10.17.18: a rebel alliance of quality content
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not bad enough to be good
by mike julianelle

After watching most of the two hour premiere of the new "90210" series, I thought I might write about how this sad attempt at updating the seminal 90s teen soap, by cross-breeding it with "The Hills" and "Gossip Girl," makes a mockery of the original. But halfway through forming that thought, I remembered that the original show was already a mockery.

This "90210" captures a bit of the feel of the original, featuring displaced Midwestern (read: innocent and good) kids into a corrupt, debaucherous, immoral/amoral world. The best thing I can say about it is that, in this day and age, it's actually kind of quaint. Teens actually act like teens. In some cases, they almost kind of even look like teens. But I doubt they appeal to teens.

Not teens who like "Gossip Girl."

"Gossip Girl," itself a clear descendant of the original "90210," has lots of buzz (if not ratings) and its high profile clearly played into the move to re-imagine "90210". But, to its credit, "Gossip Girl" has two things going for it: no shame and no footing in reality. This "90210" pretends to take place in the shockingly real world of the modern teen while simultaneously moralizing like an after-school special (highschoolers cheat? OMFG!) and robbing itself of a) any shot at being real and b) any shot at being cool.

The original got by with this approach because it was the first of its kind and because the decadent lifestyles led by the characters were never really that decadent to begin with. But kids back then had no clue. The concept itself was enough to draw them in and the sideburns were enough to keep them. Dylan was the only character with any sense of danger about him and even he was neutered pretty quickly once he started hanging with the Walshes. In today's MTV world of "My Super Sweet Sixteen" and "The Real World" and "The Hills," viewers don't want innocence or judgment. They don't want punches pulled. They want sex, drugs and...something else..."Rock Band?" Maybe Facebook?

"The O.C." was a recent attempt at recapturing "90210"'s place in the zeitgeist, and it worked -- for a season. The show's creator is on record as saying he wanted a teen show with no morals, but then he buckled under the weight of being watched by so many impressionable teens, and his show caved in on itself, devolving into something more like the original "90210" than he ever intended: judgmental, melodramatic and boring. He appears to have learned his lesson; he now runs "Gossip Girl" without a hint of restraint.

"Gossip Girl," irredeemably naughty, unrealistic and absurd, earns its guilty pleasure status. Even the show's marketing flaunts its irresponsibility. It's like the original 9-0 (rich kids living fabulously) mixed with "Dawson's Creek" (teens acting and speaking like adults), "Sex and the City" and amphetamines, whereas the new "90210" is more like, well, the original "90210."

And I guess that's the point. There is no reason for the show to share lineage with the original, except to attract people who watched the first version.


Kelly Taylor is back (Jennie Garth never looked this good in the '90s), with a son whose father will be named (Dylan!) later. Brenda Walsh returns for four episodes, looking like a Zombie version of herself, bringing word of Brandon. Even Nat has a spot, showcasing his sparkling comedy chops as the character nobody cares about. There are a lot of things that made the original "90210" cheesy, but none so much as Joe E. Tata's Nat, who always felt like the Junior Varsity version of Arnold from "Happy Days."

Rounding out the cast of old-timers are Lori Loughlin, overshadowed in the still-amazingly-hot department by Madchen Amick, nearly as gorgeous on "Gossip Girl"'s season premiere as when she was on my dorm room wall as Shelly from "Twin Peaks," and Jessica Walter, who appears to have wandered off the set of "Arrested Development" and landed, complete with the same lines and same line-readings, in Beverly Hills. I keep expecting Buster to show up with his rape horn. No such luck.

What the creators of this new version don't understand is that while the first "90210" was appointment TV for teenagers, it didn't take me and my friends long before we started enjoying it for the same reasons we enjoy Road House and Cocktail. Because we used to fuck guys like you in prison, because when a guy lays down a dare you gotta take it, and because it makes us laugh. And laugh. And laugh and laugh and laugh.

Have you ever seen one of David Silver's musical performances? They complete me. Steve's hair, the lispy, paraplegic cult leader, the rock'n'roll stylings of Ray Pruit, Brandon's gambling addiction...and let's not forget Dylan and his raging everything addiction. Nothing is more compelling than Luke Perry fighting temptation, chasing the dragon, and telling off Jason Priestley.

There is nothing so entertaining in 90210 v2.0. It lacks the audacity to be a guilty pleasure like "Gossip Girl" and the quality to be worth a watch otherwise. The new "90210" is neither good enough to be good nor bad enough to be great. It just sucks.


Let's get real here. You don't want to know about me. You want to know about "me".

more about mike julianelle


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topic: television
published: 1.16.06


mike julianelle
9.7.08 @ 4:07p

So nobody else caught this, I guess?

daniel castro
9.8.08 @ 3:10p

Guess not.

I, for one, am tired of re-makes and 're-launches' left and right and the massive amount of advertising this show has gotten here in LA makes it even more unappealing to watch.

jeffrey walker
9.16.08 @ 10:40a

it's simple: the new cast is missing the cup sizes of the former cast -- AnnaLynne McCord has nothing on Tori Spelling and Tiffani Amber Thiessen. I'm yawning.

alex b
9.16.08 @ 10:47a

Okay, now that I finally watched the show, I can comment.

1) As Walker said, the female leads have no cup sizes. But worse, it looks like they're attempting to walk with stick legs. They're all really bony. (Lori Loughlin is the only one with a remotely normal size going).

2) The guys? Boring. At least there were even lines of personality on the old one- Brandon, Dylan, Steve, David. Here? The guys all blend.

3) The Brenda-Kelly scenes were the only ones that were interesting.

4) Rob Estes is a dad and a principal? Wasn't he on "Silk Stalkings?"

All in all, I'll watch "Gossip Girl" instead.

michelle von euw
9.16.08 @ 10:49a

If 90210 is going to succeed, it's going to be because of people my age tuning in to see Kelly and Brenda and the other "old" people -- Rob Estes, who will never not be hot, and Jessica Walters, playing Lucille Bluth 2.0.

Honestly, the teens are either lame, not cute, or look 30. The casting is pretty sucky, particularly since the same network scored so well last year with the Gossip Girl crew, and this year with the two much more interesting actors playing the twins on Privileged.

mike julianelle
9.16.08 @ 11:35p

I caught the last few mind of this week's episode last nite and, in a dramatic moment, brenda let fly with the news that the father of Kelly's baby is dylan. Called it!

Anyway, it is true that people who remember the first show find the callbacks entertaining, but as I say in my column, what are the younger viewers going to watch this show for? It lacks any of the more sensational stuff shows like gossip girl and reality programming offer. It's too safe and bland and dull. Dylan's eventual reappearance should shake things up. Especially if he's still drunk and rich.

I loved silk stallings!

jael mchenry
9.17.08 @ 5:14p

Yeah, I think I'll just wait for the "Cupid" revamp instead. At least that one has a point. (Even if Bobby Cannavale is no Jeremy Piven.)

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