Beverly Hills 90210

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Beverly Hills 90210

In the 1980s, MTV (see entry under 1980s—Music in volume 5) appealed to young television (see entry under 1940s—TV and Radio in volume 3) viewers with a fast-paced mix of music, fashion, and social concern. In the 1990s, the prime-time TV drama Beverly Hills 90210 adopted the same formula, added a healthy dose of upper-class teen lifestyles, and became an enormous hit. Its popularity, particularly among younger viewers, helped the FOX network grow into a ratings power-house.

Aaron Spelling (1928–), a TV producer whose previous hits had included Dynasty (1976) and Charlie's Angels, (1976; see entry under 1970s—TV and Radio in volume 4) created 90210. The weekly one-hour show, which debuted in October 1990, was set in fashionable Beverly Hills, California (zip code 90210), and followed the lives of a group of high-school classmates. While designed to feature an ensemble cast, including Spelling's daughter, Tori Spelling (1973–), the show quickly propelled a couple of its actors to national stardom. Luke Perry (1966–) played the moody Dylan McKay, a rebellious loner. Shannen Doherty (1971–) appeared as Brenda Walsh, Dylan's girlfriend. Also on hand were Jason Priestley (1969–), Jennie Garth (1972–), Ian Ziering (1964–), Brian Austin Green (1973–), and Gabrielle Carteris (1961–). When adult supervision was needed, burly actor Joe E. Tata appeared as Nathaniel "Nat" Bussicio, owner of the local diner hangout, The Peach Pit.

Audiences immediately responded to the glamorous lifestyles of the wealthy characters depicted on the show, copying their dress, musical tastes, and hairstyles. Viewers could also identify with the many real-life problems dealt with by the fictional teens. Over the course of its ten-year run, 90210 episodes addressed such serious issues as date rape, drug addiction, eating disorders, and premarital sex. Unlike other dramas set in high school, the characters on this show actually aged and changed, just like real people. Later episodes shifted the setting to fictional California University and then out into the working world. A number of the actors, including Doherty and Perry, left the show (Perry later returned), while new ones, including future Academy Award winner Hilary Swank (1974–), signed on. The show maintained good ratings until its cancellation in 2000. By that time, all but a few of the original actors remained, and the ones who did seemed far too old to play their characters anymore. Nevertheless, the potential always exists for a future TV reunion.

—Robert E. Schnakenberg

For More Information

Beverly Hills 90210 Official Web Site. (accessed April 4, 2002).

Cohen, Daniel. Beverly Hills, 90210: An Unauthorized Biography: Meet the Stars of Today's Hottest TV Series. New York: Pocket Books, 1991.

McKinley, E. Graham. Beverly Hills, 90210: Television, Gender, and Identity. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1997.

Mills, Bart, and Nancy Mills. Beverly Hills, 90210 Exposed. New York: Harper Paperbacks, 1991.

Wallner, Rosemary. Beverly Hills, 90210: TV's Hottest Teens. Edina, MN: Abdo & Daughters, 1992.

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Beverly Hills 90210

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