Beverly Hills, 90210: Season Two
It is usually the case that the second season for a television show is precarious at best. Getting to season two means the audience was tuning in for season one and a fan base is growing. For "Beverly Hills, 90210’ the initial run of the series didn’t do well but in a special ‘summer session’ the series caught on and the series would continue in the Fox network. The difficult thing about any second season is you have to strike a delicate balance. The cast and crew have to remain faithful, to some extent, to what made the show popular in the first place. They also have to find ways to keep adding to the story lines and move the series forward. This season was a transitional one for 90210. Initially, the main theme of the series was the old fish out of water. A set of teenage twins, Brandon (Jason Priestley) and Brenda Walsh (Shannen Doherty) moved from Minnesota to the extremely upscale community of Beverly Hills. Season one was their adjusting but obviously that couldn’t hold as a premise going forward. Eventually the series would become more of a continuing soap opera but for this season, now on DVD, the series was still episodic with little to bind one episode to the rest of the season.
Most of season two followed the teen problem of the week. This did give a kind of prime time after school special feel but overall the largely self contained stories held together. Some of the elements necessary for the future seasons are planted here helping somewhat with the series’ overall continuity. In the first episode of season two Brenda takes a home pregnancy test and believes that she is pregnant. Dylan (Luke Perry) and Kelly (Jennie Garth) rally around and take her to an OB/GYN. While this turns out to be a false alarm it does scare Brenda. I guess television audiences back in 1991 were just not ready for a unwed teenage mom. Teen angst continues as Brandon needs more cash for his new life style than his job at local teen hangout, the Peace Pit, can provide. Since it is summer he decides to become a lifeguard but can only get a place as a cabana boy. He is torn but having to leave the Pit without giving proper notice. Brandon’s position at the Beach Club, as low rung as it is, does help introduce him to one of the driving forces in Beverly Hills, networking. He meets a well known sports promoter, Jerry Rattinger (James Sloyan). The much worldlier Dylan warns Brandon that his cabana girl girlfriend Sandy (Deborah Goodrich) may not be the right girl for him. This comes crashing home to Brandon when he is asked to drive Mrs. Rattinger (Timothy Blake) and he discovers that Rattenger’s mistress in none other than Sandy. Okay, this season does have some soap opera to it. Meanwhile Brenda has a flashback to a horrible childhood experience of being lost at a mall. She finds a way to channel her emotions in the acting class she joined with Donna (Tori Spelling), Andrea (Gabrielle Carteris) and David (Brian Austin Green).
In this season there were still parents around this group of privileged teens, albeit not always the adults that would make the cover of ‘Parent’s Magazine’. Dylan’s father, Jack McKay (Arthur Brooks) is arrested on a tax evasion charge and his mother Jackie (Ann Gillespie) flakes off to Hawaii. When Dylan is injured in a surfing accident, Brandon and Brenda’s mother, Cindy (Carol Potter), goes into hyper-motherhood mode and brings the tormented teen Dylan to live with them. Right, bring a hot, alcoholic rebel into the home with your horny daughter. This has to turn out okay, right? One episode combines the formats of the ‘after school special’ with the typical sit-com. In ‘Ashes to Ashes’ a black family moves in the same neighborhood as the Walsh family. Even though much of the area is against this move Brandon shows his basic good side by befriending them. In a more comical sub plot the family’s new house alarm causes a ruckus. By the end of season two Dylan has moved out of the Walsh home but is involved with Brenda. We all saw that one coming. Now dad has to forbid his daughter from seeing Dylan with the predictable opposite results. When will TV dads wake up and realize that your daughter will always want to be with the boy you hate?
Now the late Aaron Spelling will always be remember as one of the most successful men in television. Many of the series he created have been the subject of jokes and parodies but there is a reason; his shows tend to become cultural icons. From ‘Charlie’s Angels’ to ‘7th Heaven’, his television series last. ‘Beverly Hill’s, 90210’ was in many ways the flagship of his notable fleet of pop culture series. 90210 became more than a must see TV show, it became the voice of a generation. Now personally, I was a bit beyond the demographic when this series was on and my daughter was too young then but I well remember the impact this show had. You could not pass a magazine rack without seeing every teen and pre-teen magazine with one or more of the cast mates from the series on the cover. Music, fashion and popular youthful language all followed the exploits of these kids. In a way there was a good reason for this, especially in this season. The stories death with the problems that real teens face everyday; drug and alcohol abuse, sexuality and the need to fit in. Of course there has to be a school virgin to show the benefits of virtue and for some reason this part went to Tori Spelling, daughter of the executive producer.
This series made the careers on a whole generation of young actors. Many have gone on to well respected careers and owe it to 90210. Jason Priestley is the good boy who is tempted by the beautiful girls and money around him. His internal struggle is to maintain his values in a new peer group. As Brenda the young Shannen Doherty does well. This is one of the better seasons of television work this actress has had. Many real life teens could look to her and bond with her plights. Even back in this season Luke Perry looked a little too old to be in this crowd. He does take his role from the rebel without a clue to a fully fleshed out character.
Paramount brings this season box set to DVD with mixed success. The full screen video has a very good color palette and contrast and the Dolby stereo audio is nicely mixed. The problem is the little warning on the package noting that some music has been changed and some content was re-edited from the original broadcast releases. Many youth oriented series have heavy dependency on the popular music of the time. Unfortunately, in the years before the advent of the DVD format few studios negotiated with the bands for the video release of their music. Fans of the series who know the original music will be upset by the substitutions that the Fox legal department required. The same may hold true for the editing done for this release. I didn’t notice anything but I am sure there are people out there who have memorized each episode. The extras include a look at the Walsh family and an overview of the season two plots. There is also an episode from season 7. While this is for the die heart fan the changes may turn them off but the series remains as one worthy of being in a collection.