You might recall prime time TV on Fox in the 90’s and odds are the Beverly Hills 90210 theme song will come to your brain. Besides being one of the most quintessentially 90’s tunes, the series itself is nothing less than iconic. It is the alpha of all teen shows and one of the greatest triggers of nostalgia. Having run from 1990 to 2000, one may argue that the show defines the decade, simply because it endured the decade. And most may say that 90210 is the greatest show of all time.
I would have to agree.
My journey with the show begins not when it was airing but actually several years after. I used to hate the show simply because it took my sisters away from me. I wasn’t allowed to watch but they were obsessed. Later in 2007, they had purchased the box set of the first season and let me borrow it. That’s where it all started. I was hooked.
*press play and let the theme song run while you read the rest of this post*
Beverly Hills 90210, known to fans as 90210 (not to be confused with the awful 2000’s reboot), focuses around the Walsh family who moves from Minnesota to the illustrious Beverly Hills. Twins Brenda and Brandon Walsh are enrolled to attend West Beverly High upon their arrival, and rumour has it, it’s one of the most posh and extravagant high schools in the city. Needless to say, first impressions are everything…especially for Brenda.
To paint a picture of the twins, Brandon is good at everything. He’s smart, he’s sporty, he’s got charming good looks. But adjusting to life in Beverly Hills sure is different to their humble living in Minnesota. Nevertheless, it isn’t too long before he makes friends with Steve Sanders, son of TV show actress Samantha Sanders, head of the school newspaper Andrea Zuckerman, and bad boy (who reads fine literature) Dylan Mckay (RIP Luke Perry).
Brenda is strong willed, theatrical and a hopeless romantic. She’s easily one of my favourite characters. She becomes becomes enamoured by the glamorous life out west and is quick to make friends with popular girls Kelly Taylor and Donna Martin, both of who come from wealthy families. Kelly is easily the most popular girl at West Bev - especially after her nose job. She’s often under a lot of pressure from her ex-model mother to maintain a good appearance. Donna is sweet and loyal and has strict pressures from her parents about boys….specifically when it comes to the topic of her virginity.
Then there are the geeky freshman - David Silver and Scott Scanlon. David wants nothing more than to be a part of the popular crowd. Meanwhile Scott can’t seem to move on from the games and antics of his childhood.
As the twins adjust to this wild world that is Beverly Hills, they go through friendship, trust, betrayal, love, heartbreak, and a hell lot of fun. This is the general plot line, but keep in mind the show runs for ten seasons. They do graduate by season 3.
It was a TV show that really pushed boundaries in the 90’s. It had topics that were rarely on television at this, like sex, date rape, suicide, eating disorder, AIDS, abuse, teenage pregnancy, and homosexuality. Sure…considering the subject matter of TV shows today, these are not uncommon. But in the 90’s, many of these topics were still relatively taboo for prime time television. 90210 helped break down these walls and allowed thought provoking and controversial content to be viewed by their primary viewership of teenagers. Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, Riverdale - none of these shows would really exist without the foreground established by 90210. Think of all the scandal that’s packed into these shows!
But what makes 90210 special by contrast to teen shows of today is its close tie to being a family show. While the subject matter may be at times mature, it often depicts resolutions to issues and slathers on a layer of wholesome goodness. While it may not be realistic, you can find a really valuable message buried within each episode. To some degree, these episodes helped raise a generation.
And above all, one of my favourite reasons of going back to this show is exclusively for the fashion. The show explodes with 90’s references, whether it’s Brenda in a blazer, one of the moms’ perms, or the wall phones. Just have a look at the radiant 90’s fashion: