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.
A few weeks ago, I heard a podcast off-handedly mention that all of the Beverly Hills 90210 episodes are now available on Amazon Prime. In that same conversation, the podcast mentioned a podcast dedicated solely to the watching/recapping of every episode.
Now, I can’t remember what I was doing at that time or where I was, but I can remember thinking I CAN FINALLY WATCH 90210.
Here’s the backstory: up until I was 16 or 17, my family never had cable-TV. We had three channels, and two of them hardly worked because we were using “rabbit ears” to get the broadcast signal. But my grandparents had cable.
I loved my grandparents for lots of reasons, and cable-TV was definitely one of them. I would beg to stay with them so I could watch all these wild shows I heard friends talking about. By the time 90210 became a household name, my grandparents owned a VCR and I decided to tape as many episodes as I could. What resulted was a miscellaneous collection of episodes strung out over numerous season with no narrative connection. But I watched ’em anyway.
When I heard about Amazon, I decided to do a little experiment – I would watch every episode and try to figure out why I was so intrigued by this show. I may not make it – the thing was on the air for 10 years – but I’m gonna’ see if the nostalgia is as strong as I expect.