The Wire, can explain why his character is interesting except for “the way he adapts to Beverly Hills.” (Couldn’t he have tossed off something like, “Oh, just the way he sold a baby for a Diorphone“?) On 90210: Days of Yore, Emily Valentine slipped drugs into Brandon’s drink, then poured gasoline on a parade float and threatened arson when he dumped her. You want this to be appointment television? Give us the sense there’s something comparable up these people’s designer sleeves. Tossing fans a bone by hiring Jennie Garth to reprise her role as Kelly Taylor might help, but we’re probably just going to stress out over whether Dylan ran off to London with Brenda again (that’s a show we’d rather watch).
Clearly, the CW is aching to capitalize on Gossip Girl’s buzz, but if the promo plays like a lazy stab at grafting that sex and glitz onto the West Coast — with no hook but a familiar Zip Code — then what hope is there for the actual show? Dawson’s Creek, The O.C., and even Buffy turned the teen-drama genre into something racier and less PSA-friendly than the original Beverly Hills, 90210 (remember, Donna actually waited eight seasons to have sex!). With viewers hungry for more mature shock, awe, sarcasm, and scandal, it’s an uphill task to modernize something as genuinely earnest without ruining what made it so entertaining to its fans. Isn’t a cooler, sexier, more provocative 90210 essentially … Gossip Girl? Why not just spin off that show? At least then we could get a cameo from Blair Waldorf and leave the 90210 legacy to age in peace like the divine lump of fromage it is. — The Fug Girls
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