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The Teen Drama Spinoffs
“Beverly Hills, 90210” may be the teen drama with the most spinoffs, but it’s not the only one.
Several of the core six teen dramas sparked new television shows or the possibility of them. Before we’re treated to the new “Gossip Girl” later this year, get the low-down on all the teen drama spinoffs to date.
Beverly Hills, 90210
“Melrose Place” (FOX, 1992-1999)
“Beverly Hills, 90210” officially became a franchise of sorts with the introduction of “Melrose Place.” Like the iconic teen drama that started it all, “Melrose” was created by Darren Star, who eventually left his flagship series to focus on this spinoff. The new show was introduced through a season 2 storyline on “Beverly Hills, 90210,” in which Kelly (Jennie Garth) fell for the older Jake (Grant Show), a friend of Dylan McKay (Luke Perry). Then, to help establish “Melrose Place” and attract the “90210” fan base, Garth, Ian Ziering (Steve), Tori Spelling (Donna), and Brian Austin Green (David) all made cameos in the first few episodes of “Melrose.”
A few actors also had different roles on both series, perhaps most notably Laura Leighton, who was Sophie on “Beverly Hills, 90210” after she was Sydney on “Melrose Place.” What’s more is Leighton later reprised the Sydney character on The CW’s “Melrose Place” revival, which aired for one season in 2009-2010. Another fun teen drama connection: The original “Melrose” also starred Daphne Zuniga, who went on to appear in 40 episodes of “One Tree Hill” as Victoria and, of course, Kelly Rutherford, who went on to star in all six seasons of “Gossip Girl.”
And for further proof of how much I’m a TeenDramaWhore, check out “The Melrose 90210 RPG,” a fan-fiction series I contributed to that merged “Beverly Hills, 90210” and “Melrose Place” after both went off the air.
“Models, Inc.” (FOX, 1994-1995)
“Models, Inc.” was a spinoff of “Melrose Place,” and thus is sometimes considered a spinoff of “Beverly Hills, 90210” too, or at least part of the “franchise.” Show and Zuniga made cameos to kick off the new series, which, as the title suggests, was set at a modeling agency. The company was owned by Hillary (Linda Gray), who was introduced on “Melrose” as the mother of Amanda (Heather Locklear). Locklear, however, never appeared on “Models, Inc.,” and Star had no involvement with the series either. “It was one spin-off too many for me,” he told Entertainment Weekly at the time. “Models, Inc.” ultimately lasted for just a single season.
“90210” (The CW, 2008-2013)
Part reboot, part sequel (or, as I call it, a “requel”), this series was set eight years after the finale of “Beverly Hills, 90210.” The show followed a new generation of students at West Beverly, where Garth’s Kelly was now the guidance counselor. Spelling and Shannen Doherty (Brenda) reprised their roles as well, as did Joe E. Tata (Nat) and Ann Gillespie (Jackie), while Jason Priestley (Brandon) opted to step behind the camera and direct an episode. Rob Estes, who had starred on “Melrose Place,” was the Wilson family patriarch, and among the characters that made up the new high school gang was Erin Silver (Jessica Stroup), who was born on the original series in 1992. Other noteworthy pseudo-crossovers: Dina Meyer and Greg Vaughan, who had recurring roles on “Beverly Hills, 90210,” played entirely new characters on “90210.” None of the writers or producers responsible for the original series were involved with this iteration, however, and my problems with nu90210 are well-documented.
In fact, it should also be noted that “Beverly Hills, 90210” executive producer Charles Rosin told me in a 2010 interview:
“When we were thinking about moving forward with the college years, we also proposed they could spin-off a West Beverly High series but they didn’t want to do that at that time. Then in the year 2000, [Aaron] 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.”
“BH90210” (FOX, 2019)
Technically neither a reboot nor a revival, “BH90210” featured the original cast of “Beverly Hills, 90210” playing fictionalized versions of themselves as they worked to get a “Beverly Hills, 90210” continuation off the ground. Whereas the original series leaned heavy on the drama, “BH90210” was rooted in comedy, hatched from the minds of Spelling and Garth. They were joined in the endeavor by Priestley, Doherty, Green, Ziering, and Gabrielle Carteris (Andrea), all of whom received executive producer credits and had a hand in developing their TV alter-egos. The show was billed by FOX as an “event series,” but when it was formally canceled, a few of the stars (namely, Spelling, Garth, and Carteris) hoped it would get picked up elsewhere. Alas, it didn’t, and I was relieved. After all, my problems with “BH90210” are no secret.
“Young Americans” (The WB, 2000)
The lone “Dawson’s Creek” spinoff had its genesis in season 3 of the teen drama with the introduction of Will (Rodney Scott), a childhood friend of Pacey (Joshua Jackson). Not long after a trip to Capeside, a troubled home life leads Will to boarding school, where he and the other students at Rawley Academy are the focal point of “Young Americans.” More than half of the eight episodes produced were directed by James Whitmore, Jr., who also directed memorable installments of “Beverly Hills, 90210” and “Dawson’s Creek” (including the first hour of the “Dawson’s Creek” series finale). “Young Americans” aired during a summer hiatus for “Dawson’s Creek,” but was canceled before it could have a proper fall season.
“The O.C.” never had any spinoffs go into production, but there was plenty of chatter about possible series. FOX urged creator Josh Schwartz to develop a spinoff between seasons 1 and 2, and among the ideas was to build a new show around Samaire Armstrong’s Anna. As Schwartz revealed in 2013:
“I didn’t really know what that show was going to be. So we had done 27 episodes (in season 1), and I wrote a lot that season. It was a pretty long season, and then I had a two-week hiatus during which I was supposed to write a pilot for this other show and then spend a little while battling about whether this show was going to happen or if it wasn’t. Finally, I was like, ‘I have to focus on ‘The O.C.’ I have to focus on the whole reason we’re here and kind of pull the plug on myself,’ just because I was feeling like completely pulled in all different directions.”
Still, then came the possibility of a spinoff centered on Willa Holland’s Kaitlin, after FOX continued to urge Schwartz to conceive another show. Once he did amid creative disagreements with executives, “I said, maybe as a compromise, we’d have discussions about a Kaitlin boarding school drama, and then [FOX exec] Gail Berman went to Paramount, and those discussions ended,” Schwartz explained in 2007.
And, contrary to rumors and speculation, Schwartz confirmed in 2006 that there were never any real plans to turn the show’s fictional teen show parody, “The Valley,” into a real TV series. But here’s a fun fact: Holland went on to recur on “Gossip Girl,” which was also created by Schwartz.
“Valley Girls” (The CW, 2009)
“Valley Girls” had what’s known as a “backdoor pilot” — an episode of a current series that is meant to serve as the basis of a new show. It’s kind of like a test: If the episode does well, the network may pick up the concept to be a full-fledged series. In this case, “Gossip Girl” was the breeding ground, with Schwartz and producing partner Stephanie Savage coming up with the idea of a 1980s-set prequel about a younger version of Lily (Rutherford) and her sister Carol, portrayed by Brittany Snow and Krysten Ritter, respectively. In another instance of teen drama worlds colliding, among the characters introduced was one played by Matt Barr, who had recurred on “One Tree Hill,” and Schwartz even contemplated doing an “O.C.” crossover with an ‘80s version of Kelly Rowan’s Kirsten if the show moved forward. But in a weird twist of teen drama fate, instead of The CW opting to pick up “Valley Girls” as a series for the fall 2009 season, one of the shows it did greenlight was the aforementioned “Melrose Place” revival, along with “The Beautiful Life,” which starred Mischa Barton of “The O.C.” (But also not picked up from pilot to series that year was “Body Politic,” which starred Green. Oh, what could have been.)
Though “Valley Girls” was said to still be in contention as a possible midseason show, the project ultimately never progressed, and the network’s head honcho at the time, Dawn Ostroff, even admitted that going the “backdoor” route “was a bit of a disadvantage” because it made it “hard for everybody to understand what the world would be like on its own.” That said, Ostroff wasn’t closing the book on a “Gossip Girl” spinoff altogether, confirming earlier reports that an adaptation of The It Girl, itself a spinoff of the Gossip Girl book series focused on the character of Jenny (Taylor Momsen), had been discussed… but that never happened either.
“Gossip Girl” (HBO Max, 2021)
In the works since 2019, a “Gossip Girl” spinoff is finally expected to make it to the airwaves (or the streaming interwebs, at least) sometime this year. Schwartz, Savage, and Joshua Safran, who was also an executive producer on the original show, have plotted this new series, for which the official description states:
“Eight years after the original website went dark, a new generation of New York private school teens are introduced to the social surveillance of Gossip Girl. The prestige series will address just how much social media — and the landscape of New York itself — has changed in the intervening years.”
As of a month ago, Safran told me they had only just finished shooting the first episode, so a trailer seems a long ways off. And though we don’t even have full character descriptions yet, I’ve examined the ways the “Gossip Girl” spinoff may be similar and dissimilar to the original, and I plan on doing reaction posts for TDW once it eventually debuts… much like I did for the original with TeenDramaWhore.com. Part of me does wish, though, the new series had a different name, if only for comprehension purposes. It’s going to be mighty confusing referring to “Gossip Girl” going forward.
While there were no spinoffs for “One Tree Hill” or “90210,” it’s also fun to think about shows with teen drama genes. Take, for instance, The CW’s “Hidden Palms,” which was created by Kevin Williamson, who created “Dawson’s Creek,” and starred Taylor Handley and Michael Cassidy, both of whom recurred on “The O.C.” (Handley also appeared on “Dawson’s Creek” as well.) Sharon Lawrence, who recurred on “One Tree Hill,” was a cast member on “Hidden Palms” too.
There’s also NBC’s “Malibu Shores,” which — like “Beverly Hills, 90210,” “Melrose Place,” and “Models, Inc.” — was executive produced by Aaron Spelling. The short-lived 1996 show even starred Randy Spelling, who had a recurring role on “Beverly Hills, 90210,” as well as Vaughan and Michelle Phillips, both of whom went on to recur on “Beverly Hills, 90210” after “Shores” was canceled. Also interesting is that you can definitely see shades of “The O.C.” in it.
Which teen drama spinoffs did you watch and which do you wish made it to air?
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