11 March 2006 | Bob-45
Three! Three!! Three Shows in One!!!
While "Beverly Hills 90210" was making its ten year run, I never watched a single episode. The affairs of rich kids in Beverly Hills really didn't interest me; and, even though Jennie Garth and Tiffani Amber-Thiessan are real eye candy, that wasn't enough to tie me to watching a weekly continuing drama with what I thought would be such an uninteresting subject. However, when the Soap Opera Channel offered the show in sequence five days a week and my wife encouraged me to watch it with her, I reluctantly agreed. I'm glad I did, because "Beverly Hills 90210" is, in my opinion, the best written and produced continuing drama in TV history. Why do I say this? Because "Beverly Hills 90210" survived two radical format changes and remained consistently watchable for its entire 10 year run. Actually, "Beverly Hills 90210" is three different shows: an excellent "high school teenagers in love" show; a very good "college kids antics" show and a good "Yuppies in love" show. The creative talent managed to produce three above average shows with an amazing consistency of story lines and talent, using mostly the original cast. Nobody else has ever done this, at least to my knowledge. The producers are to be commended for keeping the cast remarkable intact, even down to the minor characters. To the best of my knowledge, only one character was played by two different actresses, that being Andrea Zuckerman's grandmother. Compare that to the more prestigious soaps, "Dynasty" and "Dallas." On "Dallas" alone, two actors played Gary Ewing, Digger Barnes, Miss Ellie and Kristen Shepherd (who shot J.R.), and three actors played Jenna Wade, and all of these characters were more important to the show's plotting than Andrea's grandmother.
While all three shows are above average, the "high school teenagers in love" episodes are the best. However, I believe they were also the easiest to plot, since teenagers have more restrictions on their behavior and their problems are generally more direct, easier with which to relate and generally easier to resolve. This is only slightly less true for college students, but it's a whole different ball game by the time one gets out of school and into the "real world;" and, by the time these episodes were written and produced, the characters were no longer fresh. The loss of Shannen Dougherty ("Brenda Walsh") was the series first major blow, and the series slipped badly her first season away (the fifth). However, after a weak start, Tiffani-Amber Thiessan ("Valerie Malone") became a very impressive cast member. However, Shannen brought an inventiveness to the series which was never regained.
The second major blow the series suffered was the loss of Kathleen Robertson ("Claire Arnold"), at the end of "the college years". While other original cast members had left, including Gabriella Carteris ("Andrea Zuckerman"), Carol Potter ("Cindy Walsh") and James Eckhouse ("Jim Walsh"), I felt the loss of Kathleen Robertson the most. Kathleen's "Claire Arnold" was a fascinating blend of three of the main characters; she exhibited Brenda's daring, Kelly's poise and Donna's madcap sensuality. The show lost a lot of it's warmth with Kathleen's departure, as well as the (unfortunately) correct decision to place less emphasis on the older adult cast members. This happens in life as well as young adults leave school and are out on there own. The show also lost it's innocence when Donna (Tori Spelling) lost hers to David (Brian Austin Green).
The final blow to the series happened over two seasons. The departures of Luke Perry, Jason Priestly and Tiffani-Amber Thiessan badly shook the show, but for very different reasons. Luke Perry (Dylan McKay) brought a lot of romance to the show; Jason Priestly ("Brandon Walsh") brought a brash, crusading spirit; and Tiffan-Amber Thiessan brought a wholesome, mature sexiness that was sometimes at odds with the character she played. Worse, for their first seasons at least, the replacement characters, Vincent Young ("Noah Hunter"), Lindsay Price ("Janet Sosna"), Daniel Cosgrove ("Matt ) and Vanessa Marcel ("Gina") while all fine actors, did not bring the missing ingredients to their characters. While Season 9 was clearly the worst of the season (due mostly to unconvincing plotting), Season 10 was a triumph, starting strong and getting better every week. Lindsay Price shed the somewhat dowdy image of his first season and a half and showed how beautiful and sexy she can really be (not to the mention, the best natural figure of the female stars). Daniel Cosgrove gained stature as "Matt"; and, while never acquiring the "Brandon brashness," certainly captured Jason Walsh's earnestness. Most importantly, warmth and romance returned to the series. I watched the last episode wanting more and that's a great testimony to any show.
Here's my rating of the series pilot and 10 seasons
PILOT ** ½ SEASON 1 - *** SEASON 2 - **** SEASON 3 - **** SEASON 4 - *** ½ SEASON 5 - ** ½ SEASON 6 - **** SEASON 7 - *** ½ SEASON 8 - **½ SEASON 9 - ** SEASON 10 ****