‘90210’: Diablo Cody’s plea to Brenda-fy it!
As regular readers could have easily predicted, I’ve been watching the new 90210 (or as I like to call it, 90210 2.0) religiously. And by ”religiously,” I mean that I don a ceremonial cloak before tuning in to The CW. This is seriously huge for me. When it comes to 90210, I’ll gladly cop to Phantom Menace levels of fanwankery.
But, you may ask, is the new show any good? I’m certainly enjoying it. I actually wept the first time Shannen Doherty appeared — Brenda may be older and wiser, but she’s still totally gangsta. Lori Loughlin, as a displaced Kansan, is as ageless and likable as ever. And sherry-swigging Jessica Walter is simply reprising her brilliant role as Lucille Bluth in Arrested Development. (I mean that as a compliment.) All the BH-90 elements are in place: wholesome Midwestern family, rich kids, sleek insectoid sports cars, establishing shots of Rodeo Drive. Yes.
However, like any devoted (read: hypercritical) fan, I have my beefs. First, I’m glad they chose to introduce Navid Shirazi, a character of Persian descent, since real Beverly Hills teens aren’t lily-white (or, in this case, Kelly-white). But Navid never really got to do anything cool until this very last episode. Give us more Navid! He’s the smoldering Seth Cohen of West Beverly! And on that note, Tristan Wilds should take his shirt off more often.
Secondly, I demand that the theme song be retooled to suit my sluggish, Gen-X sensibilities. One need only watch MTV’s True Life: I Pop Adderall Like Mentos to know that today’s teens are all zooming on goofballs. And modern credits sequences have followed suit. Sure, the ”new” 90210 theme song is built around that classic cheddar-melt guitar riff we know and love, but it’s so fast, so mega-spliced, so self-consciously cool. (Besides, I miss Brandon’s famous ”air punch,” perfectly timed to the drum hit.) Remember the leisurely pace of the original main titles? The camera lingered on Tori Spelling‘s high-tech cleavage, Shannen’s knowing smirk — hell, they even took the time to recognize Joe E. Tata’s contributions as Nat, lovable burger-flipper. Now? It’s like anime, what with the seizure-inducing cuts and clubby music. (Remember playing Super Mario Bros. on the classic eight-bit NES? You know how when the clock wound down to its final seconds, the music sped up disconcertingly? I get the same effect from the new 90210 theme song. Like, DEATH IS IMMINENT.)
NEXT PAGE: ”Kelly Taylor is the school guidance counselor, which means any student who becomes addicted to coke, has a nose job, gets caught in a fire, or pretends to be a lesbian will have a sympathetic shoulder to cry on.”
Thirdly, 90210 needs to introduce a realistic authority figure. These teachers are hip, handsome idealists, well versed in teen-speak and always approachable. I mean, Rob Estes plays the principal. Cute, fun Rob Estes! Remember Mrs. Teasley from the original show? Mrs. Teasley didn’t mess around! Mrs. Teasley almost didn’t let Donna Martin graduate, for God’s sakes! The students of West Beverly need someone to fear and resent. (And no, the 24-year-old windblown hottie who plays the ”tough” teacher doesn’t count — he makes detention and/or paddling look appealing.) Now, I’m not saying we need Mr. Hand or anything, but the last time I checked, there was a ”school” component to high school. Even TV high school. (FYI, Kelly Taylor is the school guidance counselor, which means any student who becomes addicted to coke, has a nose job, gets caught in a fire, or pretends to be a lesbian will have a sympathetic shoulder to cry on. She’s been there, kids.)
Finally, the protagonist — in this case, fresh-faced Annie — needs to make a few mistakes. Brenda Walsh was interesting because she was flawed and insecure. Annie is cheerful, warm toward her parents, and ”accidentally” gets the lead in the school play. Brenda was an endearingly bad driver; Annie gets a perfect score on her permit test. You see where I’m going. Obviously, a Brenda clone would be uninspired, but teens do eff up once in a while. In fact, the joy of the original series was watching the characters self-sabotage over and over again.
That’s all I got. Aside from those gripes, the show is supremely entertaining. Wait, one more thing — bring back Dylan! I’ve heard Luke Perry is inexplicably balking at the prospect, but surely they can meet his price. Hey, maybe Annie could be Dylan’s jailbait girlfriend, thus sullying our heroine and placating the ”mature fans” simultaneously! Man, when it comes to solving problems, I’m better than Nat.
90210‘s debut episode: The EW review