I have to admit, I got hooked watching the early seasons of the original 90210 one summer during high school. While it wasn’t great television, it did have that soap opera “I have to find out what happens next” quality, and without it we wouldn’t have gotten great shows like Buffy, The O.C., and Veronica Mars. When I heard they were going to re-imagine it, I, like everyone else, figured it was going to suck. What put it on my watch list was when I heard that Gabe Sachs and Jeff Judah were going to be the showrunners. They are partially responsible for Freaks and Geeks, Undeclared, and they created the underrated Life as We Know It.
Teen dramas tend to be mediocre, and write down to their audience. The really good ones either elevate the necessarily angsty and overdramatic plots with clever writing and truthfulness like Freaks and Geeks and The O.C., or they have a unique hook that puts the drama into perspective, like the supernatural in Buffy and detecting in Veronica Mars. 90210 is aiming for the former, and makes a good start of it. This is a review of the first two episodes, shown together as a two hour pilot.
While there are a lot of winks at the old show, this 90210 definitely has a lot more in common with The O.C. than the original 90210. The first hour suffers a bit from being rewritten so many times by so many people, but it provides a solid start. The characters are all likable, and they all stand out on their own, which is no small feat for a teen show, since for most shows of this type the characters blend together for the first few episodes.
The second episode feels more consistent than the first, although I don’t like it as much overall. Unsurprisingly, the only noticeably bad acting comes from two of the cast members from the original show. The storylines are retreads of things we have all seen a million times before, team rivalry, cheating boyfriend, rich guy woos poor girl, although they do manage to add a few little twists. It’s not an impressive episode, although it’s not horrible either.
It will be interesting to see if they can manage to develop the characters enough, and differentiate the show from the other teen dramas enough to keep the show going. For now it stays on my watch list, I’ll reassess after a few more episodes.