By: Kevin Kelly, Special TCA Correspondent
If you had told me a few years ago that 90210 would be getting the BATTLESTAR GALACTICA re-imagination treatment. I probably would have responded with a, “whatcha frakin’ talkin’ about willis?”
However, with the CW in desperate need of a mammoth sized hit to help propel them out of the ratings cellar, here we are in. Saturday morning at the 2008 Television Critics Association Press Tour, getting introduced to the cast and creative team of 90210 Version 2.0.
Yet rather than dismiss this last ditch effort to save a struggling network, I’m going to surprise you all by thinking positive. For one, the CW has entrusted the 90210 re-boot to Gabe Sachs and Jeff Judah. Two of the brains behind the brilliant-but-cancelled FREAKS AND GEEKS. And two, Jessica Walter, otherwise known as the drink-swilling, acid-tongued Bluth matriarch from ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT has been cast as, you guessed it — the Mills family matriarch. The difference, according to Walters, “Well, Lucille liked vodka, and Tabitha likes scotch.”
Ex-DEGRASSI star and Canadian Shenae Grimes was one year old (!) when the original series came out, and she claims to be an ardent fan. She plays Annie Wilson, who moves from Kansas City to Beverly Hills when her father accepts a position as principal of West Beverly Hills High School. Stepping into the roles of Jim and Cindy Walsh, err.. sorry, Harry and Debbie Mills are Rob Estes of Melrose Place fame and Lori Loughlin, last seen on the WB’s short-lived series SUMMERLAND.
AnnaLynne McCord joins the cast as [surprise!] the extremely bitchy curly-haired vixen Naomi Clark. Which will no doubt be a huge stretch [note sarcasm] from her last extremely bitchy curly-haired vixen role as the uber-messed up Eden on NIP/TUCK. And in case you’re wondering, because I certainly was, McCord assured us that, “You have not seen the last of Eden! I haven’t been written out of NIP/TUCK just yet!” and she’s got no problem being typecast as a vampy ultravixen.
Another Canadian, and future Tiger Beat pinup Dustin Milligan is all set to play the “hot, rich, sports star.” Ryan Eggold plays Ryan Matthews, a young literature teacher who identifies more with the students than with his fellow teachers. Do you detect the strong scent of a scandal? Jessica Stoup plays Silver… a girl with no last name. She’s “fiercely independent,” according to Jessica, which means she wears tie-dyed shirts and headbands. Plus, she may or may not be related to David Silver from the original series. They just kept saying “You’ll have to watch the show if you want to know!”
Tristan Wilds plays Dixon Wilson, a kid from a rough and tumble foster home who is taken in by the Wilson’s as an adopted son. He’s upping the ethnic ante of this show along with Michael Steger who plays Navid Shirazi, a kid who is trying to produce his own TMZ style show. They’re really trying hard to play the di-ver-si-ty card. They also promise to keep things fresh and updated with a lot of texting, blogging, and web surfing. OMFG!
Returning cast members include Jenni Garth, who is now a West Beverly Guidance Counselor, Tori Spelling [yes, her deal with her is done] is the owner of an upscale boutique, and Shannen Doherty, who is now officially signed. She’ll be playing Brenda Walsh [all returning cast members play their original characters], and she’s now a successful stage actress and the “guest director” of the musical that they’re putting on at West Beverly. Plus, Joe E. Tata returns as Nat, the owner of an extremely updated and revamped Peach Pit, complete with a funky music spot upstairs.
What’s really bizarre is that the producers keep stressing that this is an entirely original show, but “based on the original.” Yet they’re aggressively pursuing cast members from the original show.
So what exactly makes this show original? It’s a show about spoiled rich kids, and what happens when two teenagers who have lived outside that world get dropped into it. Remember when that happened to the Walshes? But they became so quickly integrated into that world, that it devolved into an entire show about rich kids and life in the fast lane. Will this one really be any different? Producer Gabe Sachs said, “I think people are interested in seeing the rich! I mean, gas is almost five dollars a gallon. We have the whole sub/prime mortgage problem. People really want to see how the other half lives.”
As shallow as it might be, 90210 has a strong chance of being a big hit for The CW this season. Even with a slogan like, “You wanna live in the zip, you gotta live by the code.” Ouch.