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"90210" Arrives, No Longer Sight Unseen

The CW network pointedly decided not to send preview copies of its new Beverly Hills, 90210 reboot series to critics. So we, along with anyone else curious enough to tune in, had to watch last night and see whether it was as bad as a no-screeners policy suggested.

Yes, it was.

But that doesn’t mean, for the CW, the new 90210 is an instant failure.

First, this is a network that dares to define success differently. Gossip Girl, for example, is defined as the hot, hot show on the CW, even though its viewership levels are cold, cold. Gossip Girl has buzz. Not much honey, but buzz.

And this season, sight unseen, 90210 has plenty of buzz. Sight seen, though, it seems like just another prime-time juvenile drama comic book.

Yes, there were scenes in which Shannen Doherty and Jennie Garth, from the old series, reprised their roles. Their first couple of scenes together were awkward, but the final one actually was kind of sweet. As for the new cast, and the new problems, they’re just as absurdly underwritten and overplayed as the ones on Gossip Girl, so at least the CW has found the perfect companion show.

Finding viewers and positive reviews, however, might prove to be a lot more difficult.

 What did other critics say about the new 90210?

Uncle, “90210,” I cry uncle.

I got the feeling the goal of this “Beverly Hills, 90210” sequel was to pummel the audience into submission….  Still, despite everything – the woodenness and comical self-absorption of Doherty, the dorky callbacks to the Peach Pit, the sometimes cringe-inducing dialogue, the predictable and superficial plots about drug abuse, paternity problems and old rivalries – it must be said that this version of "90210" does contain a few flashes of genuine wit. (Maureen Ryan, Chicago Tribune)

Really, the original “Beverly Hills 90210” was pretty bad. Maybe some of us have romanticized the Fox series since it left the air in 2000, and blocked out the fact that it was an overly earnest, obvious teen soap. Maybe time has healed the wounds it left by rubbing our noses in afterschool-special lessons. Maybe the Peach Pit kids have gained an appealing camp cachet, boosted by memories of Shannen Doherty’s bratty behavior, Tori Spelling’s acting non-style, and Luke Perry’s sideburns. But the show was bad. And “90210,” the CW remake that premiered last night, is pretty bad, too. (Matthew Gilbert, Boston Globe)

Sticking absurdly close to the same formula as the original, down to the opening theme and the filming style, the new version lacks that same sense of wonder and awe that Beverly Hills decadence and excesses once held over viewers. Thanks to Paris Hilton and reality TV, not much of what happens at the fictional West Beverly Hills High School seems all that shocking. As it is, the show coasts by mainly on a wave of nostalgia and stunt casting…. Even the biggest fan of the original would be hard pressed to call it realistic, but it did deal with many topical issues of the day. This version doesn’t exactly cover issues as much as exploit them. With shows like "The Hills" and "Gossip Girl," exploring the upscale teenage lifestyle, this incarnation doesn’t really offer anything new.(Laura Fries, Variety)

It’s not a great show but it’s not a terrible teen drama, not by a long shot. And that’s a bit of a surprise given The CW’s unwillingness to send it out for critics to review in advance of air (Perhaps as a dare to critics, the first dialogue heard is new Beverly Hills kid Dixon declaring, "This sucks!"). The new "90210" turns out to be a solid sequel with plenty of shout-outs to fans of the old "90210." (Rob Owen, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

How many TV shows about the struggle to be popular do young people really need? (Adam Buckman, New York Post)