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The Walshes of '90210'

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No devoted fan of Fox’s Beverly Hills 90210 would dare scream suggestive remarks at Carol Potter. And no ardent follower of the show’s high school Sturm and pubescent Drang would even think of tearing the clothes off of James Eckhouse. While the show’s younger stars win the lion’s share of the hysterical fan reaction, Eckhouse and Potter — who, as Jim and Cindy Walsh, are 90210‘s resident grown-ups — get something rarer: quiet awe.

”Teenaged fans respond respectfully,” says Potter, sounding almost bewildered. ”I’m like their mother’s friend. They call me ma’am.”

”Parents are the ones who accost me,” says Eckhouse, laughing. ”They say, ‘Oh, you’re on that show? Listen, you should be much tougher on your son!”’

For Eckhouse, 37, and Potter, 44, the reactions testify to their always believable portrayals of Brandon and Brenda’s unbelievable parents: Jim and Cindy are tolerant, loving, kind, with-it, funny, and, almost always, forgiving. Even when Brandon (Jason Priestley) wrecks the car. Even when Brenda (Shannen Doherty) has a pregnancy scare. ”I know,” says Potter. ”Have you ever seen me and Brandon have a fight? But you just have to swallow it. It is television.”

Potter and Eckhouse, both of whom have young children, see their stint on 90210 as a dress rehearsal for teen parenting; Potter even moonlights as an advice columnist for 16 magazine. And although each hopes for richer story lines (”They won’t even let Cindy get a job, if you can believe that,” says Potter), this summer’s episodes, in which Jim tries to break up Brenda and Dylan (Luke Perry), offer ample opportunity for family dysfunction, Beverly Hills-style.

”Thank God Jim is toughening up,” says Eckhouse. ”It’s far more natural that he be hard-nosed and even a little irrational.”

”I love it when Cindy gets mad!” says Potter. ”If my son ever gave me Jason’s s—eating grin, I’d ground him for a month. Really!” she adds. ”I think Cindy is long overdue to flip out! Nobody’s that nice.”

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