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BEVERLY HILLS 90210
Season One

Review by Mark Wiechman

Stars:  Jason Priestly, Shannen Doherty, Ian Ziering, Luke Perry, Jennie Garth, Brian Austin Green, Tori Spelling, Douglas Emerson
Video:  Color Full Screen
Audio:  Dolby Digital 2.0
Studio:  CBS DVD
Features:  See Review
Length:  Six Discs
Release date: November 7, 2006

“Everyone’s so Beverly Hills!”
“Brandon, we are Beverly Hills.”

“You’re really nice.”
“Yeah, well, I’m from out of town.”


Show ***

It’s funny how so many television shows are so widely loved and make such an impression on so many people.  Yet other shows, which may have been more critically acclaimed or even more successful, practically disappear without a trace when they are canceled.  The Brady Bunch is one of the most universally ridiculed and criticized shows, even by its own cast, yet it actually became more and more popular over the years in syndication.  I doubt there are very many readers who can’t name every character and rehash at least ten of the best known plot lines.  The original Star Trek appealed to a wide audience but
this was not known until after the show was already going to be axed, yet the show has only gained in popularity and could be counted as one of the world’s religions.  Really.

Considering how valuable the young audiences are to advertisers, it is surprising how few teen dramas have been made, let alone any that are really interesting or innovative.  I have never understood the appeal of sleepy shows such as Dawson’s Creek, One Tree Hill or Smallville, nor the silliness of Saved by the Bell or The Fresh Prince of Belle Air but maybe that’s because I was spoiled by the Beverly Hills brats first.

In the late 1980s teens faced so many new issues that their parents really did not have to deal with, and a new teen show was appropriate for the era.  The Viet Nam war, free love, and casual drug use were not even a distant memory to that generation, but AIDS and other issues that faced my generation were being largely ignored by the media and television.  The late 80s generation liked money and was very interested in saving the world, but not by dropping out.  They wanted to party and get involved and saw money as a good thing and a means to fix problems, not the problem itself. 

How fitting that the new teen show was about rich spoiled teens which had the same problems everyone else did, and faced new problems of sex and drug use that prior shows never touched. In this show, the parents often have the problems as much as or more than the children, which is so often the case in real life.  And they find that money, as Don Henley would say, does not solve problems, it just changes them.  No
character shows this more than one of the most interesting characters, Dylan McKay, played by Luke Perry who was only in the cast at the insistence of Spelling himself and who plays the James Dean-like rich boy to perfection.

And of course, like, the way coolest thing about Beverly Hills 90210 is that it was TOTALLY set in California!!  Where the heck were the Bradys from, anyway?  That show was almost intentionally set against the times, like a Carpenters tune, but 90210 was very much of the times, like a teen Knots Landing.  They have a DJ over the intercom in the morning, for crying out loud!  And it was edgy from the very beginning, with sweet innocent Brenda getting a fake ID, going to a club, meeting an older man, lying about her age, and deciding to sleep with him after a few dates, then losing him when she admits her age, all in the two-hour pilot.

It was another hit from Aaron Spelling and one of the first projects from rising production star Darren Star, who would see his biggest success without Spelling in HBO’s Sex and the City.   90210 was an experiment in showing that most young people have similar problems with sex, drugs, peer pressure, and fitting in.  We all wish we had the financial resources that many of these young people in Beverly Hills had, but that was really just the window dressing.  The show was fun escapism, but more like a teen soap than prior shows.

We had the star-crossed lovers Brenda (Shannon Doherty) and Dylan (Luke Perry), the pretty boys Brandon (Jason Priestly) and Steve (Ian Ziering) as well as princesses Kelly (Jennie Garth) and Donna (Tori Spelling).  Tori Spelling by the way may never win an Oscar but was not really a bad actress at all and held her own on this show just fine.  But like most good television shows, the stereotypes were just outlines of real people, who we came to admire and wish success for week after week.

Video ***1/2

Just a bit washed out but no artifacts I could see, and surely the slightly washed appearance is just due to the technology of the time.  Nothing to be ashamed of.

Audio ***

Only stereo, alas. Background music can be heard fine, but the dialogue is never lost, and my favorite moment might be when car doors are slammed and we hear the door on the left side of the screen coming out of the left speaker and the right side door come out of the right speaker (I had my headphones on to be sure).

Features **1/2

“Beginnings with Darren Star” is very brief, less than ten minutes, but he compliments the cast and mentions that issues about which parents “buried their heads in the sand” as he puts it became very important very quickly.  He also admits that he was very young when he created the show and so high school was all he knew.  He felt that parents often watched the show to find out what their teens were thinking.  He discusses the episode “Spring Dance” in which Dylan and Brenda slept together and how it caused such uproar, partly because Brenda was not ashamed of anything.

“Meet the Class of West Beverly High”  is a string of vignettes from the season for each character, but the frustrating thing about watching it is that you have to choose the part for the character’s vignettes, then the “Behind the scenes” part, then the “Stats” part, then move on to the next character.  You can’t chose “All” for any one person nor for all of the cast members or characters.  It’s hardly the end of the world, but the menu authors should have known better.

“90210 Behind-the-Scenes Featurette is very brief but fun, not so much a true behind the scenes special but more of the typical promo seen on Entertainment Tonight.

Some episodes have commentary by Darren Star, who is not the most interesting dude in the world but he is quite candid about what went right and what did not.  He provides insight into the Spring Dance episode which was the first one he ever directed, and which he also wrote.  He admits that he did not know what he was doing and that the folks at standards at Fox did not pay much attention to it at the time, but the affiliates got very angry about it all, which is pretty funny since high schoolers having sex after the prom happens all the time but apparently no one had ever depicted it on television so casually and realistically before.  Star states that he simply was trying to show life more the way life really was, without judgments.

Looking Back:  Season One (The Recap) is very lame; it is nothing more than text on an image of a torn out sheet of paper which summarizes each episode.  I expected it to be a brief visual montage of each episode or the overall season at least.  Such things must exist in the vaults somewhere.

Summary:

What took so long?  Maybe they were preparing and cleaning up the original tapes a bit.  We could have used longer and better behind the scenes features, but they do have nine more seasons to be released, so maybe more will come along.  Shannon looks so great.  For better or worse, Jason is even prettier.  But then, it is Southern California.  When can I get the next nine seasons and relive the childhood I never had, please?

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