Sunday, July 20, 2008

9021...Oh No

It's weird...I was actually writing up something last week wondering who the new reboot of Beverly Hills 90210 was for exactly...and then THIS happened.

From the Associated Press:

Shannen Doherty will reprise her role as Brenda Walsh in CW's new version of the 1990-2000 series, with her character now a famous director who's invited back to stage a musical at her alma mater, the network said Saturday.

Walsh will guest star in multiple episodes, the network said at a meeting of the Television Critics Association — which, appropriately enough, was in Beverly Hills.

She'll be reunited with a few members of the old West Beverly High School gang. As previously announced, Jennie Garth will return as Kelly Taylor, now a school guidance counselor, and Tori Spelling will be back as Donna Martin, who owns a boutique.

Jennie Garth? Tori Spelling? Shannen Doherty??? Now I'm really confused...who is this show trying to appeal to?

See, I'm interested because my kids watch and talk about these kinds of shows...they liked The O.C. a lot, and One Tree Hill, and Gilmore Girls, and even The Hills. And even though 90210 wasn't on their radar in its heyday, it's on their radar now. But still, why should I care...the reboot isn't really for me...or is it?

By several accounts, reviews of the new 90210 pilot script were pretty good...including Karen Hill guest posting/reviewing it on Jill Golick's blog. Hill says "the new 90210 eschews the cornball humour of the original series in favour of a hip, wry tone. There’s tons of banter and the de rigueur hyper-articulate TV adolescents who bear zero resemblance to the pimply mumblers trolling food courts everywhere."

Hip wry tone? Tons of banter? I suppose kudo's are in order to Rob Thomas and his successors, Jeff Judah and Gabe Sachs, for achieving TV 'goodness'...however, it sure ain't sounding like the 90210 I remember.

The original show was, flavourful, and tasty, but still just popcorn at the end of the day. And I don't mean to slag the talents of Darren Star...he's got it in spades. But Star's 90210 and his followup Melrose Place weren't trying to be TV goodness the way we define it today...except in the soaptastic kinda way. The reboot sounds like it wants to be good, like Veronica Mars or Freaks & Geeks 'good'...but the show title does not connote 'good', it will always only connote fun tasty popcorn.

Which led to my initial confusion...why call a piece of retro candy the same name if you are going to change all the ingredients? Some might argue it's only an 'updating' ...but I'd contest that as 'good' as other teen soap dramas like V Mars and Freaks & Geeks (and even Gossip Girl) are/were, NOBODY watched/watches them...or at least not in the kind of numbers that make for a real 'hit', which BH 90210 was for quite a few years.

The CW wants this reboot to be A HIT.

Furthermore, the original 90210 (like The Hills and The O.C. today) all began with little fanfare, then slowly built a primarily young audience who tuned in each week for some gossipy 'who's sleeping with who' water cooler fun. The new version already has too much hype, which means very high expectations, which means it can only disappoint.

But it doesn't have to disappoint, as long as it doesn't try to reach too high or too wide.

When these shows hit, they keep it simple and they appeal to a specific age group with closet desire for some occasional mindless escapism and fantasy drama. It can be pleasurable experience, but you really don't feel that good about watching. Seinfeld encapsulated it all perfectly in the episode where he didn't want to admit he watched Melrose Place...and when he finally fessed up to his soapy addiction, he lost the girl he was trying to hide it from. But that was still okay with Jerry...and the episode ended with him racing home to tune into a new Melrose ep. "Oh that Michael I hate him...he's just so smug."

The kids can and will eat that stuff up...but I'm not sure they will if it's weighed down by hip wry tone and ultra witty banter. Add to that the show bringing in a bunch of old cast members (who really really can't act for shit) from the original series, and I think the kids will be thrown off again. I know I was thrown off...does the show want the young un viewers? Or do they want me? Teens and twenty somethings looking for some soaptastic escapism? Or aging Gen X's with fond memories of a show they used to love?

I don't know anymore...but if the producers think a new tone and stunt casting will get them both, my fear is after big premiere numbers due to the curiosity factor, by trying to snare everyone, they'll end up with no one.

p.s. The new title sequence should probably look like THIS...but might end up looking more like THIS.


Anonymous said...

I have been conned by this before. 90210, I was a bit young for its audience but I thought it was stupid. Meanwhile all my highschool friends talked about it, particularly the girls and I felt as you, Popcorn, except poorly made and not good movie popcorn. Likely have the reason I took up this profession. Then the OC came. I was right in the mix of the age group, roommates watched it religiously and after about 3 or 4 shows I left the house religiously. When people asked I'd say it was just like 90210 and stupid. So this time I think I will save my self the time and just not watch the show. Maybe the loss of one viewer can lower the ratings so that shows like these don't get made. Although at least it is not another horrible reality show, or a choose your HNIC theme song fiasco, way to ruin Canada.

jimhenshaw said...

Maybe they want it to be a family show. Let's see -- if you were a fan with the hots for Luke at the show's peak in 1994, you could now have a 14 year old who's ready for some soapy fun. So mom and junior can tuck some Orvel's in the microwave, and settle back in the doublewide to share an evening together.

CW might be smarter than we think and sell a boatload of Sham-wows as well.

Anon said...

I was thinking the same thing... I have no clue who they're trying to target. I would think that many people who watched 90210 way back when are a little, well, too mature to be hooked into the same sort of show again. What's the point of trying to rope them in? They aren't going to watch week after week (well, not me anyway).

But... didn't Degrassi do the same thing? I'm not an avid watcher, but they had some characters brought back, right? Seemed to work for them.

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