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In an effort to maintain its hold on the teen demographic, the CW has updated the historically beloved “Beverly Hills, 90210” for today’s youth. While the new “90210” resembles its successful parent, it doesn’t stand out in television’s current line-up of teenage melodramas.
The show follows the sheltered Wilson family of Kansas, who relocate to Beverly Hills and are immediately thrown into the upscale lifestyle that the exclusive area code requires. Such a demanding transition is a breeding ground for moral dilemmas, which each family member encounters.
One bright point of the show is that it gains instant credibility by re-using original cast members. In addition to the likable Lori Loughlin (a.k.a Aunt Becky, “Full House”), original cast members Jenny Garth (“What I Like About You”) and Shannon Doherty (“Charmed”), have returned to the series. Nat (Joe Tata, “Beverly Hills, 90210,”) the cook at the Peach Pit Cafe, continues to bestow his wisdom on his young and faithful patrons. Although none of the “90210” veterans have evolved as actors, it’s reassuring to know that do-gooder Kelly Taylor and sassy Brenda Walsh still rule Beverly Hills.
Partly because of the familiar characters and original hang-outs — The Peach Pit and West Beverly High School — the show feels stale and offers nothing new. There’s a template for the overly dramatic genre: an indie rock soundtrack and freakishly good-looking people, with mediocre acting ability. The stereotypical characters and pseudo-scandalous drama will be vaguely familiar to faithful followers of other teen dramas, such as the “O.C.,” “The Hills” and “Gossip Girl,” which were all formed after the original “90210” series.
In the two-hour premiere, the show tries to pack every imaginable crisis into one episode in an attempt to shock its audience and outdo its primetime competition. But the numerous plotlines end up being confusing, not to mention unrealistic. How many teens do you know who take their private jet out for a hot date or have a birthday party that looks like a scene from “My Super Sweet 16”? Although TV is largely meant to entertain, over-the-top situations executed by bad actors are painful and boring to watch. “90210” is no exception.
The original “Beverly Hills, 90210” was not award-winning television, but at least it can claim the dubious honor of being one of the first shows geared toward young adults, and also paved the way for today’s teen dramas. Unfortunately, its reincarnation is a confused, tired cocktail: one part “Gossip Girl”, two parts “The O.C.” and a splash of the original “Beverly Hills, 90210.”
Reportedly, the show brought in the highest ratings of any the CW scripted series. In the coming weeks, when other pilots and returning programs debut, we’ll find out be if the new gang of “90210” has staying power. One thing is for sure: the Wilsons aren’t in Kansas anymore.