‘90210’ preview: New executive producer Rebecca Kirshner talks up the slumber party
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There’s the election, and then there’s tonight’s new episode of “90210.” (Why you gotta play us that way, CW?) Thank goodness for TiVo.
Because you don’t want to entirely miss Tuesday’s episode, which celebrates two very important things: the reinvention of the classic slumber party episode from the original “Beverly Hills 90210,” and the arrival of executive producer Rebecca Kirshner.
Here’s the gist of what happens: Silver invites a few of her female friends over for a girls’ night, and it immediately turns into a house party. At the same time, Annie and Dixon learn about Harry’s kid from another mother. Naomi’s mother, to be specific.
Meanwhile, Kirshner, who previously worked on critical darlings “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Gilmore Girls,” was brought on less than two months ago to give the teen drama some oomph. She talks for the time time exclusively to us about tonight’s slumber party, fixing Annie, and why she was initially reluctant to take the “90210” job.
Having worked on such well-regarded shows for young people what were your initial impressions of “90210”?
Hmm. I thought that it didn’t yet have a voice. There was a lot of essentially good raw material but it was lacking a particular perspective that defines the sort of TV that I personally really like. I thought it could be funnier.
What do you mean by “good raw material”?
The class conflict is interesting to me. I like the idea of a family from the Midwest, who have Midwestern values, supposedly, moving into this bastion of money and Hollywood and sort of ‘liberal elitism’ for what it’s worth and how they assimilate or don’t. How they influence the people around them or don’t. I think in some ways the early episodes moved past that premise and we’re trying to discover how it’s still relevant.
But I really hadn’t wanted to write about rich people. Right before I took this job, I was going around town talking about how I thought the economy was in crisis and proselytizing about Norman Lear dramas. So it’s kind of ironic that I’m here. But something about the challenge of helping a show that had such potential fulfill that was an exciting proposition for me.
When you were asked you to come aboard mid-way, what persuaded you? Were you a fan of the original “Beverly Hills 90210”?
Growing up, I wasn’t allowed to watch much TV, so I wasn’t an avid watcher. The kids on the show were my age, so it was in my peripheral vision. I did wear the same dress that Brenda and Kelly both wore to their prom to my own. The show was very much part of the cultural zeitgeist.
As for what persuaded me, the shows that I’ve worked on and learned from were so great because they had such a strong voice. I thought why not throw my voice in and see if it could help make ‘90210’ sing. Something about it made me want to roll up my sleeves. There were good writers working on the show. I just thought that the show had been so rushed into production that it hadn’t had time to find its voice.
I write from the perspective of the characters and their emotions and I thought I could offer some of that skill to make these characters into real people.
What can you tell us about Annie? I feel like I still don’t know what she’s all about.
We’ve been thinking about her a lot. It’s always tricky to be the central person in any show or narrative, because “the hero” is often surrounded by these colorful characters, so it’s hard. But one thing we’ve been talking about making her a real teenage kid. One with struggles. One who doesn’t always get what she wants. I think the way you grow up is by not getting what you want and then trying to get it and failing sometimes. Life for Annie has been breezy since moving to Beverly Hills. She’s only had a bit of romantic drama.
So things are going to get tougher for her. She’s had a good streak but there will be more challenges coming that will help define her.
What about Naomi? The publicity for the show propped her up as the show’s “bad girl,” but all we’ve seen her do is cry.
There will be more ‘bitch’ in her future, I can tell you that. We all love that type of character: the Queen B, the unleashed female. So we’re going to bring that out of her, definitely.
Tonight’s episode re-imagines the infamous slumber party episode. Even though you didn’t write the episode, this was your first on the job. What kind of guidance were you able give the writers?
The original ‘Beverly Hills 90210’ episode is quite classic and very, very sweet, but slumber parties are timeless. I thought it was a good idea. What I tried to do was encourage more humor. That was my first mandate for the show, in general. Humor and drama go together. In a slumber party, you go from hilarity to tears and back to giddiness in an hour and that’s sort of what life is like. On TV in general, they sort of divide drama from comedy. I try and find the interplay between the two, and I think this episode is a pretty good reflection of that.
Any particular stories you want to tell?
Right now, I really want to tell a pregnancy story where abortion is mentioned as a valid option. We’ll see. It’s not something I want to back down on.
I also want to do a fun episode that’s all dreams. The original series had a lot of dream-based episodes. I’d like to do an episode where we’re in the interconnected dreams of various characters. I want to write that one, too.
What is your goal moving forward?
Trying to find what a show is when it’s not one singular creator saying what it is. It’s difficult because there’s also the original series, the ghost, and the feeling of having to live up to something. Instead of Joss Whedon saying this is who ‘Buffy’ is, there’s a lot of input here. I’m trying to be the person that channels it all and finds the commonality between the team and to use my gut instincts.
What we’re finding together is that ‘90210’ is both grounded and a character-driven show. Unlike ‘Gossip Girl,’ it’s not so arch, not so Evelyn Waugh or Noel Coward. ‘90210’ is an opportunity to talk about teen issues. Real-world stuff told in whatever fun way. I want the real world to inform this show. I want to be an advocate for the characters and finding their reality.
-- Denise Martin
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