Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Material Show

Beverly Hills 90210 is the Madonna of television shows. That's my thesis. Now, I'll support my position through intelligent discourse with facts like; Steve Sanders was awesome.

During the summer of 1991, I went to Florida on vacation with my closest friends in college. I became frustrated by their laziness during the 9o'clock hour at night because they wanted to stay in the condo and watch tv. I hadn't discovered Beverly Hills 90210 but they had, and the second season was keeping them glued to the screen. At first I was not impressed with the soap opera acting, the unlikely plot lines, and the ridiculous notion of getting involved with the fictional lives of rich high school kids. Then I started watching the summer season. I kept watching. I started seeing the layed appeal of the characters and the situations. The show touched every cultural hot topic - abortion, drugs, sex, dating, cheating, school pressures, gambling, having your girlfriend's mobster dad put a hit on you and him accidently killing her then calling a truce with you in his grief. You know, all of the everyday things that happen to each of us.

Beverly Hills, 90210 wasn't the best scripted show. It wasn't the best acted program. It wasn't even well rewarded or at times respected. Beverly Hills, 90210 was entertaining. Madonna wasn't the best dancer, singer, writer, musician, or actress but she is one of the greatest entertainers ever seen or heard because of how much she put into her act. That was Beverly Hills, 90210 way as well.

My favorite character was the tender hearted, mischievious rich kid, Steve Sanders. Athletic, vain, popular, funny, troublemaking, loyal, and always in the compamy of pretty girls, he was the perfect testosterone fueled teenager, young adult. I wasn't Steve Sanders. I was a combination of good guy, overachieving Brandon Walsh and bad decision making, always tortured Dylan McKay. As a result I disliked both characters. Sanders was always happy, even when he was in a world of trouble.
He also never took himself seriously like the other characters did. I think this makes the actor who played him, Ian Ziering, an ironic genius.

What connects Beverly Hills, 90210 to Madonna, "intellectually", is how the show constantly changed. Cast members left and yet the show kept growing. No one thought Madonna would surivive the 80s and yet she matured and put our her best records in the 90s, including the electronic music classic, Ray of Light. As a the Beverly Hills kids got out of high school and went to California University (Go Condors!), they kept mining pop culture ore with hot button issues like date rape and opening a night club called above their favorite diner hangout, The Peach Pit.

I believe in the Happy Days theory, "Jump the Shark". Everything, including television shows, have a spot where creativity dips. I was a fan of seasons 2-6. Season 1 isn't very good, credit the Fox Network for sticking with the show. I blame Hilary Swank for the show's eventual demise. The future two time Academy Award winner. Her character Carly Reynolds, a single mom who temporarily tamed Steve Sanders, was given very littel to do, bored everyone, was written out after a year, and Swank's subsequent success cursed the legacy of the show's final years.

Besides Sanders, 90210 gave us Shannen Doherty's Brenda Walsh, Tiffani Thiessen's Valerie Malone, and Jennie Garth's sometimes interesting Kelly Taylor. Luke Perry's Dylan McKay was better drunk. Brian Green's David and Tori Spelling's Donna were better apart than together. The worst storyline wasn't the most outrageous one, it's when Kelly couldn't decide between Dylan and Brandon and drops a monumentally bad line of dialogue "I choose me". Of course the next episode, she's got a new boyfriend.

Like Madonna, 90210 could be really bad. Like Madonna, 90210 could be really good. The show lasted 10 years, the theme song was memorable, the styles were copied, and anyone from the age of 35 to 45 can quote scenes, lines, characters, and cultural significance of something 90210 related. That's the mark of good entertainment.

For today, and today only, September 2, 2010, aka 90210, let's recognize the television landmark that was Brandon, Brenda, Dylan, Donna, David, Kelly, and Steve; Beverly Hills 90210. Grow the side burns low, flip the polo shirt collars up, find a convertible red corvette to drive, and get really materialistic and spoiled. Duh nuh nuh nuh, duh nuh nuh, chee chee.....

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