90210 is a small-screen zip where purity rings are worn only ironically and "chastity" is just a cute girl's name. The Book of Ecclesiastes tells us there is nothing new under the sun. And this retread of Fox's tawdry trendsetter Beverly Hills, 90210 (which aired from 1990-2000) unintentionally reveals the tediousness of programs based on money, sex and angst.
Annie and Dixon Wilson, the relatively good-kid protagonists the show originally centered around, seem as though they've been assimilated to the prevailing borg of West Beverly Hills High, as they and others struggle to learn what it means to be an adult with precious few good role models to show them the way. Annie and Dixon's parents have divorced, and Mr. Matthews, one of the series' only sympathetic adults, often doesn't seem to be much more than an adolescent with stubble. Only Navid Shirazi, editor of the school newspaper, seems to be blessed with a stable home life. But then again, his father is an adult film director—which says more about 90210's makers than it does semi-nice guy Navid, who, at times, seems to be the moral center of the story.
All that means this: When the adults are being indifferent, that's actually a win. Because when they do influence the proceedings, it's often in a very, very bad way. Exhibit 1) Season 2 ends with history teacher Mr. Cannon's raping Rachel.
With that sort of mentorship at work, the high schoolers here are left to raise themselves. And the results aren't pretty. Most of the Ten Commandments get broken by fifth period. Teens steal, lie, sleep around, cheat in every sense of the word, curse, fight, destroy property, drink, buy drugs, sell drugs, use drugs, visit porn sets, "act" in porn movies and stab each other in the back. They struggle with addictions, grapple with homosexuality and talk about sex, sex, sex, sex, sex.
Even beyond its crass content, the show has serious issues. Salon.com critic Heather Havrilesky, after watching the materialistic "haves" in 90210, asked if CW's initials stood for "coveting wealth." And many pundits wonder whether the program's rail-thin actresses may foster eating disorders in young, impressionable viewers.
The good news, if there is any, is that the characters have grown more complex as the salacious episodes have come and gone. They often try, in their own imperfect, rudderless way, to do what's right. But in 90210, "what's right" often equates to, "We should wait to have sex until we really feel like it," or, "You shouldn't drive after you've just smoked marijuana," or, "I may need to confront my father about casting underage girls in porn movies."
"I See London, I See France …"
West Beverly's top students—all three of them—gather for the school's Achievement Awards. Navid, up for the top honor, takes himself out of the running when he learns that his main rival is being bullied by her father to win.
The rest of the school gathers at the "Undies," a place where West Beverly's underachievers are giving men's briefs to celebrate their non-accomplishments. "At the end of the day," the emcee says, "we'll get farther in life, because we're hotter than they are."
Dixon's girlfriend admits that she slept with Oscar when she and Dixon split for a time. Teddy, after being unable to "perform" with a girl, grapples with his attraction to another man—and smokes a joint to ease his mind. He then drives a car. Mr. Matthews comes forward as a witness to bolster Naomi's case—though he admits he was drunk when he saw the two together. Liam discovers that Laura's purse business is actually a cover to sell drugs. Liam, who's also living at Laura's house, is shown without a shirt, and Laura makes passes at him.
Characters say "b‑‑ch," "h‑‑‑," "p‑‑‑ed" and misuse God's name. Navid rejects a graphic story about genital piercing. He recognizes a new girl at school—who later dances seductively—from one of his father's movies.