Beverly Hills, 90210: Season Eight
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Beverly Hills, 90210: Season Eight

Television has always been a major influence on our culture just about right from the start. One of the most easily swayed by this influential media is the teens. Normally as teens begin to age the shows the shows they watch simply fade away into the sunset of reruns and syndication. There is at least one notable exception to this generalization that occurred in the nineties; ‘Beverly Hills 90210’. Unlike the vast majority of popular teen oriented TV series this one last long enough to age along with its target audience. The show lasted a full ten years and became one of the defining influences on popular culture as well as shaping the very decade. The series steered the course for fashion, music and jargon that quickly swept through the nation and from there around the world. It had such a lasting effect that just recently the series was rebooted with a new cast although several of the original actors returned reprising their roles, this time as adult versions of their characters. Unlike a lot of shows were the characters seemed to be perpetually stuck in time this series allowed the characters to grow up along with their loyal fan base. After all a series about high school should eventually permit the kids to graduate and move on with their lives. The major side effect of this was to keep the show fresher then it normally would be by affording the characters an opportunity to change as well as introducing new characters and situations. This series is an excellent example of how to construct a prime time soap opera geared towards the younger set. It was one of the first to foray into those waters and remains one of the best. While it had more than its share of salacious plots there was an underlying sense of social consciousness as demonstrated by at least attempting to introduce socially relevant story arcs.

By the time the season under consideration here consideration here, number eight, it had moved away from its original premise of a couple of kids from the mid-west transplanted to the ultra swanky neighborhood of Beverley Hills. At this point the ‘kids’ are building their adult lives. They are continuing to completely pull away from the minimal influence of their parents. For many loyal fans this was mirroring what was going on in their own lives adding to the popularity by allow a greater degree of identification with the characters and what they were experiencing. This factor was vital to the longevity of the series; the ability to grow up with the audience. The original premise of a pair of twins transplanted from middle America to one of the most luxurious areas in the world had pretty much been played out at this point. The emphasis had shifted to the plight, as it were, of young people trying to make the change from the relative safety of college to the real world where they were completely on their own.

At the start of season eight the group was facing the reality of finding careers. Now one thing has to be kept in mind; these are very upscale young adults that came from a world of privilege so it is not like they were facing the poverty line. Valerie (Tiffani Amber Thiessen) bounces around from one low end job to another but really wants to manage the local hot spot; ‘After Dark’ but David (Brian Austin Green) turns her down. The club is suffering financially and he has misgivings about hiring her. With the situation so drastic there was only one logical thing to do; go on a lavish vacation to Hawaii. This is where fan identification is important. Many of the viewers were in similar circumstances but not able to take a fantasy vacation so they can live vicariously through these characters. With a series that lasts as long as this one it was only natural for cast changes to occur. On new character was Carly Reynolds (Hilary Swank). She winds up as a waitress at the perennial hang out, ‘The Peach Pit’ and becomes romantically involved with Steve (Ian Ziering) but had to go back home when her father has a heart attack. Of course it worked out extremely well for Swank who would go on to win two Oscars for best actress. Also added this season was Janet Sosna (Lindsey Price) who was also involved with Steve but would remain with him and the show until the end. One of the main plot lines in this season was the relationship between Brandon (Jason Priestley) and Kelly (Jennie Garth). There on again off again relationship turns more serious with the season concluding with a double episode surrounding their wedding. In all this is one of the better prime time soap operas that has been imitated often but never surpassed,
Posted 11/21/2009

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