Beverly Hills, 90210: Season Seven
We live in a society that is heavily influenced by that little glowing screen known as television. It plays a major role in charting our collective paths with regard to fashion, music, language and morality. It may seem somehow wrong that a means of entertainment should have such a powerful affect on our culture but the fact remains that it does. With this in mind it is easier to understand how certain TV series can profoundly influence our lives. In some cases a popular show can help define a decade or even a generation. One such show was ‘Beverley Hill 90210’. For ten years starting in 1990 it dominate television and our culture. Even now almost twenty years later it remains an icon among its genre on TV even able to spawn a sequel style spin off that itself has achieved popularity. It made stars out of most of the cast and they remain among the most recognizable stars around. One of the great things about DVDs is the way they let you revisit and collect episodes of your old favorite television series. One of the most sought after was the original ‘Beverley Hills 90210’ and thankfully CBS Paramount owns the distribution rights and they have been releasing full season sets for awhile now. They are up to season seven and it is must have if you grew up in the nineties. This was a show that didn’t restrict its appeal to the teens; it had a following from just about every demographic imaginable. For some it was a guilty pleasure, others watched because they got hooked by the soap opera appeal the series mastered. No matter what the reason this was one of the series that defined that decade and is part of our cultural history as well as the formative years for many out there.
When a series lasts for a decade it is not only natural for there to be changes in the format it is a requirement. The writers and producers had the arduous task of keeping the series fresh while maintaining the qualities that made it a hit in the first place. From a production point of view this is one arena where this show shined. It started out its run as a simple fish out of water story that followed a set of twins from Minnesota transplanted to the rich and powerful world of Beverley Hills. The first story lines were concerned with how these twins from a simpler area managed to cope with the fast pace world of their new environment. It doesn’t take much thought to realize that this central theme would get old real fast. The twins would have to fit in at some point and that premise would no longer fly. What the producers did was switch gears. The stories began to focus on the individual personalities of each of the main characters. This was an ensemble cast so there were plenty of back stories and direction for the series to take. It also moved from episodic presentation to a traditional soap opera with stories that would span a season or even the entire series. They also allowed characters to grow up and in most cases mature. This fit in perfectly since many of the fans were also growing up at pretty much the same rate allowing the stories to match their aging demographic. The show did go on long enough that there were plenty of jokes around about the cast being the oldest teens on the planet. Being rich and beautiful may seem like something to desire but not with the baggage that these kids get to carry.
The series was well known for attempting to have a social conscience by including topics that were concerned with real life issues. In the first episode of this season the last twin standing on the series, Brandon Walsh (Jason Priestley) is on a road trip with his friend Steve Sanders (Ian Ziering) when they wind up in small racist town. Steve bolts leaving Brandon to cope with the hostile environment. Steve also helps revisit a constant topic in the series, teenage sex. During the annual reunion of the beach club he recalls how he lost his virginity to Kelly Taylor (Jennie Garth) in the ninth grade on that beach. Like any good soap opera you need notes and charts to follow who is sleeping with or has slept with whom in this group of friends. Kelly is painted in many story lines as the group’s slut but she ahs a good heart and goes to work at an AIDS hospice in this season. When Kelly is helping a friend with a cut hand she gets some blood on her and becomes afraid of getting AIDS. Even though she is assured it doesn’t work that way she wants to get tested anyway which considering her history of unprotected sex was a good idea.
Much of this season has to due with the impending marriage of friends of the main group Joan Diamond (Julie Parrish) and Nat Bussichio (Joe E. Tata), the owner/operator of the group’s hangout, the Peach Pit. The marriage had more than its share of problems even before it could get started. First of all Joan’s daughter Lilly (Katherine Kendall) shows up to be her mother’s maid of honor but it turns out that she is a stripper and tries to seduce Brandon who is the best man. Joan is pregnant and goes into labor just before the ceremony but doesn’t want the baby delivered until she is married; kind of bad planning. Pregnancy also plays a dominate theme with Val Malone (Tiffani Thiessen) who tells her boyfriend she is expecting in order to extort money from him supposedly for an abortion. She does have better control in business as the owner of a popular club, Peach Pit After Dark. Unfortunately her partner David (Brian Austin Green) is afflicted with manic depression. All soap operas need at least one character with a mental disorder so this should come as no surprise. It has to be remembered that most of the characters were still in college at this point and academics has to pop up every so often. Inthis season Steve is accused of plagiarism and is hauled before a student counsel for a verdict. Let’s face it, nobody tuned in each week to watch this group study.
Even in this its seventh year the series was still coming up with fresh stories although many had a melodramatic tendency. It is the very definition of the guilty pleasure and many popular shows today are around only because this show was the trailblazer. If you feel like taking a little trip back to the nineties this is the way to go.