Few shows can claim the level of cultural impact that Beverly Hills 90210 had on life in 1990s America. From its early seasons as a teen drama, dealing with the standard issues of the day as well as some of the more prevalent issues of the time (drug addiction, AIDS, race relations, sexuality, etc.), 90210 appeared to most people to be just the latest teen Soap Opera. Not an immediate success, FOX decided to try something new in the show's second season. Fox ordered an extra six episodes, and ordered that the show not wait until September to return, as is the standard for most shows, but to start back up just two months after its Season Finale in May of 1991. The premise of this extended season: Summer Vacation of course!
Fox had a show with a cast consisting of attractive young people in Southern California, so why wouldn't they show these characters spending their summer vacations at the beach? By ratcheting up the sex appeal, and capitalizing on the lack of competition, Fox was able to build a solid following during that summer season, which stuck with them in the fall when the characters (and the kids watching) went back to school. As a kid in the '90s myself, 90210 was required viewing in those early seasons, if you were going to be up to date on the pop culture of the day. So successful was the "summer season" that they did the same thing again for the show's third season. The result was a near constant stream of new episodes every week, all year long, for the show's first three years.
Life Imitating Art!
As the show progressed, and the characters grew older, as in real life, people started to come and go. First to leave was Shannen Doherty who's character Brenda Walsh was written off when Brenda decided to attend college in London. In reality, Doherty- who's troubles with working and playing well with others is Hollywood legend, was fired from the show after its fourth season. While rumors have abounded for years as to the nature of her departure, the only thing we know for sure is that she was shown the door.
With the various arrivals and departures over the years, the tone of the show changed. The kids who got hooked on the show back in the early days, were growing up and were no longer interested in the same old: Have a problem, solve a problem format that the show began with. The audience was growing and so too did the characters. The parents Walsh were transitioned from authoritarian dispensers of life-lessons, dispensing wisdom while grounding kids, to often ignored measures of last resort, before finally being written out of the show altogether. High school ended, college came and went (for some), and the "kids" of 90210 settled into their roles as the adults of the show.
1990 - 2000
After a decade on the air Beverly Hills 90210 ended in May of 2000. The show that began as the story of two high school sophomores moving to Beverly Hills from Minnesota, had become a show about what it means to grow up. It was about finding your place in a world that was constantly threatening to leave you behind. About how the line between friend and family is arbitrary, and how sometimes the people you least expect are the ones who will come through when you really need them.
All things must end in time, and as the '90s came to a close, there was a touch of finality to it that I had never experienced before. More than simply switching calendars, as 1999 ticked down, there was a sense of anticipation that was unlike anything before, or since. The year 2000 no longer belonged to the future, it was ours- here and now; and while none of us knew back then just how little time we'd have to enjoy that new millennium, it was nonetheless a time of wide-eyed optimism. In its own way, 90210 is as relevant now as it ever was. No longer a driver of pop culture, it is now a time capsule- a reminder of who we were in a better time.
Where Is Beverly Hills 90210 Exactly?