The pilot episode, “Class of Beverly Hills,” is listed as Episode Zero, which was an initial surprise. Considering however, how much a show changes between its pilot and its actual television run, the zero designation makes sense. Zero through two means that I’m now three episodes in, and still intrigued by the show.
Oh, it’s ridiculous alright, but there’s still something pretty compelling about these characters. I’m still trying to figure out what it is, though.
Episode 0, The Class Of Beverly Hills
- The episode is 90+ minutes long. It’s like a TV movie. (in more than just length)
- There’s a lot of story in the pilot episode. Too much, in fact. In addition to the general expositional setup of the Walsh family’s move to California, there are back stories for Steve, Kelly and Andrea.
- The characters are all over the map – halfway through the episode, we see a chemistry teacher becomes a music lover, the Walsh parents are pretty much non-entities and Brandon’s identity has at least three separate starts and stops.
- The theme song is there, but it isn’t. The familiar electric guitar riff hasn’t come to life yet. Instead the score is a sappy blend of piano and synthesizer tracks.
- There are significant tone challenges – West Beverly High is the coolest/richest school as well as the most academically challenging school? That felt way too handy.
- And yet somehow, it works. For all its weirdness and the unsure footing of its characters, it’s the perfect show for the 90’s. Two highly moral, fish-out-of-water characters have to face down questions of integrity and character is a culture where morality seems relative.
Episode 1, The Green Room
- I don’t know how much time elapsed between the pilot taping and Episode 1, but it was apparently long enough for Jason Priestly to get a haircut and Brian Austin Green to get his growth spurt. All of the players in this thing look substantially older than they were in Ep. 0.
- Dylan shows up. He’s a rebel from day one. How do we know? Why, because he wears overalls with one strap unbuttoned, that’s why! They went a little too hard on the whole surfer-guy-who-lives-alone-and-reads-poetry-but-also-parties thing. I like Dylan’s character, but it feels a little overwhelming at first glance.
- They start an interesting thing with Brandon and Brenda’s mom, who is struggling with the new town and lack of friends. Once again, it feels like they’re trying to do much in the episode – we’ve got enough drama with the kids!
- The story line is pretty dumb, but we see the beginnings of Brandon as mature-hero-good-guy that was alluded to in Ep. 0. Brenda’s still a one-note player, the focus being on the materialistic aspect of their move.
Episode 2, Every Dream Has Its Price (Tag)
- A primarily Brenda/Mom tale, with Brenda still whining about money and Mom forced to believe the worst about her daughter in the absence of any friends or Dad as counsel.
- Interesting addition of “Tiffany” opposite Brenda. Were they still experimenting with leads here? Dylan was sparse, Donna was absent and Andrea had two lines, at best. I read way too much about TV online, but I agree with what most TV writers seem to be saying – this sort struggling, toneless, feel-your-way-through method of television would never succeed now. Guess the 90’s weren’t all bad.
- We finally get a couple whole-family scenes which, though sappy, seemed to anchor the show in its middle years.