October 25, 2008

Psychotic Review: 90210


I'm a bit slow coming in with this review but since 90210 has been on a brief hiatus, it's all good.

I will admit I didn't expect much with this new incarnation. And I'm not disappointed or surprised. 90210 firmly ranks as a mediocre show, exactly what I thought it would be.

The premise is similar to the original Beverly Hills 90210 - - wholesome family from wholesome out of town locale moves to Beverly Hills and tries to adapt. In the original, it was the Walsh family from Minneapolis- - father Jim, mother Cindy and teen kids, twins Brandon and Brenda. In the new version, it's the Wilson family from Kansas City - - father Harry, mother Debbie and teen kids, Annie and adopted son Dixon. Oh, and Harry was brought up in Beverly Hills and the kids have spent summers there.

That, obviously, is problem #1. There is no fish out of water story. The entire family has been there before and the dad is from there. Further, they are moving in with Harry's mom, feisty Tabatha, in her mansion. While I do like Harry (Rob Estes is quite yummy), so far the writers have given Debbie little to do, other than moan about the kids growing up and butting heads with Tabatha. Give the woman a storyline or kill her off so Harry can be a single dad. That would be more interesting. I do like Dixon - - they seemed to develop his character somewhat. Not only did they make him adopted, but they made him African-American in this whiter than white family. And Tristan Wilde does a respectful job with him. Annie, however, is another story.

Which is problem #2. Annie. I never watched DeGrassi High so I really don't understand how Shenae Grimes got a following, much less this job. She preens, she giggles, she squints and tosses her humongous hair - - when she's not blinding the audience with her toothy grin or berating Harry for some inane misstep she believes he's taken. Annie is completely unrelatable. She transitions into a new high school with barely a blip on the overactive teenage radar. We don't see her worry over her "Kansas clothes", as Brenda Walsh did. We don't see her worry about making friends or even being behind in studies. No, instead, we see her getting the lead in the school play during her first week. Ho hum. Yawn. Annie needs to be dirtied up, so to speak. Her supposed perfection is boring and annoying. And while they're at it, the producers and writers need to feed Ms. Grimes a few sandwiches. Her jutting collarbone is unnerving.

Problem #3. We need scorecards to keep track. BH 90210 did end up with quite a few characters - - but when the show started, it centered on the Walshes and a few core friends. 90210 decided to bypass that "getting to know you" period and cram as many characters and potential storylines in the first several episodes as possible. We have the Wilsons, we have Tabatha, we have Ethan, a former summer crush of Annie's, who has a brother with Asperger's and who is dating spoiled princess Naomi, who is not only friends with Adriana, who has a drug problem and a starstruck mother, but also the second daughter of a couple who is going through marital problems because her father is cheating on her mother. Naomi used to be friends with Silver (who, once upon a time in BH 90210, was known as Erin Silver) but blabbed about Silver's family problems to everyone at school. Silver is the younger sister of Kelly Taylor, BH 90210's resident boyfriend stealer/melodramatic queen who is now (inexplicably) West Beverly's guidance counselor (guess there isn't a single situation any of these kids can present Kelly with that she hasn't gone through herself). Kelly and Harry (Dixon and Annie's dad) used to know each other, back in the day, and Harry is now West Beverly's principal. Kelly finds herself attracted to English teacher Ryan, who is close to a decade younger than her, and also instructs students George (jerky jock), and Navid (brainy kid whose dad is a porn producer), who becomes friendly with Dixon, who soon crushes on Silver, who moves in with Kelly after mom Jackie gives in to her alcoholism again, but not before Brenda Walsh returns to direct the school play and perhaps make a play on Ryan. Oh yeah, Dixon gets a part-time job at the Peach Pit, where Nat is still working and still reminiscing about Brandon, who apparently has a wife and kids somewhere. Got that? And that's only after five or six episodes.

So what's good about 90210? Tristan Wilde, Jessica Stroup (Silver) and Jessica Lowndes (Adriana). All three actors are talented and their scenes are the best among the new crowd.

Having the old characters. Kelly and Brenda rock. The show needs to bring Brenda back pronto. Seeing Nat is good - - although the Dr. Pepper sponsorship is brutally obvious. Unless Nat works in a Dr. Pepper factory, no way are there going to be that many signs. How about bringing back Steve or David and Donna? Even Andrea Zuckerman would be welcome.

The music. So far, the music is good. I don't know the artists and am not familiar with the music, but it sounds good.

Will this new version of 90210 make it? Right now, it's walking a very thin line. It's already been cancelled in Australia. It's been on a hiatus for the last several weeks - - a fairly crucial time in a new fall schedule. However, writers from Gossip Girl have taken over and that can only be an improvement. Let's hope the show comes back from the hiatus with a renewed focus . . . and not a pink slip.

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