With the Wednesday premiere of BH90210 on Fox, Beverly Hills, 90210 is the latest in a long line of iconic television shows and movies to receive the revival treatment. It joins the likes of Charmed, The Twilight Zone, The Hills, and All That. Just last week, Mindy Kaling’s remake of iconic rom-com Four Weddings and a Funeral premiered on Hulu to lukewarm reviews.
In fact, most highly anticipated remakes from the past year have fallen flat, leaving fans bored and tired of being fed the same content repackaged 20 years later. To all of the die-hard Brandon Walsh fans fantasizing about afternoons at the Peach Pit, I’m sorry to report that BH90210 is no exception to this trend of reboot flops.
The plot of BH90210 is needlessly complicated. The original gang—Jennie Garth, Tori Spelling, Shannen Doherty, Gabrielle Carteris, Jason Priestley, Brian Austin Green, and Ian Ziering, all playing themselves—gathers in Las Vegas for a panel celebrating the 30th anniversary of the teen soap that made them household names. Inspired by the viral success of their reunion, fictional Tori Spelling decides to solve her financial woes (based on her real-life struggles) by recruiting the rest of the cast for a television revival. In other words, it is a reboot within a reboot, a structure that seems to serve no purpose beyond allowing the actors to work through their own complicated emotions about life after their 10 years on the show. Garth and Spelling developed the show and are credited as executive producers, along with Doherty, Chris Alberghini, and Mike Chessler.
The absence of Luke Perry, who played brooding heartthrob Dylan McKay on Beverly Hills, 90210 and tragically died in March, is felt profoundly within the first 15 minutes of the premiere. When the characters reunite in a hotel lobby, Carteris exclaims, “I can’t believe we’re all here.” Without skipping a beat, Priestley replies, “I wish that were true.” The pregnant pause that follows as the characters process the significance of Perry’s absence at their first reunion in 20 years is one of the most (well, only) touching moments of the two episodes available for review.
Each character’s narrative weaves in elements of the actors’ real lives. Some reflections are genuinely compelling, despite how often they are bogged down by cheesy writing. Jennie Garth seems the most sincere in her insecurities about her several divorces and her struggles to build an identity for herself independent of Kelly Taylor.
Spelling’s character also bears a significant resemblance to her actual self (or at least the version of herself often splashed across tabloids), specifically when it comes to her struggles to pay the bills. Sometimes this feels a tad defensive. But it also provides almost all of the show’s few laughs, like when the director of her reality show tells her, mid-filming, “The show’s cancelled, you’ve milked your brand from every angle.” Just minutes prior, however, Spelling fails to land a truly cringe-worthy line about no longer being able to afford mommy-and-me yoga: “Nama-stay home.” You win some, you lose some.
In spite of the heavy-handed script and superfluous framing device, some fans of the original series will likely still delight in the West Beverly Hills High class of ’93 reunion. The tumultuous feuds and flings will undoubtedly refuel old rumors about drama among cast members, especially with BH90210’s blurred line between fact and fiction.
Seemingly taking cues from the sharp, genre-bending CW series Jane the Virgin, BH90210 soon descends into soapy drama, paralleling the conventions of the show they are recreating. There is an abundance of adultery, complete with a clichéd hotel room sex scene. The cast also has a stalker (who definitely does not seem old enough to have actually watched the show) who sends them creepy packages of maimed 90210 collectible dolls. And, in case the “life imitates art” theme were not already apparent, Spelling utters the phrase aloud while spilling to BFF Garth that she lost her virginity to Brian Austin Green both onscreen and off.
At one point in the second episode, Jason Priestley complains that Spelling won’t quit bugging him about rebooting Beverly Hills, 90210. In response, his fictional wife/publicist, played by Vanessa Lachey, asks, “What’s wrong with that? Reboots are hot right now.” She’s not wrong, but that doesn’t mean we need any more of them.