Living in Beverly Hills

The new and ‘improved’ series of Beverly Hills 90210 started recently, and it’s off to a shaky start. Dubbed the poor man’s OC by critics, it doesn’t look likely to reach Hollywood heights.

The old series was immensely popular, and so when I heard there was going to be a re-make I was ridiculously excited. But, now that it has started, I am sorry to say it does not live up to expectations. The series starts, in the same way as the original, with the Wilson family moving from the Midwest to Beverly Hills, father Harry’s old home town, to live with his mother. Harry is to be Principal of Beverly Hills High, where, coincidentally, his children Annie and Dixon’s will be going to school. We quickly see that 90210 is going to be a typical American drama, with the teenagers’ run-ins with sex, drugs and alcohol being contrasted to the adults’ issues of interfering mother-in-laws, problem children and the return of past sweethearts.

The drama focuses on Annie and Dixon trying to settle in, but being confronted with various issues courtesy of the other main characters, who are quickly shown to conform to all of the normal American High School stereotypes. Naomi, ‘the plastic’, is a beautiful blonde with lots of money and style and is of course dating ‘the jock’, Ethan. Ethan has a past with Annie, as their grandparents know each other and they got friendly a few summers before. Typically he gets caught cheating on his girlfriend Naomi in a horrifyingly public display of affection in his car with a random girl.

Then there is ‘the emo kid who turns out to be really cool’, Silver. She has a slightly sordid secret past involving Naomi, and is a blogger in the style of Gossip Girl. This annoys me. Why does every American teen show have to include a mean-spirited girl who feels the need to spread malicious gossip about her peers? Having been through high school recently myself, and never encountered someone like this, I have to ask why all the shows feel the need to invent this annoying and unrealistic character.

But, despite these criticisms, Silver is one of the most likeable characters, as despite her bad start with a nasty blog about Annie, the two are able to forgive and forget. Silver’s own admission of her flaws makes her really interesting and fun, particularly with her relationship with the loveable Dixon.

The first episode is packed with action, with us meeting all the key characters as well as seeing the budding relationships and being introduced to some scandal. The real bombshell turns out to be that Naomi’s mother and Principal Wilson dated during their teenage days, the result of which was a son!

This story is further developed throughout the series, and is one of the few genuinely interesting scandals alongside the lovely relationship between Silver and Dixon.

Despite the potential to be a great, or at least fun, show, 90210 has failed to grip me so far. This may be largely due to Annie. Played by Shenae Grimes, a terrible actor who seems to feel the need to over-play every emotion to the extent that I grimace every time she is on screen. Being one of the main characters, around whom much of the plot revolves, it seems to be a serious oversight of the producers to have cast someone so instantly irritating. The rest of the cast seem far better, though, so fingers crossed for Annie’s car crash to eliminate this awful aspect of the show!

Another major flaw is of course the complete lack of originality of the show. Off the top of my head I could name a heap of shows that are seriously comparable to, and mostly better versions of, 90210. Unless you happened to watch the old one (in which case the novelty of seeing some of the old cast mixed with new ones might tickle your fancy) there’s little to recommend it. The similarities between The OC and 90210 are the most obvious and shocking. With a similar obsession with casting gorgeous people (which The OC achieved far more successfully, Ethan is no Seth Cohen), similarly shocking dramas and cool indie soundtracks, 90210 is the show for all of you who want to relive the glory days of The OC, with a little less style.

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