‘90210’ Debuts: The Best Surprise Is No Surprise
First Published: September 3, 2008 8:23 AM EDT Credit: The CW
LOS ANGELES, Calif. -- There weren’t a lot of surprises on the premiere of “90210.”
Who wanted surprises?
A modern-day reprise of the 1990s Fox phenomenon, “Beverly Hills, 90210,” this CW teen drama was kept tightly under wraps before its airing Tuesday night. The network apparently didn’t want to spoil any surprises. As if! “90210” felt reassuringly familiar, probably even for viewers too young to have seen the series that inspired it.
What higher praise could “90210” aspire to? It didn’t screw up!
All the expected ingredients were there: gorgeous teens, lots of style and extravagance, raging hormones, and always the potential for backstabbing, broken hearts and payback.
Same old, same old at West Beverly Hills High School.
Annie Wilson and her brother Dixon are the teen transplants to WBHHS this time around, moving to Beverly Hills with their parents not from Minnesota (as with the newcomer family on the original series), but from Kansas. Of course, everybody who cared about the new show had already read all about that.
What viewers might not have known ahead of time: that lovely Shenae Grimes, who plays Annie, squeezes her eyes shut every time she speaks or giggles, in the most adorable way.
They might not have guessed — unless they’re teens or the parents of teens — that texting and video blogs play a vital part in the “90210” narrative. (Wait a minute: Everybody already knew that from “Gossip Girl.”)
They might not have dared imagine that “Oh my God!” would be uttered with such numbing frequency, or that “stressed to the max” was said by someone with no evidence of irony.
Shannen Doherty and Jennie Garth (who played students on the original series) appeared in the premiere, as expected — and seemed surprisingly at home in their respective, grown-up recurring roles.
The most delightful moments of the “90210” opener were courtesy of Jessica Walter. But this should have been no surprise to any fan of her bygone comedy “Arrested Development,” in which she stole every scene. Here, she plays Tabitha Wilson, the grandmother of Annie and Dixon, a boozy faded actress whose comic outrageousness could put any other character to shame.
“I need to finish my memoirs before my friend Virginia does,” she declares at one point. “We slept with all the same people.”
Annie, Dixon and their parents are now living with Tabitha in her fabulous mansion, as dad Harry (Rob Estes) begins his new job as principal of WBHHS.
In a private moment, he asks his wife (Lori Loughlin) what she thinks of Beverly Hills.
“There’s a lot of temptation,” Debbie replies. “I’m just concerned how it’s gonna affect the kids.”
“You say the word,” Harry promises her, “and I will move us back to Kansas.”
For a show that comes so marvelously free of surprises, that would really be a surprise.
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