“I was always taught that if it looks like a duck and it sounds like a duck!”
~Brenda Walsh, Beverly Hills 90210
I don’t know about you, but of late, my evenings consist of a lot of TV. And by TV, I do not mean the news, or anything news related. It’s not that I am apathetic, or prefer to remain uninformed.
It’s that I would like to be actually informed. Instead, I feel like I’m watching a Saturday Night Live skit…..
Clorox and Mean Green on the rocks with a Tide Pod chaser?
Armed hillbillies protesting lock down restrictions….while wearing masks and gloves?
The Lt. Governor of Texas every time he opens his mouth….“There are more important things than living.”
Did I see something about UFO’s yesterday?
Kim Jong Un is….??
A dog and a tiger have tested positive for COVID-19?
WT Actual F*%k is happening? I cannot even…and so I won’t. Fortunately, I’m good at finding silver linings, so if this had to happen, at least it happened in the age of streaming services and DVR and On-Demand.
Can you imagine if this were the 80’s? I can. At my house, we would have been fist-fighting over the last can of Chef-Boyardee….on lockdown day two. And even if there had been anything to binge-watch on TV back then, it wouldn’t have been happening at my house. My mother would have for sure put her foot, or someone’s head, through our TV over a math word problem while screaming, “Fuck it! You can just redo the third grade next year!”
So, in the spirit of counting your blessings, I say again, if it had to happen, I’m glad it happened now, when my entertainment choices are many and my risk of losing a tooth in a domestic dispute is zero.
At this point, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve rewatched Downton Abbey and Victoria and all of the nature programs available through Disney+….when I’m in the mood for something that feels a bit more refined and educational.
The Office is a go-to favorite when I need something light that never fails to make me laugh. And BTW….I blame Dwight Schrute….
Also, to satisfy the beast that craves trashtacular TV, I’ve been watching the first few seasons of the various Real Housewives franchise. Which, honestly, in its humbler beginnings….when the women weren’t obsessed with their D-list celebrity status and constantly screaming at each other during booze-fueled excursions….was actually a pretty interesting experiment that offered a glimpse into the lives of women living, working and managing families, in some of the countries wealthiest zip codes.
But there is one the program, above all others, that I hold most near and dear to my heart, the one I return to time and again. The one that makes me feel like I’m wrapped up in the coziest blanket, nestled into the squashiest of cow-hide chairs….the OG….Beverly Hills, 90210.
The original show premiered in 1990, two days before my 11th birthday. From the very first episode, I was hooked.
At various points in time, I wanted to be Kelly Taylor, Brenda Walsh and even Andrea Zuckerman. But I only wanted to be Andrea in the earliest days of the show.
By the time the gang was in college, Andrea looked like she’d jumped from a just barely plausible teenager, to middle aged overnight. I was like 13 by then, and so completely incapable/unwilling to be generous, or sympathetic, to the fact that she was a working actress fighting nature.
And I never wanted to be Donna Martin. Because honestly, WTF was up with her hair? I was no fashionista myself….I used to wear shorts with tan pantyhose and white scrunchy socks with glossy black shoes that had ribbons for laces….but hell, even I knew that whomever was managing hair and wardrobe for Donna, clearly hated her.
Anyway, over the years, whenever anyone from my past said something like, “You turned out all right….all things considered,” I joked that it was thanks to my parents; Television and Books.
But in fact, there’s a lot of truth in that statement.
When I was lost in the world of Beverly Cleary, Ann M. Martin, Francine Pascal, Judy Bloom and Harper Lee, I was learning valuable lessons about life and family and relationships and the real beauty of being a kid. Lessons that weren’t always available to me at home.
The same was true of television. The Tanners, Seavers, Mr. Belvedere, Alf and the Walsh family especially, helped me navigate through my childhood, adolescence and early adulthood.
I often emulated the characters I saw on TV. I used their lines and facial expressions and mannerisms and I adopted some of their goals and achievements and hardships.
It wasn’t unusual for me to borrow scenes, or whole story lines I would attempt to pass off as real and belonging to me. Like the time I told kids at school that I had 8 brothers and sisters named Marie, Cindy, Wendy, Connie, Sherry, Melissa, JR and Harvey and that my dad was a gym teacher named Graham. (Just the Ten of Us)
And I was forever trying to replicate the stylish students of West Beverly High School.
In the early days of 90210, I bought a pair of round eyeglasses at a dollar store that looked like the pair Andrea Zuckerman wore. I insisted they were prescription lenses and that I lived in an apartment with my grandmother, because my parents lived out of district.
Eventually, I stopped lying so blatantly, but I never gave up the fantasy that I could somehow morph into Kelly Taylor, but also be a Walsh.
On my first day of junior high, I wore a pair of red, plaid shorts that came with a matching blazer and enormous shoulder pads. I paired the short suit combo with a black, sleeveless, turtleneck, and shiny black pumps I found at a thrift store.
I looked like a pee-wee football linebacker in high heels, but I thought the outfit looked like something either Kelly or Brenda would have definitely sported on a night out….and OK, I may have insinuated that the outfit came from Rodeo Drive and not the seven dollar clothing store. But whatever, Rome wasn’t built in a day.
As I got older, I knew that from a fashion perspective, I would never come up to snuff with the likes of my idols. I lacked the acumen of a designer and the finances of someone who could afford a designer. But, I could forever remain a mega-fan who, once a week, lived vicariously through the impossibly hip inhabitants of the Walsh House and the Beach Apartment.
For ten years, I was there for every romance and broken heart. I watched as the cast morphed from high school students, to college students, to adults building careers. I rooted for them through the hard times and I celebrated their successes.
I grew up right behind them and I watched closely as they dealt with topics like sex, drugs, alcohol, eating disorders and complicated relationships with parents, friends and significant others.
And through it’s various storylines that tackled all those really relevant subjects related to adolescence and young adulthood, I learned to make my way through my own; I honestly did….however theatrically and dramatically.
In case you aren’t, like me, a rabid, would totally dominate a 90210 themed Jeopardy episode with questions related to the most random factoids like:
Answer: Karen Brown Mulligan. Loving wife of David.
Question: What was Steve Sanders biological mom’s name and what was written on her tombstone?
You might not know that 90210 got a reboot last year and briefly returned to television. It was a moment I had been anxiously and excitedly, (overly and unnaturally), waiting for since the announcement the cast was “in talks,” began circulating many months before the official announcement.
Before the premier of the reboot, I rewatched the final episode of the original show, specifically for one of my all time favorite scenes; the very last one. Many of the original cast members are dancing in a circle to Kool & The Gang’s Celebration at the wedding of Donna and David.
As the camera begins to pan back, Luke Perry raises his arms, with a huge smile on his face, and then pulls in Brian Austin Green and Ian Ziering for a hug. Then the entire cast joins in the embrace. It’s been nearly twenty years and the scene still makes me tear up.
So, I would be lying if I said I hadn’t had my heart set on a reboot that picked up where the original left off, just twenty years down the road. But alas, the show went in an entirely different direction.
Instead of finding out what happened in the lives of Donna, David, Kelly, Dylan, Brandon, Brenda, Andrea and Steve since we’d last seen them, the new concept was designed to be a show within the show, as the cast played exaggerated versions of their real life selves.
I wanted to love it, I really did. But, I didn’t. I get what they were trying to pull off, but for me, the approach lacked the nostalgic escapism my adolescent heart was hoping for.
I wanted to see the beach apartment again and the Walsh house and the Peach Pitt. I wanted the show to take me back to a time that felt simple and sweet. Back to a world before smart phones and social media and reality television and faux celebrity.
Fortunately though, thanks to syndication and streaming services, the show lives on in its natural state and right now, I need reliables.
I don’t know anymore what tomorrow is likely to bring, but I know that with 100% certainty that tonight and tomorrow night and the night after that, (at least so long as the shit doesn’t really hit the fan Walking Dead style) that there will be BBQ’s and parade float building at the Walsh house. Someone will definitely order the Mega-Burger at the Peach Pitt and it’s just a matter of how long I can stay up before it’s time to celebrate another summer at the Beverly Hills Beach Club.
And you know what else? It might have taken a global pandemic and twenty-years since the original show went off the air, but I think I might have become a 90210’er after all….