Surely there can’t be a person alive in the developed world who didn’t watch at least one episode of this stellar show in the early 1990s? You could ask any woman of my vintage who Brenda and Brandon are, or the significance of the phrase ‘Donna Martin graduates’, and I almost guarantee a spark of recognition.
While it’s a programme that screened in my formative teenaged years, and was certainly what might be termed ‘must-see TV’ in its heyday, it isn’t something to which I’d given much thought in my adult life, beyond wondering whether the newfangled ‘90210’ was any good (I’ve never watched it, so I still don’t know). But I obviously had a latent Beverly Hills 90210 fetish buried deep in my sub-conscious, because it only took one chance exposure to it for me to become obsessed once again.
I have the retro Sky NZ channel ‘Jones’ to thank: I was at home one kindy day, idly scrolling through the channels in the manner of one who is rarely afforded such a luxury without small people hanging around, cramping one’s style and bellowing for another episode of Paw Patrol. I stumbled across an episode of Beverly Hills 90210 and – recognising gold when I see it – immediately series-linked it. Not only is it still in the golden high school era (at the time of writing the gang are Seniors at West Beverly High), but it’s also ad-free, AND on Monday to Friday!
This programme was always the perfect mix of Serious Learning Moments, hideous fashion, over-wrought love affairs, and actors playing people who are obviously anything up to half their actual age – it’s a heady mix. Here’s what’s happened in the past fortnight alone:
- Dylan’s been forced to choose between Kelly and Brenda (spoiler alert: “It’s you, Kel – it’s always been you”). Brenda didn’t take it well, but she seems to have chilled out for now, and is starting to talk about the friends she misses from Minnesota, nicely setting up the time when Brenda will in fact leave Beverly Hills for college back home. But don’t be fooled: there is more Brenda/Dylan/Kelly drama to come…
- David Silver (currently a Junior who is apparently doing twice the normal class load in order to graduate with the rest of the gang (has been signed to a record label and then lost the deal when a slimy producer forced him to sing a slow jam (and you’ve never heard anybody sing more out of tune, I swear to God – I actually feel bad about linking to that clip), rather than the rap and hiphop that this skinny white boy prefers (this was filmed in the era of Vanilla Ice and Colour Me Badd – who appear on a future show, when Peach Pit After Dark is a thing – after all).
- Donna Martin has been an angel on earth, apparently. And she can conquer radio stage fright like *that*! (insert finger snap here) and be an amazing DJ on West Beverly High’s radio station. There was clearly an editorial decision in the Writers’ room to ensure that nobody had a bad word to say about the daughter of producer Aaron Spelling. However, she may have made enemies in the Wardrobe team:
- Guardian angels saved the gang from dying in a head-on collision with a truck driven by an old drunk. That was a Very Special Episode, obviously.
- Steve Sanders, who dresses like a used car salesman in his mid-forties, has been dumped as David’s agent, expelled and then reinstated at West Beverly High, and named as “the only person around here I can trust right now” by Kelly. He also won the hand of a girl on a dodgy dating show, beating Brandon.
- Kelly has won Dylan’s heart, but a chance remark by a spa employee (who would surely get fired) regarding working on Kel’s ‘problem areas’ has sent our blonde goddess into a frenzy of body obsession and diet pill addiction, which landed her in hospital after collapsing on the night of her eighteenth birthday party. She refuses to acknowledge that she’s got a problem, however, so it seems clear that the ‘Kelly has an eating disorder’ plot is only just beginning.
- Brandon has been shown to have a serious gambling addiction. Apparently it’s all sorted after a stern word from Peach Pit owner Nat… OR IS IT?! (Genuine question – I can’t remember whether this comes up again in a later episode).
- Dylan’s father has been released from prison, shown to be super-shady as he tried to steal his son’s huge trust fund, and then blown up by (we will later discover) mob bosses.
- Dylan’s mourned his father for an episode or two – including one memorable forty-minute block where he played himself having an out-of-body experience. It was special (actually, it’s quite moving at the end, when he gives his inner child a cuddle).
- ON-drea has been accepted into Yale. She’s also worked hard to try to behave like a carefree teenager around the rest of the cast, despite looking old enough to be Donna’s mother. She rarely seems to go to class, preferring to tackle the job of editing the West Beverly Blaze as if she’s actually editing the New York Times.
- Jim and Cindy have done what Jim and Cindy do: hang around, making food and giving out benign advice.
If you’re in New Zealand and have Sky, I urge you to series-link this programme as soon as possible. You’re not too late to miss out on so much good stuff! Yes, we’ve all missed the ‘Brenda loses her virginity’ episode, but the iconic DONNA MARTIN GRADUATES episode is still to come, and the superb drunk Donna at the prom episode that causes it. And once the gang get to college it’s all on like Donkey Kong from what I remember: bad girl Claire will join the crew; bad girl Valerie will also join the crew; Kelly will join a cult; the Peach Pit After Dark will open; people will continue to regard David as a musical genius; Donna will meet evil Ray; Kelly will marry Brandon one day; Brenda will disappear entirely, and ON-drea will get knocked up. And that’s just the stuff I can remember! I can’t wait.