The challenge of creating a teen-based serial with any longevity is a daunting task, for the simple reason that the audience eventually grows up. One show that beat the odds was Beverly Hills, 90210, which maintained a loyal following of fans for the entire decade that the series aired, thanks to a combination of compelling drama and a plethora of teen eye candy (although most of the stars weren’t actually teenagers) that kept viewers of all ages tuned in each week.
Debuting in 1990, Beverly Hills, 90210 was the brainchild of iconic television producer, Aaron Spelling. The show chronicled the life of the Walsh Family, recent transplants from Minneapolis to the luxurious surroundings of Beverly Hills. Parents Jim and Cindy were hard-working, wholesome parents with old fashioned values who somehow made the adjustment just fine. For their teenaged offspring, it was a different story. Twins Brenda and Brandon were thrust into the culture shock of attending Beverly Hills High, a school filled with students who were richer, hipper and as a result, more jaded than anything they were previously accustomed to.
The kids did their best to adapt to their new surroundings. Brenda quickly befriended the beautiful but conceited Kelly and her friend Donna who chronically suffered from low self-esteem. Through these two, Brandon and Kelly became acquainted with Steve, the ever-arrogant adopted son of a television star who had once been Kelly’s boyfriend; Andrea, resident over-achiever of Beverly High, and Dylan, a temperamental surfer that caught Brenda’s romantic attention. The students spent their free time frequenting The Peach Pit, a local hangout owned by Nat.
As the years progressed, the teens eventually moved on to college, where a number of other characters were added that included Herbert, the show’s first African-American character and Valerie, the resident bad girl who replaced Brenda when she left the show in 1994. It was explained that Valerie was a family friend from Minneapolis. Two years later, Dylan would leave the show as well.
Seemingly, no subject was untouchable on Beverly Hills, 90210 and the handling of such topics as date rape, alcohol and drug addiction, suicide, racism and eating disorders kept young viewers watching each week, in many cases, long after their teen years had passed. The exploration of a wide variety of social issues most certainly aided in the longevity that the show enjoyed.
During its ten-year run, which ended in 2000, Beverly Hills, 90210 managed to spawn a very successful spin-off called Melrose Place, which lasted for a respectable seven seasons. Then, in 2006, an all-new series debuted, simply called 90210. The new series, augmented by a few familiar faces in the first two seasons, continues to hold its own among fans, old and new.
And, of course, the original show still has herds of its own loyal fans, now into adulthood but still able to vividly recall the trials and tribulations of their 90s television pals from Beverly Hills. If you count yourself among the millions of Beverly Hills, 90210 faithful, we’d love to hear your memories of this iconic series in our comments section. Tell us your favorite episodes, your favorite characters, and anything else you’d like to share with all of us at Retroland.