DVD Review: 'Beverly Hills, 90210: The Complete First Season'


Something about the two-hour pilot for "Beverly Hills, 90210" just seems so gosh-darned quaint when viewed now, more than 16 years after the show premiered and more than six years after its demise.

Making its long-delayed debut on DVD, it's evident that most of the show's major elements were there from the beginning: Brenda (Shannen Doherty) and Brandon (Jason Priestley) arrived from Minnesota and found themselves plunked down in a foreign land of wealth and privilege. They soon met teen queen Kelly (Jennie Garth), fresh off a successful nose job, Steve (Ian Ziering), a spoiled drunk with a soap star mom, and Andrea (Gabrielle Carteris), the intense Jewish over-achiever who isn't even mentioned on the back of the DVD box. They also encountered geeky freshman David (Brian Austin Green), who would later be transformed into an aspiring heartthrob after his voice changed, he took some summer school courses and he learned how to rap.

But not everything from Tim ("River's Edge") Hunter's pilot stuck around. Check out all of the screentime given to the less privileged teachers at West Beverly High, their sorry cars and their terminally uninteresting romances. Good thing we stopped caring about them. And look at that sorry excuse for Casa Walsh, re-domiciled by the second episode. And the show's true breakout star wasn't even included in the pilot. No, Joe E. Tata's Nat doesn't appear until the third episode. Oh, and Luke Perry's soulful surfer Dylan doesn't pop up until the episode two.

The seminal young adult soap of the '90s, one of the shows that put FOX on the map, evolved during its run and after it served as the launching pad for "Melrose Place," it became increasingly soapy. But for the first season, it was all about Brandon and Brandon tackling all sorts of big issues, sometimes at a rate of three or four per episode. Never has a show been so concerned with public school districting, while other quandaries ranged from underage drinking and fake ideas to teen sexuality and breast cancer to cheating on tests and taking the SATs. Topics that were nearly taboo at the time seem nearly as relevant today, even if the big hair, flashy costumes and antiquated slang provide easy humor (just wait til the seasons when David Silver started to obsess over Color Me Badd). Throw in the thespian stylings of Tori Spelling, John Davis' classic theme music and cameos by then-unknowns Matthew Perry and Djimon Hounsou and there are ample reasons to enjoy.

"Beverly Hills, 90210" holds up well as a guilty-pleasure lark, but the extras on the first season are minimal. The absence of retrospective interviews with any members of the show's cast is glaring, as is the lack of any kind of tribute to executive producer Aaron Spelling. Can you honestly tell me that Ziering, Carteris and Tata had more important things to do than get back together to shoot the breeze?

In the absence of contemporary insight from the stars, viewers are treated to a number of vintage featurettes including the five-minute FOX teaser "90210 Behind the Scenes," which looks to have been shot during that first season. Also giving retro flavor is the "Meet the Class of West Beverly High" section, in which all of the show's young actors answer puffball teen mag-style queries about their own high school experiences and any similarities they might have with their characters. The only new touch is a six-and-a-half-minute interview where creator Darren Star talks about shaping and casting the show, as well as the importance of what they were trying to do.

Star echoes those points on a pair of commentary tracks, one with the first half of the pilot and the other with the season's penultimate episode, "Spring Dance," in which Brenda famously lost her virginity to Dylan.

EXTRAS: "Beginnings with Darren Star" featurette; "Meet the Class of West Beverly High;" "'90210' Behind-the-Scenes" featurette; Commentaries on two episodes by Darren Star.
PRICE: $54.99

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