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Review: 9021-Eww

Posted by Matthew Gilbert  September 2, 2008 11:59 PM

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Really, the original “Beverly Hills 90210” was pretty bad. Maybe some of us have romanticized the Fox series since it left the air in 2000, and blocked out the fact that it was an overly earnest, obvious teen soap. Maybe time has healed the wounds it left by rubbing our noses in afterschool-special lessons. Maybe the Peach Pit kids have gained an appealing camp cachet, boosted by memories of Shannen Doherty’s bratty behavior, Tori Spelling’s acting non-style, and Luke Perry’s sideburns.

But the show was bad. And “90210,” the CW remake that premiered last night, is pretty bad, too.

The two-hour episode seemed to take forever to set up some remarkably bland plotlines -- stories that might have seemed dull even back in 1990, when the original series premiered. A spoiled rich girl cheats on her English paper, a glassy-eyed teen has a drug problem, Lacrosse jocks pull pranks, a child was given up for adoption many years ago -- we’ve seen them all many times before on other teen soaps, and with more finesse, too.


At the first glimpse of the Wilson family driving into Beverly Hills last night, like the Walshes so many years before, you could see just how tiresomely goody-goody and flat they were all going to be. Rob Estes strains to be easygoing as Harry Wilson the “Father Knows Best” who’s hip enough to make gay jokes, while Lori Loughlin barely registers as Debbie, as the ever-responsible wife and mother.

The “90210” writers have tried to dress up their unimaginative material and characters in aughts attitude, to make the show relevant to post-millennial teens who’ve already been exposed to “The O.C.,” “The Hills,” and “Gossip Girl.“ There is a catty gossip website run by alt girl Erin Silver -- that would be Kelly’s half sister, known simply as Silver (Jessica Stroup). There are pop-referential lines about movies such as “Superbad” and about various celebrities, including this take on West Beverly Hills High School: “It’s like the Oscars and everybody is Scarlett Johannson.” There’s a Seth Cohen-like geek named Navid (Michael Steger).

And, of course, there are risqué sexual situations tacked on, most notably one involving oral sex that probably would have been considered outrageous on a network teen series 10 years ago. Maybe even five years ago.

The writers have also tried to spice up the Wilson family with a twist. Instead of twin children with alliterative first names like Brandon and Brenda , they deliver the naïve Annie Wilson (Shenae Grimes) and her adopted African-American brother Dixon (Tristan Wilds). It’s not a bad alternative to the original setup -- maybe it shows even a hint of a spark of inspiration? But neither character has any depth or distinction. It’s particularly disappointing to see Wilds playing such a nondescript character, after his complex work on “The Wire” as the cold-hearted and yet innocent Michael. Grimes has a Disney Channel-ish perkiness that wears thin by the end of the first hour.

Even the potential teen villain, Naomi (AnnaLynne McCord), is just another “Mean Girl” or “Heather.” If a soap can’t even come up with a juicy troublemaker (see Blair on “Gossip Girl”), it’s in trouble. Yes, Jessica Walter is on hand as Annie and Dixon’s snooty grandmother, an alcoholic actress who remembers the time Ricardo Montalban cracked an egg on her backside. And Walter is somewhat entertaining. But she played a similar eccentric with far more kooky energy in “Arrested Development.”

As promised in the advance publicity, the producers have thrown in characters and references from the original series to goose the audience. Jennie Garth is back, with Kelly now working as the high school guidance counselor; Shannen Doherty showed up briefly last night to babysit for Kelly’s 4-½-year-old boy, whose father’s identity is still a mystery; Nat (Joe E. Tata) is still running the Peach Pit; and there was a quickie appearance by Hannah Zuckerman-Vasquez, daughter of Andrea. But the old names and faces were mostly in the background, as the focus stayed on the Wilsons.

Who knows -- maybe the show will find an audience and survive after early curiosity-factor ratings. Maybe, despite its lack of charm, “90210” will go on to be remembered fondly by a new generation of viewers.

What do you think?

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46 comments so far...
  1. I miss Lucille Bluth. Would take AD over 90210 any day!

    Posted by Jason September 3, 08 04:46 AM
  1. Who cares. Are reviews of pilot episodes relevant? The worth of the show will depend on how the characters grow on you and whether the actors are able to grow into their characters. In other words, we'll have to wait for atleast 5 episodes.

    90210 does have something in common with Gossip Girl, the original 90210, The Hills, Melrose Place and The OC. None of them had a good first impression.

    Posted by donna September 3, 08 05:02 AM
  1. Well, as I say that's why we all have differing opinions. The original 90210 wasn't bad IMO and this new one was actually pretty good, alot better written than I expected. To be honest, the performances tended to be alot more authentic seeing as these kids are alot closer to the ages they are portraying than the original cast. And maybe this author didn't see Shenae Grimes (Annie) on the show Degrassi. She is far from Disney-esque if you are familiar with the show and her character. And yes, time needs to be given to see if the shows potential can grow.

    Posted by Anthony September 3, 08 06:46 AM
  1. The token black guy is just an insult to our intelligence...

    Posted by obstruksion September 3, 08 06:49 AM
  1. The first episode of Gossip Girl was good. So was the first episode of The O.C. (The O.C. just sucked later.)

    I watched about 10 minutes of this last night--I might finish it--it was horribly acted, what I saw so far.

    Posted by Nicole September 3, 08 06:52 AM
  1. I have never seen a show so terrible, ever

    Posted by adam September 3, 08 07:11 AM
  1. Glad to see Brian Austin Green on a decent series instead of rehashing this old garbage. Terminator SCC is much better.

    Posted by PJ September 3, 08 07:17 AM
  1. I enjoyed it. If you guys didnt like it why are you reading reviews and writing comments. I enjoyed the original and still watch 2 repeats episodes everyday. Many of you probably dont remember the original being cheesy in the beginning, but it was! Check them out on SOAP network M-F. In fact, most shows that are comedy or drama strt out cheesy. They just have to feel the audience.

    Posted by Sarah September 3, 08 07:46 AM
  1. So were you a fan of the oringinal, Mr. Gilbert? Or were there many a Wednesday night of your youth spent alone and dateless because the girls would have rather watched 90210 than be in your company? The show is suppose to be an escape from reality and I enjoyed it for what it was. It's flashy, it's silly, it's vapid - it's everything we loathe and long for.

    Why do you think so many people like The Hills?

    Posted by Cameron September 3, 08 07:46 AM
  1. It was terrible. I loved it. Bring it on...

    Posted by Watchedtheoriginalsoverandover September 3, 08 07:50 AM
  1. I'm a diehard fan of the original but I'd have to agree that it was probably pretty terrible -- the acting, the plot, the style, everything was pure 80s cheese. I watched last night for the curiosity factor and while it wasn't the old gang I loved, I actually didn't think it was so bad -- it WAS the pilot after all. And I appreciated the jokes that were directed at the original fans (like when Mr. Matthews turned off the school tv and said of Hannah Zuckerman-Vasquez "What is she like 30 or something?" a reference to how old Andrea was in real life).

    I think it's going to have some problems because it can't decide if it wants to be Beverly Hills 90210 or Melrose Place. I normally love Rob Estes but I thought he was kind of goofy and the whole "my dad is the principal"/you have a baby with the old girlfriend plotlines were weird. Kind of makes me miss Jim and Carol Walsh.

    Posted by ramona September 3, 08 08:02 AM
  1. I watched it with my friend and we both loved it and everyone I have asked has loved it We are big supporters of 90210 in Indiana.

    Posted by Beth September 3, 08 08:12 AM
  1. My mother said recently that she would sooner watch Dukes of Hazzard re-runs rather than the crap that's on today.

    I don't have the vaguest idea who the most recent It girls are and couldn't care less about them anyway.

    Posted by Sparky September 3, 08 08:15 AM
  1. Same crap, same zip code.

    What's next they bring back the middle aged cast from the original series?

    Luke Perry as the school's alcohol and drug counselor?

    Tori Spelling is on as a shop owner.

    Brian Austin Green as the school's music teacher?

    Ian Zearing as a dirty old man who tries to pick up girls in the school parking lot.

    How about Tiffani Amber as the school's sex ed., excuse me I mean health education teacher. Where she can teach those kids about refrainig from drugs, sex and alcohol. In the words of Nancy Reagan, "Just say no!"

    Posted by John September 3, 08 08:17 AM
  1. navid? NAVID?

    Posted by terrible September 3, 08 08:29 AM
  1. The very first episode of Beverly Hills 90210 was horrific. At least 90210's first episodes weren't as bad. Still, not sure if I will waste my time watching.

    Posted by Mickey September 3, 08 09:03 AM
  1. Nicole, you have to finish it. I was worried at first because the 1st 10 minutes was very cheesy but it got better! The show was all about introducing characters, setting up story lines, and tieing the old Beverly Hills 90210 with the new 90210. I will be watching next week, I think it could be good. As long as they keep Kelly, Brenda, Nat and hopefully more

    Posted by Lyn September 3, 08 09:12 AM
  1. "they deliver the naïve Annie Wilson (Shenae Grimes) and her adopted African-American brother Dixon (Tristan Wilds). It’s not a bad alternative to the original setup -- maybe it shows even a hint of a spark of inspiration?"

    No, it's actually copying South of Nowhere, on The-N, which used the same premise, but with better writing and acting.

    Posted by Tired September 3, 08 09:22 AM
  1. I loved it ! I felt that the teens were teens, and unlike Gossip Girl, and the other "teen" shows, these teens are worried about what their parents are going to think, getting into trouble, their school work, and having the respect of their parents. However still got up to typical teen antics. I also liked that the teens dressed like teens dress in a typical high school. That the show didn't make them fashion plates, and wear clothes that a kid in a typical middle class family coud never wear. The acting on the teens part could have been better, but hey like others have said, it is the pilot.
    The only thing that really bothers me is giving Kelly a child...come on true 90210 fans. We all know that Kelly could not have children!!!!
    I like seeing Kelly, Brenda, and Nat. It was like seeing old friends.
    I just hope it makes it.

    Posted by true90210fan September 3, 08 09:29 AM
  1. I thought it was beyond horrible. Call me a 90210 traitor or whatever but the new 90210 that premired last night was NOTHING like the original. It was so bad even my cats ran out of the room scratching their eyes. Re-makes of the old shows will just never live up to the original names. I dont' know why they're trying to re-make 90210 with all the other "teen" shows out there...Gossip Girl, OTH, Hannah Montana (?!). I mean seriously, if this "new" 90210 lasts a full season I will be shocked. I don't care that 3 of the originals are back...nothing can replace the original. This show won't get a second chance from me that's for sure!

    Posted by new90210suxxxxxx September 3, 08 09:42 AM
  1. Why do ALL the girls need to look like they have eating disorders? All the main girls are way to skinny - I would love to see a story line where they gain weight because of the stress and drama of West Beverly High...

    Posted by Laura September 3, 08 09:43 AM
  1. I actually really would like to see just a show on Kelly Taylor. I found her story more compelling than any of the others shown last night. And who thought we would see Erin Silver all grown up?

    Ramona, this was hilarious, by the way:

    "I think it's going to have some problems because it can't decide if it wants to be Beverly Hills 90210 or Melrose Place. "

    Posted by Melissa J. September 3, 08 09:56 AM
  1. Just another teen show encouraging our young people to be materialistic, dishonest and downright mean to each other. The oral sex shot in the front of the high school was just charming.........not!

    Posted by moe September 3, 08 10:26 AM
  1. The father of Kelly's baby isn't a mystery. It's Brandon. She was talking on the phone with the father when Sam got up and said he couldn't sleep. She later told Brenda that Brandon had called at 3am. Not much of a mystery.

    I liked the original, and I enjoyed this. I thought it was stretching it that Andrea and Jesse's daughter would be in the same school with Erin Silver. I thought Erin was older.

    Posted by Maggie September 3, 08 10:35 AM
  1. The show was completely insulting to old fans.

    So all of a sudden we see Hannah? Last we heard, they were living around New Haven because Andrea was going to try Yale finally. We can't just have Hannah back in LA without explaining where Andrea and Jesse are. It just doesn't make sense. And they probably thought they were throwing us a bone but it wasn't worth it.

    It was good that they provided details on how Kelly ended up a guidance counselor. But they completely failed to mention her PR business that she started in the series finale. Do we just pretend that didn't exist?

    Weird that they mentioned another male principal before Harry. What ever happened to Mrs. Teasley? Even after high school, we still saw her, even in the series finale.

    In season 10, Jackie and Mel were separating after the whole strip club fiasco with Gina. So we're supposed believe they got back together again and then split AGAIN to make Silver's story about Naiomi be true? And that's why Jackie is back on drugs after 18 years of being sober?

    And Palisades definitely wasn't West Bev's rival back in the original.

    A reunion with Brenda and Kelly without mentioning their old friends? Kind of weird.

    I'm dying to know what Rob Thomas' original pilot was, since they've said it's so different from this one.

    Here's hoping the pace slows down, the stories get more accurate, we get Dixon's adoption back story, find out why in hell the Peach Pit changed styles, and some answers regarding Sammy's dad and how/why Brenda and Kelly saw each other years ago.

    Posted by Shari September 3, 08 10:41 AM
  1. i liked it...not to bad...i thought it was kinda funny.

    Shannon needs to stop doing work to herself and if she isn't, that girl is not aging well.....

    Posted by jj September 3, 08 10:50 AM
  1. I loved the show. It was kinda lite and fluffy but it wasn't horrible by any means. I remember when I first watched 90210 no one thought that was any good either. I think actually the adoptive brother angle w/ Dixon is neat--my family is built through adoption and his feelings of not wanting to "go through all that explanation" again is pretty relevent. I'll keep watching and hopefully they will flesh out some of the back stories.

    Posted by Lee September 3, 08 11:08 AM
  1. It was lame.

    Posted by Maldita September 3, 08 11:30 AM
  1. I forgive all because Linda Grey showed up!

    Posted by RB September 3, 08 11:36 AM
  1. I am a huge fan of the original, and still watch it 2 times a day on SoapNet. To be honest, I didn't have high hopes for this new version, but was actually surprised at how much I enjoyed it. I'll watch it again next week without a doubt!

    Posted by Original*90210* Fan September 3, 08 11:49 AM
  1. I thought it was awesome!

    Posted by The Missus - On Common Ground September 3, 08 11:52 AM
  1. Very long legs,yes! Keep it going.

    Posted by spud September 3, 08 12:08 PM
  1. I thought it was great! The BJ in the opening scene, the really funny crack from the teacher during the newscast starring Hannah zuckerman-Vazquez "What is she like, 30?" Who's Kelly's babydaddy? Total trash and totally fun. Lighten up people, this ain't 60 Minutes!

    Posted by disko2k September 3, 08 12:24 PM
  1. I never watched the original series even though all my friends were hooked. I sat through the whole two hours out of boredom. I felt there was much too much going on for a pilot, but a lot of things were just implausible and silly. Such as the girl enemies with matching tatoos that they would have had to have gotten at age 12?? Huh? Rich boy takes his daddy's jet to San Francisco on a random school night to impress a girl he just met? These kids are in high school, right? The high school kids go to a club where they meet their teacher? Yeah, right! Teacher so would have had them arrested and/or kicked out, not exchanged catty barbs. A BJ in the high school parking lot? Ewwwwww!!!! Also, the clothing really emphasized how emaciated Silver and Annie were. I don't think the actress who played Silver was THAT skinny on "Reaper". Was she told to lose weight for the show? That would be despicable.

    Posted by MeanJean September 3, 08 01:18 PM
  1. Of course it was garbage. We expected nothing more. As a contemporary answer to the parent series, it was near-perfect. As entertainment? Not so much.

    What is the focus? Who on earth is the target demo? 12-34? 18-49 (there's an awful lot of Estes. Garth, and Loughlin)? 50+ (can't wait to cringe when Jessica Walter and Linda Gray have a catfight over guest star Larry Hagman)?

    One fears that Dawn Ostrof and the remaining desperate rats on the sinking CW ship try next to create their first hit sitcom by updating "The Facts of Life." That will signal the death of television as we know it.

    Posted by Mark September 3, 08 01:48 PM
  1. All critics seem to be slamming this show becuase they didn't get to preview it beforehand. Seems very, very petty. It's almost like they're angry because they didn't get special privelages.

    I thought this show was very good. It was far better than the original 90210 pilot.

    Posted by Michelle Tofoya September 3, 08 01:54 PM
  1. Okay, seriously . The Pilot's supposed to PULL people into watching the show. and if it's horrible , the rest of the season can only get worse. They don't have good actores. They took everything from every other teen show. Except for sense of style. And the plot is SO dry. I definitely took it off my DVR. And I don't plan to watch it ever again.

    Posted by Donnielle September 3, 08 05:20 PM
  1. I can honestly say that I agree with this whole article! The show lacked excitement and drama! I think none of these characters are good actors except for the old characters from the original series and Tristan Wilds and even then the show is still a bore. I am surprised to see that they made Tristan's charactor (Dixon) so boring. They have completely cut off the ability to see how such a great actor he is. He did amazing in "The Wire". I think that "Gossip Girl" is going to stomp all over this show, maybe even "The Hills" will as well. Goodluck to this new 90210 series, they need it!

    Posted by Jasmina September 4, 08 06:41 AM
  1. Well I am an Old School watcher of 90210 and I guess it was okay.
    Shannon looks like crap and is the same old same old acting skills
    Jenni looks great.
    They made a huge mistake taking Shannon. I really feel with Tori's Popularity right now she would really bring a better story line to the show.


    Posted by Michele September 4, 08 09:50 AM
  1. I loved it and I can't wait for next Tuesday....I just can't stop thinking about all the's the BEST EVER!

    Posted by Fancy Nancy September 4, 08 10:53 AM
  1. I am a huge fan of the original series as well.

    To those that are complaining the new series is an insult to those who loved the old series... you're really kind of pushing it. This isn't an extension of the original. It is a new series in the franchise. So why do we need to know (or CARE) what Mrs. Teasley's been doing? Or any explanation about what Andrea did or didn't do at Yale?

    Kelly and Brenda and Hannah were only present to throw a bone to the original fans. But the CW is looking to recruit new fans, and maybe entice some of us old fans to come watch. But it is by no means a "sequel" to the original -- and has never been promoted as such.

    Posted by Monica September 4, 08 02:20 PM
  1. I thought it was terrific. It has real potential to be a great teen drama. Shenae is sooooo fun to watch, definitely my favorite.

    To whoever called the show copying "South of Nowhere" is giving them a LOT of credit, nothing is too original there. And the acting on "South" is repulsive. It's a crappier "Degrassi", which is not all that great to start out with.

    Posted by fan September 6, 08 10:13 PM
  1. Aaron Spelling would have been livid by the choice of Shenae Grimes for actress for this role. This lady cant act for s@#t!!! I have always been a dedicated 90210 fan and have watched every episode of the original series when I was younger. Gotta give Jennie Garth and Shannon Doherty credit, their performances are still awesome, even Ann Gillespie still has it, but this choice of Shenae Grimes for lead they need their heads read. She is so fake, her actings appalling, you don't believe a word that comes out of her mouth and her stupid little giggles like shes trying to be nice grrr, its like someone scraping their nails down the blackboard. I just hope Tori comes back and has some say in this, seeing it was her Dads show Shenae is destroying and throws her ass right out of there before the show ends up as another failed remake because I sure can't bear the thought of watching much more of her.

    Posted by Crikey October 26, 08 01:27 PM
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    Posted by Traugott February 8, 09 06:39 PM
  1. I really tried to like it, but I find it kind of boring. The plot line makes me go ZZzzz... there is no depth and it feels like the characters hasn't got that compelling factor. BORING!!!! I still like the original,,,a lil' bit,,,

    Posted by shawna March 1, 09 03:11 PM
  1. I'm into it - sad but true.
    Instead of the moralistic crap from the original & it's ilk, this lot play at being really organic & open, & abit more umm, normal.
    All do a pretty good job. Silver is just great. Ethan, super cute. Naomi, outrageously gorgeous. The sexy mommy & batty grannie, cool.
    Shannen Dogherty, stiff & unnecessary.
    But that Annie girl - cripes, who is her mom sucking off to get her that role?! Her acting is just awful, all of those ghastly facial contortions in the name of feeling. So bad. Too too bad. If the wind changes her face might just stay that way; someone pass that on eh.

    Posted by Sindy May 21, 09 07:45 PM

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