The latest news from the TV beat

Heading for the ‘Hills’?

Time to unlock the Peach Pit doors: With the success of recent reunion flicks for shows like Growing Pains and Gilligan’s Island, Fox is considering whether to bring back the kids of Beverly Hills 90210 for a two-hour lovefest. The network’s not commenting, but alums like Jennie Garth (Kelly) say they’ve already received the casting call. ”They’re feeling us out, but we think it’s too soon,” says Garth. ”Maybe it’s not the right time now, but our love for each other and [executive producer] Aaron Spelling is so strong. They’re my family and I’m sure it will happen eventually.” That may be too soon for Tori Spelling (Donna), who has everything but that infamous zip code on her mind right now. After doing Scary Movie 2, she’s been on the lookout for a new TV show (she was up for a WB comedy last season). Says Miss Spelling: ”I have so many other things I’m looking forward to other than Donna, so I honestly don’t even want to think about her right now.” No wonder poor Donna always had such low self-esteem.

Veterans’ Benefits

This fall season, everything old is new again: Established series like Friends and Law & Order are upstaging newcomers by posting impressive gains of 46 percent and 26 percent, respectively — leaving many industry wags to believe that today’s viewers are seeking out the familiar rather than the unknown in light of the events of Sept. 11. (CBS’ six-year-old military drama JAG is also enjoying a ratings boost this season; see story, page 10.) Meanwhile, viewership for the season’s top new shows like Crossing Jordan (13.9 million) and The Guardian (14.9 million) is actually down from what last year’s freshman champs were averaging at this time (CSI: 15.8 million, Dark Angel: 15.4 million). Says CBS Entertainment president Nancy Tellem, who was already forced to yank the low-rated new sitcom Danny, ”It is kind of troubling. The launch of the season is obviously stalled by all that has taken place.” Still, CBS says it will be more patient before issuing another pink slip to a rookie show (that should be good news to Ellen DeGeneres, who’s ranking No. 3 in her Friday time slot). ”I just feel people are gravitating toward dramas and family comedies,” adds Tellem. ”A lot of this is comfort food.”

AND SO ON…Starting the week of Nov. 12, NBC’s Passions will plunge into a Titanic story line involving star-crossed lovers Sheridan (McKenzie Westmore) and Luis (Galen Gering). The cult soap will pay painstaking homage to the James Cameron movie — even copying a few of the film’s gowns and sets — in a past-life tale about how the duo fell in love on the doomed vessel. The eccentric sudser will also reveal how 300-year-old witch Tabitha (Juliet Mills) had a hand in the ship’s sinking. Creator and head writer James E. Reilly calls the plot a ”lost chapter” of the show’s best-selling book Hidden Passions: Secrets From the Diaries of Tabitha Lenox, and says this kind of outlandishness is what Passions fans want: ”That’s why people talk about us. ‘Oh, that’s the show with Timmy the doll,’ or ‘That’s the show with the witch.”’ Or, that’s the show that makes absolutely no sense.

Beverly Hills, 90210
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