Beverly Hills: The Waning Years

I'll chime in on this topic. The best thing I saw on TV over the holiday weekend was an old rerun of Beverly Hills 90210 on Soap Net. It wasn't even a particularly great episode -- Brandon and Josh Rifkin run for student-body president and vice-president, almost get taken down by Hispanic Alex (who we know is a Bad Guy because he has menacing facial hair), get a last-minute campaign boost from basketball player D'Shawn and win the election, but Josh dies in a fiery car crash outside the Peach Pit just as the election results come in. (Why is it that in TV shows and movies, every car accident ends in a dramatic fireball? I've seen my share of car wrecks, even some pretty bad ones, and yet I've never seen a car blow up on impact.) Also, Valerie seduces Dylan. Like I said, nowhere near Great Episode status, but I can't help it: I love me some 90210.

Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, Soap Net airs their Beverly Hills reruns at 5:00, so unless I start sneaking out of work early, I won't be catching the rest of Season Five. Which is a shame, because there's lots to love about that first Valerie-filled College Years season. Most of which have to do with Valerie's pot use: it's easy to forget now, but back in the innocent days of the mid-90s, television writers could still brand a character as the Troubled Youth by putting a joint in her hand. And other characters (mostly Brandon) could still be shocked and appalled that their college-aged friends were smoking the drugs. Now we have a show like The O.C., which can't seem to go more than one episode without hordes of nubile teens snorting blow off glass-topped coffee tables like they're enjoying an after-school snack. Ah, innocence, why have you abandoned us?

Season Five is also notable because it features one Ray Pruitt (aka Jamie Walters), moody singer-songwriter and occasional abusive boyfriend, who apparently thought 90210 would be the perfect launching pad for his musical career. And the opening of the Peach Pit After Dark, which, as a nightclub attached to a diner, has to be one of the weirdest business ventures ever. Plus, the show's creators are still trying to pass off Steve Sanders and Andrea as college sophomores despite the fact that Steve's losing his hair in clumps and growing a paunch and Andrea is clearly forty.

Incidentally, I just realized that this season was the midpoint for 90210, even though it feels like the waning years. That show stayed on the air at least two seasons too long. The whole "everyone decides to go to the same college" routine was enough of a stretch, but when they were suddenly out of college and still hanging around together? I may be a sucker for the show, but even I'm not buying that one.

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