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BH90210 is clever, intentionally cheesy and briefly verges on a profound statement about middle age

  • Fox's Beverly Hills, 90210 revival is engineered "in a way that lessens the burden of full commitment — theirs or ours," says Hank Stuever. He says BH90210 manages to both be light and cynical while giving its cast -- who now range in age from 46 to 58 -- a chance to "play exaggerated versions of themselves — which is to say, actors who happened to hit it big on an enjoyably mediocre TV series three decades ago and have had to cope with that fact ever since," while also riffing on their celebrity personas and post-90210 epilogues. "The first episode, in fact, verges on one of the smartest portrayals of midlife ennui we’re likely to see this year, save for FX’s Better Things and the belatedly satisfying final season of HBO’s Divorce," says Stuever. "Even if none of the 90210 actors spend their nights on a park bench (fictionally or otherwise), a viewer can at least take a moment to appreciate that their career trajectories aren’t quite what they once imagined." He adds: "BH90210 easily locates a tone of self-mockery; if it could somehow remain in the slightly dour, don’t-remind-me mood of this first episode, it might get to a deeper, more profound place than it ever intended: a meta-commentary on fame, age and nostalgia. Instead, shenanigans break out, the dialogue heads for the ham (to go with the cheese), and the gang winds up spending a night in jail."


    • BH90210 tops out at mediocre, but it earns points for being weird: "BH90210 is pretty damn strange," says Alan Sepinwall. "It’s not exactly the Curb rip-off it was sold as, which is a good thing; as an actor, Jennie Garth is as equipped for that as Larry David would be to do a story where he wore the same dress to the spring formal as somebody else. But at times it tries to play in the Curb space, while at others it wants to be a sincere reckoning with the aging process and the fleeting nature of celebrity. And at many others, it is pure soap-operatics that just involve Jason Priestley using his own name rather than Brandon Walsh’s."
    • BH90210 is part celebrity sendup, part melancholy reboot: "There are a lot of spinning plates, and while none of them come crashing down, they wobble, slowly," says Willa Paskin. "Watching the first two episodes made me nervous: I kept expecting the whole thing to tip over into catastrophe. Instead, it stays in mediocrity. The show is clever, but it’s not funny or sharp. There is a touch of hubris in its very premise: the presumption that people are familiar enough with what the cast of Beverly Hills, 90210 is up to, that sending it up will scan as a sendup. The cast is willing to make fun of itself, but it’s the sort of self-lampooning that only goes far enough to make you look like a good sport, not to actually cut deep. Priestley, for example, is obsessed with being a director, has an anger problem, and cheats on his wife—but the show never questions whether he’s a halfway decent director in the first place."
    • BH90210 is, more than anything, a poignant and funny meditation on midlife mortality: "Once aspirational dreamboats, today the 90210 gang is meeting the fans where most of us live: Halfway through life, facing the future with tamped-down anxiety all the while trying to come to terms with the past," says Kristen Baldwin. "It’s something more than nostalgia — it’s nowstalgia." She adds: "With its candy-colored palette, anonymous electric guitar score, and narratives that range from relatable human drama (divorce, career struggles) to soapy melodrama (blackmail, stalkers), BH90210 recalls the best and worst elements of the original."
    • At least BH90210 isn't boring: "For the most part, this mayhem works," says Judy Berman. "Because the producers of BH90210—a team that includes all seven stars—understand that a straightforward continuation of the original teen drama just wouldn’t work in 2019. The characters aren’t exactly fresh, complex or especially well crafted, and a decent grown-up drama can’t just coast on shiny hair and tight abs. More importantly, the days of unconflictedly reveling in the minor problems of well-off white people (a.k.a. the prosperous Clinton era, which gave us Friends, Frasier, The Nanny, Mad About You, Home Improvement, Ally McBeal, Sex and the City and more) are over. Meanwhile, teen shows that glamorize one-percenters, from both previous iterations of 90210 to The O.C. and Gossip Girl, have felt tone-deaf since the subprime crisis. While they may look to the fluffy sitcoms of the ’90s for comfort, Gen Z kids seek mirrors of their own lives in darker and more diverse fare: Riverdale, 13 Reasons Why, Euphoria. The decision to do something completely different from teen dramas new and old goes a long way for BH90210."
    • BH90210's execution is flimsy, favoring hacky, sub-Curb Your Enthusiasm Hollywood comedy: "Every scene feels less like it was written and directed than given a topic and a stopwatch," says Daniel Fienberg, adding: "It's striking how poorly developed the fake spouses to these actors all are and between (La La) Anthony, (Ivan) Sergei, Vanessa Lachey as Priestley's publicist wife and a few others, there isn't a good character or performance among them. It's almost, perhaps literally, as if the actors/executive producers wanted to make sure nobody upstaged them. And nobody does. That means that the real actors' fake domestic lives all feel insubstantial and barely sketched and, again, that's perhaps intentional. Or maybe it's not."
    • The meta-ness of BH90210 is an inspired take on a near-30-year-old television show: "Like the original Beverly Hills (which had some of its greatest seasons run in the summer months), BH90210 promises a frothy warm-weather watch, perfect for Brendan and Kelly fans to unwind with after a beach day," says Gwen Ihnat. "But the most surprising thing about this particular reboot is how it slips in some valuable life lessons between the soapy storylines. As the saying goes, 'the past is never dead. It’s not even past,' an adage that rings especially true here. The BH90210 cast will never get past the show that first made them famous. But as these actors/characters face the shadow-filled years of middle-age alongside the co-stars they grew up with, maybe that’s not such a bad thing."
    • BH90210 is both baffling and tedious: "You really want to give them credit for trying a new spin on the nostalgia game," says Ann Donahue. "This group of middle-aged adults can’t play teenagers, obviously, and retelling 90210 as a meta story within a meta story is ambitious. But it’s not quite a mockumentary, and not quite a campy bit of high art. What it winds up being is an extended meditation of getting a TV show off the ground, a very insular and kind of dull topic for a show that wants to play well outside of TMZ’s Thirty Mile Zone."
    • It's the rare series that’ll make you ask yourself, “Is this the absolute worst or absolute best show ever made?”: "I admire the show’s sheer audacity and penchant for the unconventional, but the tonal whiplash can be destabilizing," says Josh Sorokach. "Plots about realistic issues like adultery and midlife ennui are paired with zany scenes centering on stealing Hollywood memorabilia. The series will pivot from a truly hilarious monologue delivered by Tori Spelling that’ll make you laugh to a touching scene that references the tragic death of Luke Perry that’ll make you cry."
    • It's a relatively fun mess that's close to being profound: "This 2019 iteration does something that a lot of reboots don’t, which is quench your throwback thirst while acknowledging, on some level, that there’s something sad, a little pathetic, and deeply meaningful about the need to revisit our youth," says Jen Chaney. "It also throws in some wacky-ass soap opera stuff to make sure your interest stays piqued. Granted, that makes it sort of a mess tonally, but at least it’s a relatively fun mess."
    • BH90210 doesn't seem to know what it is: It lacks the dramatic intrigue of the original series and it doesn't work as a comedy
    • How Beverly Hills, 90210's opening theme became iconic, thanks to hand claps: “I just didn’t know what to do there when I did the song originally,” says composer John E. Davis. “So, I said, ‘I think it would be cool if all of the cast do a hand clap,’ and the director went, ‘I like that hand clap. Let’s have the cast do it along with the music.’ They cut the film to match the music because they loved the clap so much and all of a sudden it became very popular.”
    • Jennie Garth says BH90210 felt it had to do something different because "everyone's doing reboots": “This show was groundbreaking when it started, so we were trying to think of what could be the new version of that"
    • Jason Priestley says BH90210 allows him to exorcise the original's demons: "For me, there’s a certain catharsis to it as well," he says. "Whatever demons I have to exorcise about the original experience, I get to exorcise in (the) here and now. And enjoy it. And have fun with it. Fame and celebrity — I don’t think people really understand what that sort of energy is like when it’s coming at you.”
    • In the span of eight months, BH90210 went from pitch to two months of shooting to premiering on Fox: “The timeline did not give us a lot of time to worry about things that we can’t control," says co-creator Mike Chessler. "In terms of the fans and the legacy of the show, all of our cast members are so vigilant about that. They’re all very protective of their fans and the fan base from the legacy of the show. It’s been helpful not having to feel like it’s all on us. It really has been a team effort.”
    • What about Tiffani Thiessen?: She's been busy working on Netflix's Alexa & Katie
    • Recalling the 90 most important moments in Beverly Hills, 90210 history
    • Breaking down what is true and what is fake on BH90210
    • How the BH90210 premiere honored Luke Perry in different ways

    TOPICS: BH90210, FOX, Beverly Hills, 90210, Brian Austin Green, Chris Alberghini, Gabrielle Carteris, Ian Ziering, Jason Priestley, Jennie Garth, John E. Davis, Luke Perry, Mike Chessler, Shannen Doherty, Tiffani Thiessen, Tori Spelling, Revivals, Theme Songs