Discover more from TeenDramaWhore
My Problem with nu90210
When “Beverly Hills, 90210” ended on May 17, 2000, I didn’t cry.
As the screen faded to black, I sat there in awe of this amazing series finale. I sat there in awe of this iconic TV show. I sat there in awe of this unmatched legacy.
“Beverly Hills, 90210” made television history. With 10 seasons and nearly 300 episodes, it set the blueprint for the teen drama genre. At one point, there were more than 20 million weekly viewers.
And here’s the thing about legacies such as this one: They should be untouched.
But in 2008, it was officially announced The CW was (depending on which outlet you read) making a spinoff / reboot / remake / sequel. None of the creative minds behind the original series were involved. In fact, Rob Thomas of “Veronica Mars” fame was attached to the project but even he left before the show was officially ordered to series. Gabe Sachs and Jeff Judah came on board in his place, despite also having no connections to “Beverly Hills, 90210.”
So then, what linked the two series? For starters, the similar plot at the outset: The Wilson family, with teen siblings Dixon and Annie, move to Beverly Hills and experience culture shock, much like the Walsh family with teen siblings Brandon and Brenda did. Second, Erin Silver, a character born on the original series in 1992, would be one of Dixon and Annie’s classmates at West Beverly… and be known as “Silver.” Third, Jennie Garth would recur as Kelly Taylor, reprising her role as Erin’s big sister, and Shannen Doherty would bring back Brenda Walsh. And lastly, there would also be an updated version of The Peach Pit.
This is why I deemed the show a “requel” — part remake, part sequel. It was remaking the original premise of “Beverly Hills, 90210,” but also serving as a sequel to the flagship series. I also started calling it “nu90210,” because after nearly two decades of using “90210” as shorthand for “Beverly Hills, 90210,” that would no longer be possible. After all, how would people know if you were referring to the original “90210” or the new “90210”?
And therein lies so many problems.
“90210” was conceived and marketed to capitalize on the “Beverly Hills, 90210” brand — plain and simple. There was no deference for its iconic predecessor and no respect for its storylines. After both Kelly and Dylan and Donna and David had happy endings in the “Beverly Hills, 90210” series finale, nu90210 undid them. What mandate did the producers and writers of nu90210 have to do this? None. Involving Garth, Doherty, and Tori Spelling (Donna, Beverly Hills, 90210) in front of the camera, as well as Jason Priestley (Brandon, Beverly Hills, 90210) behind the camera as a director for one episode, was nothing more than a publicity stunt. It was never about improving upon the legacy of the original series. It was about exploiting the brand power of “Beverly Hills, 90210.”
In season 2, nu90210 sunk to a new low with the decision to kill off Jackie Taylor, mother of Kelly and Silver. Ann Gillespie, who appeared in 55 episodes across all 10 seasons of “Beverly Hills, 90210,” reprised her role for a total of six episodes across seasons 1 and 2 of “90210.” The plot entailed an estrangement from her daughters, a relapse of her addiction issues, a breast cancer diagnosis, and ultimately, her death. Ask yourself this: What right did the writers and producers have to ruin the mother-daughter relationship between Kelly and Jackie, which had grown considerably throughout the original series? None. What right did the writers and producers have to kill on their show a character that was created on the original? None. It was another stunt of sorts, one with permanent implications.
Garth herself stopped appearing after season 2. Doherty had already jumped ship after season 1, and Sachs and Judah were actually let go before the second season. With Garth’s exit, it was reported new executive producer Rebecca Sinclair was “trying to establish a separate identity for the new show.” Garth said of nu90210 in 2010, “I’m happy to walk away… It just kind of got a little wonky,” and later said of it in 2014, “That’s an example of a cast that really didn’t have that chemistry.” And in a 2019 appearance on “Watch What Happens Live,” Garth tried to downplay her involvement.
So how did “90210” contribute to the legacy of “Beverly Hills, 90210”? It damaged it. It paled in comparison to the original show in acclaim, ratings, and storylines. It took a closed book — a groundbreaking 10-year show — and added an unflattering footnote.
Any arguments to evaluate “90210” on its own merits are made in bad faith and don’t hold up. If “90210” should be judged independently of “Beverly Hills, 90210,” then it shouldn’t have used the “Beverly Hills, 90210” brand to launch and it shouldn’t have disrespected the original’s characters, storylines, and outcomes. Consider this: nu90210 could have simply been an entirely new teen drama with the premise of a family moving to a California town because the patriarch took a job at a local high school so he could be close to his ailing mother. That is essentially the premise of “90210,” minus the aspects involving Silver, Kelly, Brenda, etc. Had the show gone that route, it could’ve been evaluated based entirely on the quality of its own characters and its own storylines. But that’s not how it was sold or how it was carried out.
Still, with none of the “Beverly Hills, 90210” producers or writers involved with “90210,” there is no reason to see anything that happened on nu90210 as canon. The resolutions of the “Beverly Hills, 90210” series finale still hold true: Kelly and Dylan are together, Donna and David are in wedded bliss, Brenda is off living her own life, and Jackie Taylor is most definitely still alive. “90210” wasn’t a continuation of “Beverly Hills, 90210.” It was a calculated decision to bastardize the globally successful 90210 brand.
And I’m not alone in feeling this way. “Beverly Hills, 90210” executive producer Charles Rosin told me in 2009, “I watched it once. It’s a good-looking cast. But to do a show called ‘90210’ and not allow your young characters to have any sociopolitical context in the age of Obama speaks to the cynicism and cowardice of commercial broadcasting.”
When we spoke again in 2010, he discussed producer Aaron Spelling’s prior interest in rebooting the series, revealing:
“In the year 2000, Spelling wanted to do it and I was hired to do something on it but it didn’t turn out to be what they were looking for. It was like 90210, the next generation. I think it had the exact tone of the high school shows but it was just for a different generation of high schoolers. Instead we have this bastardized version that’s on now.”
Rosin went on, “Now I’m more excited by a show like ‘Life Unexpected’ than recycling shows from a different era just because of their title. I don’t feel [the new show] has that much in common with the original other than it has a high school premise and it’s in Beverly Hills. But tonally, from what I’ve seen, it doesn’t have that much in common.”
Larry Mollin, another “Beverly Hills, 90210” executive producer, didn’t hold back either in our 2010 interview.
“It was all just about the title Paramount had sold. The old man [Spelling] would’ve never had done that. For all his failings, he certainly was protective of the material. He never would’ve let somebody just jump over without having taken care of it. They just sold the title, basically, and didn’t care what people did with it. To Paramount, it was just a piece of software. I was concerned. I liked the idea of Rob Thomas at first, because I thought he was a good writer. I liked some of the earlier stuff he had did. But then he was off and, just reading what they were doing, I was like ‘Wait a second. Do they not have any idea what they’re doing?’”
He further said of “90210” using the character of Kelly, “It had nothing to do with the character that we had set up. Then once they started making a decision about a child and who was the father, I just had to stop paying attention. It just irked me because they had no mandate to do these things. They had no equity. They were making decisions on this legacy, which, now, if we were ever going to pick it up again, we have to deal with.”
Mollin went on to allege that the creative minds of the original were intentionally excluded from the development of nu90210, insisting, “They weren’t interested in what we had to say. They weren’t interested in anything.” As a result, he said:
“It is brand abuse. They basically took a brand and watered it down — by making it worse and not being true to it. They made the brand worse. Rather than people remembering our show… It’s just embarrassing. Just when I hear what they’re doing — like that Jackie Taylor died — it just irks me. And it’s not that she couldn’t die, it’s just that these people have no right to make these decisions.”
Mollin even said of the decision to make Dylan on “90210” an absentee father, “Oh, that was just ridiculous! For them to have done that — I just don’t know what they’re doing! He had a child he doesn’t care about?! That’s just so wrong… It’s just unfortunate. They just never got the show. They just took it some other way.” He rightfully saw that by “making decisions with characters that they hardly understand,” those behind nu90210 were “diluting the legacy” of the original.
When “BH90210” was in the works last year, Garth herself even said of nu90210, “We don’t talk about that one… We’re just going to pretend like that never happened.” When asked if fans should “forget that Kelly and Dylan had a child and Kelly’s mom died,” Garth replied, “I think so. I think it’s best if we just let that go.”
Ian Ziering (Steve, Beverly Hills, 90210) also said last year, “That show that you saw however many years ago wasn’t really an iteration. They were using [the] ‘Beverly Hills, 90210’ [brand] to lure people in, [but] once I saw that pilot episode, I realized it had nothing to do with what we created.” He went on, “We were on for 10 years, they were on for five… No one’s going to [do] a remake of that show. With all due respect. Often imitated, but never [replicated].”
AnnaLynne McCord (Naomi, 90210) later responded, “It’s funny because I never saw the original ‘90210.’ So, for me, my show wasn’t a replication. I was just doing something new altogether. So, you’re right, Ian. We weren’t trying to copy you. We just stole your name and it did really well, so thank you for doing it originally.”
By some measures, “90210” is, in fact, considered successful. It lasted for five seasons and more than 100 episodes, even getting a retrospective special paired with its series finale. But its final season was viewed by less than 1 million viewers on average, with the last episode watched by a measly 510,000 people. In comparison, 16.8 million people watched the series finale of “Beverly Hills, 90210.”
I want to stress that my problems with nu90210, as outlined here, are not a reflection of the actors of “90210” or meant to insult the fans of that series. I do not judge those young stars for signing onto the show, and they were nothing but kind when I met them and interviewed them over the years. It is of course okay that some “Beverly Hills, 90210” fans like “90210.” It does merit viewing if you are a fan of the teen drama genre, and the later seasons in particular can be enjoyed in more of a vacuum that doesn’t have to do with the original series.
The bottom line, however, is this: The legacy of the iconic show that was “Beverly Hills, 90210” will always be linked, always be negatively colored by “90210” — and that’s a shame.
Reminder: TeenDramaWhore is now offering premium subscriptions with perks like exclusive content (including essays like this), fan interviews, trivia parties, and Zoom chats with the genre’s key players. Spread the word!