By T.J. DeGroat
Ten years ago, the colossal amount of useless information in the heads of Americans increased with the addition of the zip code for Beverly Hills, California. Since 1990, when the Walshes left Minnesota for sunny, superficial Southern California, 90210 has become a part of our vernacular, much like 867-5309 or 411.
The current generation of college students literally grew up alongside Kelly Taylor and Brandon Walsh. The class of 2001 graduated 8th grade as the super clique drove to the Hollywood sign for a final high school hurrah. Current Rutgers juniors donned gowns a second time as California University's class of 1997 ended their college careers. During the 10-year run, the show spawned a breed of superfans who say they will be devastated when Beverly Hills, 90210 fades into re-run oblivion.
Rutgers College junior Buffy Weill-Greenberg, who began watching the show during the first season, said watching tapes of the show is difficult. "It's so hard to hit play. Every minute I watch I'm one minute closer to never watching 90210 again," she said.
Fox has been airing short retrospectives and publicizing the end of the show with a countdown, something that upsets ardent fans like Rutgers College junior Shane Smith. "One thing I think is kind of gross is the countdown. It's really upsetting."
The overall demise of the show is upsetting to creator Aaron Spelling. The cancellation "really hurt. We thought we were going to get another year. At first Fox was asking us to come back," Spelling said in an interview with Fox in March. "After a while, the whole cast agreed to come back, except Brian Austin Green - and I think he would have eventually agreed. The ratings were OK, but it was based on money. "
For the season to date, 90210 Number 81.
Regardless, the show has had a long ride and has become synonymous with 1990s popular culture. Smith began watching the show in 6th grade, during the first season. "Everybody was watching. It was what people talked about," he said. "Even though it became kind of cheesy I continued to watch it."
With more than 300 episodes and so many characters zooming through the cast's revolving door it's difficult to choose favorites, but Smith and Weill-Greenberg are up to the challenge. Weill-Greenberg said a favorite early show is the infamous sleep over/skeletons in the closet show, during which Kelly admits her freshman year, pre-nose job sexual encounter with a jock and Brenda verbally bitchslaps Kelly's too cool for school friend with a catty remark.
"One of my favorite early episodes is the fashion show because it dealt with Jackie's drug abuse," Smith said.
The drug problems of the entire Taylor family (remember when Kelly suddenly became a crack whore?) were just one of the myriad social issues the 90210 producers tried to tackle. From date rape to interracial couplings, from pregnancy to virginity, each episode seemed like a glorified after-school special.
The issues weren't always handled well, though, Smith said. "In some ways it can be a little upsetting because it dealt with it in almost a ridiculous way. It was forgotten about next week — very artificial."
Weill-Greenberg agrees. "I actually think the politics and values of the show are totally vile. They sort of take all of these conservative values but then they put them in this liberal freedom of speech box," she said.
"Although I wouldn't call it a progressive show it does at least bring up issues, and that's something," Smith said.
Choosing favorite characters is equally as difficult as pinpointing a
best episode. Of all the characters who left the show, Smith said he was a big fan of Emily Valentine — one of many scary girlfriends who pined for the super stud himself, Brandon Walsh.
Weill-Greenberg said she has a difficult time choosing her favorite West Beverly High alumnus. "My favorite character is a tie between Brenda and Kelly. When I watch the summer episodes when Kelly steals Brenda's boyfriend I hate Kelly, but when I watch the episodes when she's a social worker, it's totally different," she said.
Donna Martin is also a beloved character in Weill-Greenberg's eyes. "She's my favorite for pure entertainment value. She's so fugly and it's so sad to watch her because she's so desperately trying to look like Kelly," she said.
The upcoming series finale, which will air on May 17, is the subject of much speculation. And although almost anything could happen, there's one thing most true fans want but will never get: the reunion of Brenda and Dylan. "I want Brenda to come back and I want Brenda, Kelly and Donna to finally have a talk about how each of them is so jealous of Kelly," she said. "I think it should actually end with Brenda shooting Kelly." There will be no closure if Brenda does not return, Weill-Greenberg said.
Closure or not, Beverly Hills, 90210 will end less than three weeks from now, on May 17, leaving fans with a plethora of ridiculous situations to laugh about. Brenda transforming herself into Laverne the waitress, Brandon dating everyone and their mother, Emily Valentine's flaming desire, Dylan's impromptu marriage to the mob and the Walshes' inexplicable departure are just a few of the less than brilliant, but hysterical, ideas the writers have seen to life.
Cast members will leave the show with fond memories as well. In a September interview with Entertainment Weekly Jennie Garth (Kelly) said, "It's a very comfortable environment. After working with the same people for ten years, they're like my family, really."
And the Walshes, the Taylors and the Martins are a part of our extended family — the warped, perverse, deranged cousins that make holiday celebrations so much fun.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Some of the great 90210 alumni who left the show:
Jason Priestly, Brandon Walsh (1990-1998), is performing in Side Man in London. The 30-year-old star of Calendar Girl and Love and Death on Long Island will face a five day jail sentence driving under the influence.
Hilary Swank, Carly Reynolds (1997-1998), is a forgotten alumna. She won an Oscar this year for Boys Don't Cry. The 25-year-old who married Life Goes On star Chad Lowe will appear in The Gift with Keanu Reeves.
Tiffani Thiessen, Valerie Malone (1994-1998), dropped her middle name before guest-starring on ABC's Two Guys and a Girl.
Gabrielle Carteris, Andrea Zuckerman (1990-1994), pursued motherhood and a career as a talk show host in 1995. She is planning to return to acting.
QUOTES!!! SO FUNNY!!!
"Brandon, I'm a spring princess. I can't exactly show up in a Melvin, or whatever your calling your car these days."
- Kelly Taylor from Season 1, "Spring Dance"
"Well I have fundamental ideological problems with teenage social rituals that basically do nothing but exacerbate fear of total insecurity and inferiority over one's appearance while frenetically exploiting and I must add, distorting, the feminine ideal."
- Andrea Zuckerman from Season 1, "Spring Dance"
"High school guys, college guys, grad school guys, drop-out guys. You can not dress the same for all guys."
- Donna Martin from Season 1, "A Fling in Palm Springs"
"When I got to school they should have given me a score card instead of a class schedule, so I can keep track of everyone's boyfriends."
- Emily Valentine from Season 2, "Wildfire"
That's OK, this is California. Nobody knows what they're doing, they just smile and fake it."
- Steve Sanders from Season 5, "What I Did On My Summer Vacation And Other Stories"