Tuesday, September 02, 2008

90210, "We're Not in Kansas Anymore": That sounds like a pig fainting!

Spoilers for the Most. Awaited. Event. Of. The. Year. -- aka the "90210" premiere -- coming up just as soon as I remind you that a blog's true purpose is to cause problems...

Huh. Neither trainwreck nor masterpiece, the new "90210" was exactly what nobody expected it would be: remarkably faithful in tone and spirit to the original adventures of Brandon, Brenda, Scott Scanlon and company.

Outside of the oral sex gag in Ethan's SUV, it was remarkably chaste. The one kid who seems to be using drugs is heading for a Very Important Lesson. Annie (the new, slightly more self-aware Brenda) goes on the requisite date with an older guy that creates trust issues with her mom, and Theater Boy doesn't so much as make a joke about the Mile High Club. Dixon (the new, definitely less self-righteous Brandon) gets involved with a prank war storyline that not only would have been at home on the original "90210," but on any teenage show going back to the freakin' "Brady Bunch." Morals are handed down, lessons are learned, and kids get to frolic in the Pacific. And when lacrosse star Ethan dumped mean girl Naomi by declaring "I'm breaking up with us," he may as well have been quoting Kelly Taylor's infamous "I choose me!" from "90210" Coke Classic.

Producers Gabe Sachs and Jeff Judah having come out of the Judd Apatow school, this "90210" wasn't as corny as the Darren Star version. The dialogue was at times intentionally funny (Lori Laughlin's exchange with Rob Estes' ex-girlfriend, Grandma telling a story that should settle the "Quien es mas macho?: Fernando Lamas o Ricardo Montalban?" question once and for all, and the various lines about Navid's pig-owning porn magnate dad. If most of the actors, like their 1989 predecessors, looked too old for high school, they also seemed a lot more natural -- frankly, the stiffest performer in the entire two hours was Shannen Doherty. (But then, she's never been an especially relaxed actor; I practically have to fast-forward through any scene she's in in "Mallrats," even if that means missing some good Brodie Bruce moments.)

Throw in a few cameos by Nat, the occasional strains of the original "90210" score whenever Kelly was having a moment with someone, the Hannah Zuckerman Vasquez cameo and the revelation that "Silver" is, as some assumed, David and Kelly's half-sister by way of Mel and Jackie's short-lived marriage(*), and I felt surprisingly nostalgic throughout a lot of this. I don't know that I would call it good, but I could see myself tuning in again in the same way that I'll sometimes stop to watch "A-Team" reruns of "Just One of the Guys" if I stumble across them while channel surfing.

(*) Speaking of which, does anybody actually remember where the show left off with David's dad and Kelly's mom? I know they got back together at some point, but then vaguely recall them splitting again, yet Silver's story suggested they were together when she was in the eighth grade and getting a tramp stamp.

But what do you think the CW's actual intended audience made of it, if they watched at all? While the music and styles were up to date, this felt almost quaint compared to "Gossip Girl," and I'm not sure anyone who didn't grow up with the original would care at all about Hannah, or Erin, or the fact that Brenda helped Kelly with a potential boyfriend instead of trying to steal him.

What did everybody else think?

56 comments:

LA Snark said...

I can't wait!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Comes on in 5 minutes out here in 90210!!

Adam said...

I have no idea how a tween would compare this to Gossip Girl. All I know is I had a blast. "What is that girl, like, 30?"

electricia said...

I haven't watched it yet (it doesn't come on for a few more minutes here in L.A.), but to answer your question about David's dad and Kelley's mom -
I just watched the entire series on SoapNet, so I feel I can answer fairly accurately. There was the first divorce, then they got back together but not remarried. Then he went to the PPAD after-hours strip club run by Noah and Gina, and Gina ratted him out to Kelley's mom, who left him. That's where it left off, there was never any on-screen reconciliation. However, at Donna and David's wedding, they appeared to be together. It was never mentioned one way or the other, but given that, I presumed that they got back together at some point.

Can't wait to watch!

Nicole Marie said...

You forgot to mention (though perhaps it doesn't need to be said since it's so obvious) how fabulous Jessica Walter was. God I miss Lucille!

Sara Ann said...

My very favorite part was the aforementioned tramp stamp. Slightly-less-yuppie girl (I didn't catch her name) tells a whole sob story about how the tattoo means "friendship" and how that friendship was betrayed and blah, blah, pretty much the exact story you expected when you saw the matching tattoos. The thing is, that symbol? Does not mean "friendship." It means "intermediate; secondary." Meta comment by a frustrated production assistant? You decide.

Mark B said...

I can't help but think the "what is she, 30?" line directed at Hannah was a reference to her mother's character (among others) in the original series having being played by people so far out of their teen years. At least in the new series, they look like teenagers.

The "classic" characters work both ways. For older viewers, it's a nice throw-back, but for those who didn't see the original series, all they need to know is that the older characters all have histories of their own, but which are already known to older viewers.

Jessica Walter is pretty much playing Lucille Bluth once again. I don't know if that means anything ("and I don't care to find out").

Nicole said...

Now Andrea's spawn is accused of looking like the 30 yr old... but other than that appearance not much was done with her. I think Erin Silver was used in a much better way, as the sort of sanest person who is not a rich bitch and therefore the one Annie could relate to quickest. I guess she is the Donna of the group?

I also felt it was a tamer Gossip Girl, with the kids actually showing up to school once in a while and being called on underage bar hopping (seriously, are there no bouncers in LA?). I didn't mind this show at all, and since I'm not much into House, I may watch this more often. I really liked that Kelly had a storyline and I really want to know the father of her baby. It was pretty vague based on her conversation with Brenda.

Ironically enough, this may be the teen show that is more relatable for the average teen, when compared to the excessively rich folks of Gossip Girl.

carrie said...

I miss Lucille Bluth!

Adam said...

Actually, that was the callback I missed: I wanted Djimon Hounsou as the bouncer again.

Rachel said...

I feared the worst but was pleasantly surprised. I'll be back next week. I was worried at the beginning that Annie would be too wholesome and sugary, but then they showed she has some sass and toughness as well. (Sidenote: I liked the whole Wilson clan -- good casting.)

And the stories and dialog were pretty decent (lots of good one-liners and reaction shots too). Right now it's not really a water-cooler show like GG, but I think that's probably a good thing.

Dan Coyle said...

They remembered Hannah and Erin?

Continuity nerds on 90210?

THE HELL???

Linda said...

I thought it was appallingly terrible. I haven't heard such horrible exposition in a very, very long time.

rooney 10 said...

I really enjoyed it. From Michael Lee to Lucille Bluth, the casting really seems spot on. At the risk of sounding like a creep, how hot is Annie?

I also like that this 90210 seems to have learned from shows like The OC and Gossip Girl and doesn't take itself too seriously.

I suspect that much like Mad Men has toned down the "We're in the 60's!" moments, as the series goes on, 90210 will do the same with the "It's Nat! In the Peach Pit!" moments (not that I didn't enjoy them, I'm really looking forward to the very special episode where Brandon teaches Navid all about journalism ethics. And Ethan is Surfer? Oh the possibilities. $5 say's his dad is getting blown up Dylan McKay style.)

It was also nice to see a little diversity in the cast, even if it does have Token Black written all over it.

But my favorite moment had to be Michael Lee dominating Lacrosse like Jim Brown at Syracuse!

Evie Garland said...

I'm just dreading the Dixon-finds-his-birth-parents storyline

Nicole said...

Dixon's birth dad had better not be Latrel, Donna's tutee.

J said...

Serious, serious points for Joe E. Tata.

I enjoyed this. 90210 was never anything exceptional - maybe it was exceptional for its own modest aims? - and that's preserved here. Gossip Girl wastes so much energy trying to be "naughty" and "clever" and rarely manages to be more than quotation marks.

PamelaJaye said...

I thought it had been a long time since 90210, but I guess I forgot Buffy and Boston Public and Veronica Mars.
It hasn't really been that long since I was "in high school."

I don't know how many seasons of 90210 I actually watched, but I'm pretty sure I swore off when Tiffany Too Many Last Names showed up. I still remember a bit about Dylan's little sister or whatever she was.

Of course, all of this required me actually watching the WC. Don't tell anyone... I didn't watch the promos for anything else. (and I didn't inhale)

and Jessica whoever's comment - was it about Amish? was so funny, cause not only did Silver play an Amish girl on Grey's, but Jessica was on Aaron's Way. (I think that was the name of it)

PamelaJaye said...

I thought Silver was... um... Mac

or that girl on Boston Public with the blog.
But mostly Mac.

I'd be happy to see her dad. I think his twin brother (the one from Duet) gave up acting and moved to NC to do something with college sports.
Nope, i'm wrong - it was *him* (Matthew) who moved to NC. No idea what Mitchell is doing.

Is it obvious that I've watched too much TV ever since I got married in 86?

Narrim said...

Much to my surprise, I enjoyed it. i came to support Tristan Wilds and came out wanting to see more. I never watched Beverly Hills (grew up on Boy Meets World) so I don't know the who's who of the older generation, but it's interesting and makes me want to know a bit more about it.

The actors were all wonderful and, aside from a few cheesy moments, I was rarely taken out of the show outside the commercial breaks. Wilds and Grimes have great brother-sister chemistry. With Grimes, however,all I can really think about is Degrassi TNG, another teen show that's somewhat light and has many references to the previous generation.

With Fringe coming up next week, I'm liking the new Tuesday schedule.

I'm definitely going to keep watching, if only for an episode where Ron Howard narrates Grandma's antics (and someone loses a hand to a loose seal).

Anonymous said...

I actually really liked it. It had enough throwbacks to the original for old fans, but felt like a completely modern show in and of itself. I think they did a great job with casting (Annie and Debbie actually look like they could be related and I liked the little Linda Gray cameo) and the characters were surprisingly multi-dimensional. One of the things that shocked me the most about it is that it actually seemed realistic. I love the original 90210, The OC, and Gossip Girl, but for all the talk about how "that's really the way kids are today" they never really had much resemblance to real life. But this actually seems like a fairly accurate depiction of what being a teen is like today (getting text messages, having computers in the classroom, people blogging) without feeling self-conscious about it. And even the moments where the kids acted more adult than their ages (like drinking) had them at least getting busted on it (has anyone on Gossip Girl EVER gotten carded??) Also, I think they did a smart thing by actually opening up the kids' world beyond the boundaries of Beverly Hills. In the original the kids hardly seemed to make it out of that neighborhood (they always shopped on Rodeo Drive or in the Beverly Center.) Given how trendy LA has become thanks to Entourage, The Hills, and every issue of US Weekly, it's nice to see them showing more of the city. Oh, and I also liked that the one girl was an aspiring actress. Again, something that could have felt self-conscious, but that is actually probably pretty normal in this world and actually felt that way.

Had Solo said...

I really haven't checked out any of the new bubble gum soap stuff like Gossip Girl or the OC as I was raised on 90210 and have since moved on to different fare like The Wire, The Shield, etc. I thought I would check it out and give it a shot for a little escapism and nostalgia.

I pretty much agree with Alan on most of his comments. I usually do. I didn't think the acting was all that stellar, especially Naomi. She really seemed like she was over matched in some of the scenes, especially at the beginning of the episode.

I think this might struggle mightily to find an audience as it continues to straddle the fence of nostalgia and find its place as its own show. Not really enough of the old faces to make someone like me care, and not enough action and edge for the younger generation that it is courting.

Should be interesting to see. It sure seemed like they threw the kitchen sink of stereotypical issues from this kind of show at the audience in the first week.

Anonymous said...

Alan's review is right on. It was perfectly okay. I did think the first episode (first half) was MUCH stronger than the 2nd. which is not a good sign and confused me as to why they showed both together. Nor do I understand why they didn't send it out to critics beforehand as not doing so gave it a bad stink.

Shannn Doherty was indeed the weakest link, and seems pretty unneccessary. At least Steve Sanders could add some comedy.

I also thought Lori Loughlin wasn't so hot, but that might be more the way the role was written as she's usually good.

And nice to see Christina Moore recover from her role on That '70s Show (where they strangely had her replace another actress as Eric Forman's sister. So she was stuck having to do an impression of an all-ready broad character.)

Zeke said...

I don't get why they showed two episodes. It put it right up against Greek, a show that the same audience watches and is much better done.

Michael said...

The original show went off the air in 2000, yet Hannah and Erin are already in high school? I guess that's true soap opera time compression at work.

Did anyone else get the feeling that Brandon was the father of Kelly's son Sammy? Some comment Kelly made about Brenda not seeing him since he was a baby made me think that.

Anonymous said...

How soon til they add the Scott Scanlon-esque character that will inevitably die from some accidental that was promoed to death with touts of "TONIGHT - THE GANG LOSES ONE OF ITS OWN!"

Chris from NJ

electricia said...

So many comments, so little space! They've definitely compressed the ages of Erin and Hanna a little bit, but not so much that it's not believable. But is Andrea living in Beverly Hills? I think Silver is my favorite character, but she is more or less Mac. And like everyone else in this blog, I'm so happy to see Lucille Bluth back on prime time, "iced tea" in hand.

I have to admit to being a bit intrigued by Kelley's son. There was a huge storyline with her when she discovered it was "very unlikely" that she'd be able to have kids, although that seemed to be kind of forgotten about in later seasons of the original. But I wonder if Sammy will turn out to be adopted.

I had a serious WTF moment when they first showed "The Pit". Hey, Nat's kid would nearly be in high school, too - I wonder if he'll show up.

Overall, I agree with you and everyone else. It was fine. I'll watch again.

Any bets on which minor character will meet an untimely end 3/4 of the way through the first season?

Anonymous said...

I didn't know it was Brandon who called Kelly until she said something about it to Brenda. Was I supposed to know? *Confused.*

Shannen D. needs to do something with her hair, as it was very distracting.

Anonymous said...

The appearance of Hannah Zuckerman-Vasquez was amusing, but it actually kind of annoys me. Hannah just as easily could have been the tie-in to the new show as Erin. But my guess is we won't be seeing her again. So why bother having her there at all? Especially when it raises the question of Andrea being back in Beverly Hills, but apparently not friends with Kelly anymore.

Anonymous said...

On the original show Erin was born in 1992 and Hannah was born in 1994,so they may have played with the ages a little bit, but not too much.

Anonymous said...

I am so glad I'm not a high schooler in the age of the internet and digital cameras.

I really enjoyed the numbered jerseys on the pigs and how number 3 didn't exist yet the other school was searching for it. Made me giggle.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I didn't know it was Brandon who called Kelly until she said something about it to Brenda. Was I supposed to know? *Confused.*

I don't think she was talking to Brandon, as she was clearly talking to the baby daddy ("He keeps asking me about you") and there was no discussion or even suggestion by inflection or body language, that Brenda is the boy's aunt.

Alan Sepinwall said...

The original show went off the air in 2000, yet Hannah and Erin are already in high school? I guess that's true soap opera time compression at work.

As others have mentioned, both Erin and Hannah were born way before the series ended: Erin when the kids were still in high school, Hannah early in the college seasons. If Hannah's not supposed to be in the same grade as the others (it'd be just like Andrea's kid to wind up as the Blaze anchorwoman as a freshman), then they haven't really played with the ages at all.

Also, don't be so sure they won't be doing more with Hannah in the future. The actress they cast, Hallee Hirsh, is an experienced enough kid actress that I wouldn't be surprised if she was chosen with future stories in mind.

Alan Sepinwall said...

But my favorite moment had to be Michael Lee dominating Lacrosse like Jim Brown at Syracuse!

Given that Sachs and Judah are such professed Wire geeks, I wonder if making Dixon a great lacrosse player was in some way an homage to The Bunk.

Nicole said...

When Kelly told Brenda that Brandon had called at 3am, I presumed that he was the one we saw Kelly speaking with on the phone and probably the baby daddy.

And thanks for identifying the actress who played "Mrs Clark"... I knew she looked familiar, but couldn't place her.

Indeed said...

"Given that Sachs and Judah are such professed Wire geeks, I wonder if making Dixon a great lacrosse player was in some way an homage to The Bunk."
I couldn't help thinking of the Bunk either during that scene. Only watched the first bit of the show, but will watch the rest later. It was definitely decent enough for me to finish the episode.
I just love that Tristan Wilds was cast in this. It makes me happy to see my beloved Wire actors in different, even unexpected roles.

Anonymous said...

I'm noticing a lot of people saying things like "I actually thought it was good" or "it was better than I expected." I wonder if not sending out the pilot was just a way of managing expectations - making it seem like it's worse than it actually was so people would be pleasantly surprised by it.

Anonymous said...

"The appearance of Hannah Zuckerman-Vasquez was amusing, but it actually kind of annoys me. Hannah just as easily could have been the tie-in to the new show as Erin. But my guess is we won't be seeing her again. So why bother having her there at all? Especially when it raises the question of Andrea being back in Beverly Hills, but apparently not friends with Kelly anymore."

Perhaps Hannah is living with Andrea's grandmother in Beverly Hills so that she can attend West Beverly.

Adam said...

Ohndrea's, err ... Andrea's grandmother the holocaust survivor, the one who insisted that they go together to see the Farrakhan stand-in at CU? Yeah, that'd be cool.

Can we assume that by the Z-V surname that Andrea has not remarried?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Can we assume that by the Z-V surname that Andrea has not remarried?

Even if she and Jesse split (and the last I remember of those two, they were moving to Cambridge to try to make it work), Hannah's name would stay the same unless Jesse gave up adoption rights, no?

Adam said...

When she came back for a reunion cameo, she said they were divorcing. And when parents remarry, sometimes the kid's surname will be changed to streamline confusion, etc.

SoundBitesNYC said...

alan, why isn't your blog all flash animation and video like Silver's? Get with the times!

Anonymous said...

Did the craft services budget get axed for this show? Several of girls (especially Annie) looked malnourished.

Nicole said...

I thought the same thing. It is sad that the original 90210 girls would have looked chubby next to them, and they were far from it. Anorexia seems to be the new Hollywood thing and scarily passed off as normal.

Matt said...

FWIW, 90210 averaged 4.91 million viewers, and was very strong among 18-49, with a steady 2.7 rating in the demo from 8:30 PM on.

Alan Sepinwall said...

FWIW, 90210 averaged 4.91 million viewers, and was very strong among 18-49, with a steady 2.7 rating in the demo from 8:30 PM on.

That's definitely a solid debut, but when you consider the amount of hype about this show -- and the fact that a decent amount of that audience was likely rubberneckers who may not continue with it -- I'm not exactly dazzled by the numbers.

Matt said...

Yeah, it's not spectacular, but it's among the best ratings ever for the CW, especially considering that a major market (Chicago) isn't included due to a Cubs game and that it was up against inexplicable juggernaut "America's Got Talent (Well, Sort Of)!"

Mads said...

I'm a 16-year-old girl and I watched it last night with my best friend. We both hated it and were making fun of it the entire time. The only good parts were when Lucille Bluth 2.0 was onscreen. I'm not a big fan of Gossip Girl, but I like it way better than 90210.

Anonymous said...

Your suspicions about a possible divide between an older and younger audience seem to have been confirmed by some of the ratings. For a show with so many teens, female teens largely stayed away, reaching only half as many as Gossip Girl’s season premiere, and maybe a quarter of what Secret Life of the American Teenager has been doing in the same timeslot.

Anonymous said...

Just a question: was that Linda Gray playing Grandma Wilson's friend (and Ethan's grandma) who checked in on her after the off-camera car accident. It sure looked alot like her, and it would totally fit with Tabitha Wilson's character's premise...

Alan Sepinwall said...

Yes, that was Linda Gray. My eyebrows raised when she was listed in the credits, both because she's Linday Gray and because, like Rob Estes, she's yet another member of the extended 90210/Melrose universe playing a different character than she did in the past, when she was the lead on Models Inc.

But expecting consistency on a 90210 sequel a decade after the fact is a fool's errand.

electricia said...


But expecting consistency on a 90210 sequel a decade after the fact is a fool's errand.


As my husband said about the short-lived but awesome Bruce Campbell show "Jack of all Trades": If you're expecting historical accuracy from a show where the main characters get their orders from a parrot dressed like a pirate, you're kind of missing the point.

That's kind of how I feel about 90210. So what if the consistency is a bit off.

I don't know about tweens and teens, but all of the 30-ish ladies in my office watched it, and my best friend from college called me first thing this morning to talk about it, and we all said we'd keep watching. So maybe the nostalgia factor is enough to draw us in and keep us going, even if the show is just okay. And until Grey's, Chuck, Heroes and BSG come back - especially now that The Middleman has permanently gone through a giant wormhole - it's sure better than nothing.

Anonymous said...

I love how Estes' character mentioned Kelly's polka dot leggings, which have become a cult favorite of 90210 fashion addicts. I believe they were mentioned on gofugyourself.com recently. I like the meta aspects of the show. Shows a bit of ironic awareness in this remake.

Anonymous said...

There's a look at the bodies and clothes of 90210 then and now here.

amysusanne said...

>>As my husband said about the short-lived but awesome Bruce Campbell show "Jack of all Trades": If you're expecting historical accuracy from a show where the main characters get their orders from a parrot dressed like a pirate, you're kind of missing the point.<<

I'm really going to have to steal that line. Awesome.

I didn't get around to this until tonight, but I wound up really enjoying it. I have no idea if they took any cues from the new Degrassi (ignoring that the original took many things from the *old* Degrassi), but they did things right the same way those guys did things right. Just enough of the old to bring the nostalgia for the fans of the original mixed in with a lot of the new. It worked, but it didn't really work completely for me until it was over. It was slow to start, I wasn't crazy about half of the kids (though most grew on me) and I was a little bored for about a half hour. Then it picked up. And even though I was questioning why they crammed two episodes into one two hour ep, i was glad they did when it was over because they gave me enough to make me want more. It's still fairly average, but by the end I wanted more, so they did a good job with it. They also made me put the original in the netflix queue. My plans of watching every season of "The X-Files" in order has now stalled halfway through season three as 90210 takes it's place. Or, rather, 90210 takes the place of "The OC" which is what had already distracted me from TXF. Oh well.

Neena said...

What did everybody else think?

Alan - i thought it was okay but nothing special. But tbh i wasn't expecting much.

The first half was awful and the second part was alittle bit better. Overall the acting from most of the younger actors was bad.

At the moment my favourite characters are Navid, Grandma Wilson and Dixon.

On the other hand Ethan is dull and Annie slightly annoying.

I'll definitely give this show a chance. I'm sure it will improve and i love my teen drama's.

Jackie said...

I was re-watching Season 2 of the Wire and saw The Bunk in his lacrosse sweatshirt. I noticed someone else noticed the lacrosse connection. Elsewhere, it was posted that Tristan wore the maroon and khaki uniform of Episode 4.

The producers are self-described Wire fans--which I appreciate since they hired Tristan Wilds. So are the writers of The Office--yet those writers seem to be more in the same league, at this point: clever and patient, allowing storylines to unfold more organically, somehow. I'm giving 90210 a chance. I'm rooting for these writers--for the sake of Tristan Wilds and in the spirit of cheering on all Wire alum and fans.