The premise of the new 90210 is, essentially, that there’s gonna be a new 90210. (No word yet on whether they’ll acknowledge that we already had a new 90210, and that Jennie, Tori, and Shannen all appeared in it.) The cast members play what the network calls “heightened” versions of themselves, in a plot revolving around them reuniting at an anniversary event in Las Vegas while all either feeling aimless and forgotten, or having hit hard times. The hour ends with Tori having the brainwave that they should bring back their old hit show, so basically, the chief purpose of the pilot seems to be: prove that these actors can poke fun at themselves, and still hit their marks, for 42 minutes at a time.
And… they can, and it might even work. It’s imperfect, but so are all things. More importantly, it’s light-hearted and occasionally even deftly snarky. Rather than a big recap, I’ll just lay out what each character’s setup is, and then we can talk it up in the comments.
Tori Spelling: She is arguably the best sport of the bunch, because her “heightened” self hits rather close to home. In the show, Tori has six kids and can’t pay her bills. Brian Austin Green says, “Your dad produced the show. How did you not get any money?” And Ian Ziering wonders how she could possibly have grown up with every advantage in the world and still be unable to support her family (“It’s not her fault she lacks basic life skills. She’s not normal. It’s like letting a zoo animal out into the wild,” says Jennie at one point). And she constantly sweats about how she is mad broke and desperate, which is how the idea for the show comes to her in the first place. The real-world rumor mill suggests this is… basically extremely true to life, in a way that makes me respect Tori Spelling for going there. And this Tori also has a family reality show that’s just been cancelled because the network claims she’s “milked her brand from every angle: — real Tori has had several reality shows, none of which are still on the air — and her jobless husband Nate (hi, Dean McDermott) has haughty ideas about what he should expect on the employment front, even turning down a sports announcing gig because it’s too small-time for him. The best part about that is, he’s played by Ivan Sergei, her costar from the iconic Mother, May I Sleep With Danger? Amazing.
Jennie Garth: At the beginning of the hour, she’s trying to conceal that her third husband left her, is self-conscious about how many times she’s been married, and is sore that everyone else’s lives seem perfect. (Real life: recently reconciled with husband #3.) She’s also kind of sarcastic, and they’ve set up a thing where she hates Jason Priestley because she resents that he was America’s Sweetheart and got away with everything. They also, of course, have some hate sex. She gets off some good lines, looks like herself, and was pretty damn entertaining.
Gabrielle Carteris: As in real life, she’s president of the actors’ union. She is also newly a grandmother, and while they’re all in Vegas a bartender who grew up crushing on Andrea Zuckerman — explaining that all those “Suze Orman jackets” made her a gay icon — ends up giving Gabrielle her first lesbian experience. She is shooketh and clearly wants to confess to her husband, but can’t bring herself to do it. I love it. They also make her kind of the gently nagging cast mom. At one point Jennie complains about Gabrielle’s tendency to clap her hands to organize them as if they’re children, but then later Jennie does it and is like, “Oooh, that IS satisfying.”
Ian Ziering: He and his wife have a fitness Brand-with-a-capital-B, but of course it turns out she’s cheating on him. His bits are kind of boring? More Sharknado, please. True story: Some friends who flew in for my wedding in 2006 saw him the morning of — our ceremony was in the late afternoon — at Mel’s on Sunset, and told me they figured that a Steve Sanders sighting that weekend of all weekends meant my union was blessed. It seems to have been true. Thanks, Ian Ziering!
Shannen Doherty: She barely appears in this. I don’t know if that’s going to be the M.O. going forward, or what; she didn’t sign on until after Luke Perry died, I think in part as a way to help cope with it and also pay tribute to him and this thing they all did which bonded them for life. But she’s not in the same room as any of them in this pilot. Her character is at an animal sanctuary in Jaipur, for which she’s raising funds on PawsitivelyShannen.org, and they Skype her into the Vegas reunion panel. She feeds a baby tiger and cries gently into the camera lens while receiving a standing ovation, as the others roll their eyes. I’m assuming that was always the plan — that they only ever got her to agree to this much, or shot it with a blank screen behind the cast and figured they’d solve that problem later — and then once she was contracted, they cut in the inserts that we see later of her grabbing a plane ticket back to L.A. There are also a bunch of remarks from all of them about how, well, at least Shannen wasn’t present. GET ‘EM, SHANNEN.
Jason Priestley: His shtick is that he’s a struggling director who is in professional jail because he punched a snotty lead actor. He’s also married to a publicist (Vanessa Minnillo) who is all spin and no soul — or so it seems; when he’s about to confess that he slept with Jennie, we find out she’s pregnant.
Brian Austin Green: He’s a stay-at-home dad, married to a music megastar (LaLa Anthony) and feeling like nobody really cares about him. When someone asks if he misses the spotlight, he says, “Even if I did, nobody misses me.” Wah-waaaaah. (He is of course in real life still married — at least as far as we know — to Megan Fox, whose fame eclipsed his and arguably still has.) A kid who looks startlingly like David Silver asks him about feeling like an outsider… and guess who turns up at BAG’s mansion gate later, holding BAG’s driver’s license? This kid, whom I suspect will be a Secret Child. This is kind of uncomfortably meta because BAG has a 17-year old child with Vanessa Marcil (whom he met on 90210), and earlier this year she posted some screeds alleging a total estrangement from BAG’s family. They seem to have gotten past it? Anyway, a potential secret teenage child who’s never met his other children really feels like mining Google.
There are also a lot of jokes about whether he ACTUALLY took Tori’s virginity (as David did Donna’s), and some Moments between the two of them. They have no chemistry. Like, at all.
Luke Perry: There are multiple sad references to his absence, all of which are touching and you can tell it walloped them all in the gut. At the end, Tori gets the idea for the reboot while her kids are watching season 1 reruns, and the hour ends on a freeze frame of this:
I teared up. Turns out I’m not over that, and still cannot believe he’s gone. You can tell they all felt the same.
So, with Love Island over, and the world in a stressful state of unrest, this is perfect summer froth. In future episodes we get Christine Elise (Emily Valentine) and Carol Potter (Mama Walsh), for sure. I hope they bring back Douglas “Dead Scott” Emerson for a brief discussion of making him secretly alive. Throw Dead Scott a bone, here, people! And Ray Pruitt! Let him kick a pumpkin and sing!
Your turn: Did you watch, would you watch, or will you watch again?