The new (Beverly Hills) 90210

For anyone that might be remotely interested, I saw the first instalment of the new 90210 recently. Back in the 90s, Shannon Doherty, Luke Perry and Jason Priestly supposedly spawned a generation of teen and prepubescent crushes, and this is an attempt to resurrect the highly successful teen drama for a new generation. I have to confess - the original pretty much passed me by, I don't recall watching more than the occasional episode and I certainly never, EVER found leading men Perry or Priestly remotely attractive.

As it happens, little has changed this time around - and probably for the best as it would be tantamount to cradle-snatching now. The teen(y) girls and boys are all immaculately coiffed and styled, and look as wholesome as could be. Unfortunately, after recent glossy teen angst like THE OC and GOSSIP GIRL, this just lacks bite, sophistication and glamour.

The pilot hour introduces us to the Wilson family en route to California – teenagers Annie and Dixon are about to join the privileged ranks of high schoolers at West Beverly Hills High School, where dad Harry is the new head teacher. Annie is shocked to stumble on the popular jock she hooked up with the previous summer indulging in some playground tomfoolery - especially as spoiled rich bitch Naomi thinks he's her boyfriend. Presumably in a nod to contemporary pasttimes, there's a rebel girl called Silver(!) who updates her own blog on fellow classmates, as well as an aspiring journo who produces a daily video newscast. Rounding out the adults are the high school counsellor (Jennie Garth, former BH 90210 alumni) and the egotistical, wealthy parents of Naomi. Adding to the complicated relationships, Annie's dad Harry Dixon learns that Naomi's mother, a former girlfriend, may have had a child by him. Confused yet?!

This was a messy and overly plotted introduction, striving to be edgy and modern, as signposted by a decent pop soundtrack including Ting Tings, MGMT, Adele and Coldplay - but actually feeling oddly dated and young, particularly when compared to other aforementioned teen dramas. The opening scene, featuring the four members of the Wilson family in the car en route to California from Beverly Hills, is stilted and suffers from some painfully contrived dialogue and unfortunately things don't really improve.

Much of the writing is clunky, and in attempting to set up complicated relationships and tensions between characters it feels as if the writers have over-egged the pudding – in the space of one episode couples are established, cheated on, broken up with – friendships formed, trust broken and new allegiances made. Not to mention the reveal of a love child between the parents of frenemies Naomi and Annie!

The cast are undeniably pretty young things with varying degrees of charisma, but the older characters (apart from the splendid Jessica Walter as Annie's grandmother who steals the show) are less successful – one of the teachers appears to be barely six months older than the students and trying to meld a former character from the old series into the story felt a bit disjointed.

Overall, not a great first instalment, but the CW were airing the second one immediately after, which could help if it's a marked improvement. The cast are pretty easy on the eye and the nostalgia factor mean this series could still take off and frankly, if something as dire as THE SECRET LIFE OF AN AMERICAN TEENAGER can be so successful in the States then there's no reason to think this won't do well.

However, I shall be sticking with the new Gossip Girl for my fix of beautiful, troubled young things.


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