Due to a happy accident of the calendar, today is 9/02/10, and diehard fans are using it as an excuse to celebrate the quintessential '90s drama, Beverly Hills 90210. It's time we have our own discussion about the show.
For members of a certain generation, 90210 was our first brush with pop culture obsession. Kicking off in '90 on the still-fledgling Fox network, the show was a scrubbed-clean soap opera from the genius mind of Aaron Spelling and Darren Starr about a pair of twins who come from the simple life in Minnesota to the racy world of Beverly Hills. Enrolled at West Beverly High School, Brandon and Brenda Walsh were the aw-shucks foils to the fast-living teens that soon made up their circle of friends. There was celebrity spawn Steve, party girl Kelly, bad boy Dylan, dim but sweet virgin Donna, striving freshman David, some kid in a cowboy hat who got shot, and Andrea, the brainy editor of the school paper who lived on the wrong side of the tracks and lied about her address to get into the good school. How boringly earnest.
When 90210 started, it was one of the lowest-rated shows on the air. Teenagers slowly started tuning into the show, though, and helped take it from the brink of cancellation to the center of the pop culture universe. For many of us, this was our first brush with the power of youth culture. Instead of adults telling us what to watch, teens all over the country made their voices heard and tuned into the show, turning what could have been a long-forgotten series into a pop culture obsession. We made the boys into heartthrobs and the girls into heroes. We put their likenesses on T-shirts, trading cards, Trapper Keepers, and anything else with a flat surface. Saving this show meant we had a voice, a bit of control over the vast sea of programming that ends up on the television.
And then we grew up with them. We went off to college, we got boyfriends and girlfriends, found ourselves at the center of love triangles, started careers, thought we, too, might have gotten pregnant while losing our virginity on prom night, faced disappointments, and dated a really hot artist with a cocaine problem. We did everything together, but they did it with better outfits.
And they also did it with some crazy plots. Starting with Brenda Walsh's bitchy turn to the dark side, there was always a lovable villainess on the show to hate even while rooting for her. Things went over the top quickly, but that's just what we craved, a world unlike our own, fraught with peril and extravagance, something that was just out of reach but really a burnished version of what we were experiencing ourselves.
90210 lasted for a solid decade, but even before it went off the air, it was already in syndication. Watching reruns of 90210 was like instant nostalgia, reliving the rites of passage that happened just a few years earlier with what seemed like the wise distance of adulthood. It also introduced the show to those younger than us, giving them the same connection with the show that we once had, even though it was with an added dose of irony. But it's thanks to them that there's an all-new 90210 that has also learned to trade in serious issues, bitchy chicks and outlandish developments.
There are some questions about the original 90210 that will never die. Who should Kelly have chosen: Dylan or Brandon? Who was the best bitch: Brenda Walsh, Valerie Malone, or dark horse Gina Kincaid? Does it still bother you that the people playing high schoolers were clearly in their 20s and 30s? Which do you prefer, the original Peach Pit or Peach Pit After Dark? Can you actually walk into a convenience story and ask to only buy one egg? Were long sideburns and bushy bangs ever a good idea? Why the hell was Brandon working all the time and trying to save money when everyone else was rich? Was the world out to get him? What the hell ever happened to poor Emily Valentine, the best ex-girlfriend ever on primetime television? Why was it so damn important that Donna Martin graduate? Wasn't that just a bunch of rich kids trying to bend the rules based on what made them feel good?
These are the questions of our age, and we invite you to debate them in the comments. Also tell us your favorite episodes, treasured moments, favorite characters, and just about anything else 90210-related that comes into your pretty little head. Be sure to include pictures and YouTube videos when possible. Together we will claim this day for our youth, ourselves, for 90210, and the duh-nun-duh-nun, duh-nun-duh-nun tap tap that beats in the hearts of everyone.