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BEVERLY HILLS 90210
The Fourth Season

Review by Mark Wiechman

Stars:  Jason Priestly, Shannen Doherty, Ian Ziering, Luke Perry, Jennie Garth, Brian Austin Green, Tori Spelling
Video:  Color Full Screen
Audio:  Dolby Digital 2.0
Studio:  Paramount Home Video
Features:  See Review
Length:  Eight Discs, 31 episodes, 1444 Minutes
Release date: April 29, 2008

“I LOVE COLLEGE!”  - Steve Sanders at his first fraternity party.

Show ***1/2

Ah, to be in college again. No mortgage, no debt, tons of time on my hands, young, healthy, and liberal. And really stupid, just as the kids of 90210 prove over and over again. Several new story lines emerge such as David descending into drug use, Brandon speaking to the president (and supposedly advising him…yeah, right!) and then getting into a world of trouble himself.   And Brenda of course…would she stay or would she go?

The show was desperate to continue its slightly ahead of the curve edginess, and it succeeds for the most part, mainly by having its angelic characters get dirty. Andrea of all people gets pregnant and considers having an abortion, but instead marries the wonderful man who is the father. But the show also repeats itself, with Steve getting into even more trouble through his fraternity. Brenda goes back to Minnesota but of course her friends think she is shallow, then she almost gets married in Vegas. So many clichés. Yet somehow the characters seem like they could be anyone of us.

For example, Dylan gets carjacked in his brand new Porsche, and it's tough to feel bad for someone in that situation, but his fear of being shot and his anger that prompts him to buy his own gun are very palpable. We see Steve and Brandon spending two weeks at a beach house in Malibu, and the girls also get a place at the beach. But then….that's why they call it escapist television, right? I can only watch The Wire for so long, you know?

There is the occasional mix of youth and adulthood in a comical way too, for example when we see Steve and Brandon checking out the babes on the beach, and Brandon asks if his girlfriend Celeste will be jealous, and he exclaims “It's not like I'm married to her!” Then he looks at his watch and says he needs to call her. Cute. The youth is becoming a man.

Video ***1/2

Nearly on par with modern television quality, no significant problems, just not quite as sharp or colorful as today.

Audio ***1/2

While the original music is not here as usual in the DVD release, it is less a part of the show as the seasons go on, and the audio mix continues to be more than adequate.

Features ***

Finally some quantity, if not quality! Most of the features are brief, such as 90210 Moms in which they actually talk about how the actors and actresses really worked—which is almost the only time we ever hear about that sort of thing. By the fourth year the moms and dads were almost one unit and frankly there was not much for them to do, with the exception of Mrs. Martin, who of course discovered that David lived with Donna.  Kelly’s mom continues to teeter on the brink of self-destruction. Then we have the usual silly summary of the season.  On the other hand, there are two “Genre Bending” spoofs (at least I think they meant to be spoofs, with hip hop music and dark subtitles), one focusing on the guys and one on the gals, each done in an almost Tarantino-style trailer style, making the guys seem like exploitative villains in “Bad Apples” and the gals are only superficial girls gone wild in “Get ! the Girl.”  Seven Minutes in Heaven boils the whole season down to a few minutes, which makes me wonder why it took 31 hours to broadcast, but then it is mostly teasers and not spoilers, so you still want to watch it all.

The Loves of Season Four focuses the three long-running guest actors who made the season interesting.  We start on Dina Meyer, who played Lucinda Nicholson, the professor vixen who inhabits every college schoolboy’s dreams.  Her frizzy hair and angelic yet forbidden face made us believe she was older than she really was.  Next was Mark Damon Espinoza, who played Andrea’s first love Jesse Vasquez.  Lastly we meet Robia LaMorte, who played Jill Fleming, the Girl From New York City of the opening episodes.    

Summary:

Still cutting edge, with everyone still attractive and the original cast intact, season four of Beverly Hills 90210 is long and juicy enough for any fan, and it captures the youthful angst of the vortex of the early 1990’s as seen through the eyes of the young.

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