Well before “The O.C.,” “Dawson’s Creek” and any number of other prime-time teen soap operas, there was the show that inspired them all: “Beverly Hills, 90210,” created by Aaron Spelling and Darren Star, the writer who went on to “Sex and the City” fame. The teen drama aired on Fox from 1990 to 2000 -- nearly 300 episodes in all. Never mind that the cast member who went on to the greatest post-"90210" success appeared in just 16 episodes: Hilary Swank, who played single mom Carly Reynolds, has since won two Academy Awards. The others, TV’s royalty in their day, have had decidedly mixed career results. But with the premiere of Luke Perry’s NBC drama “Windfall,” and the recent success of Tori Spelling’s VH1 sitcom, “So NoTORIous,” it’s clear that in Hollywood, anything is possible where comebacks are concerned.
Actor: Jason Priestley (Brandon)
Who Were They?: The good egg. Brandon Walsh and his family moved to town from the Twin Cities, and being new in town, it wasn’t easy to fit in at this swanky ZIP Code. Once he did, though, Brandon served as rock, glue and general go-to guy in times of crisis. Priestley directed several episodes and became an executive producer of the show.
Post-'90210' Peak: 1997’s poignant “Love and Death on Long Island,” an indie film costarring John Hurt.
Post-'90210' Nadir: In 2002, the avid car racer barely survived a crash into a wall at nearly 180 mph during a warmup lap at the Kentucky Speedway. He was left with a severe concussion, broken back, fractured feet, lacerated nose and bruised eye socket, and underwent reconstructive surgery. It took him three months to learn how to speak again.
Where Are They Now?: Priestley, 36, has appeared on a number of TV shows, including “Tru Calling,” “Without a Trace” and the short-lived “Love Monkey"; now he’s filming the Canadian miniseries “Everest ’82,” due out next year. Married (for the second time) in 2005.
The outlook: “As an actor, you never assume that you are going to obtain that type of stardom. You never have the audacity to think you are going to be the flavor of the month. So when it happens, it is confusing, it is scary, it is shocking, but it also in a way validates what you’ve been doing as an actor. So you grow to appreciate it, enjoy it. It can be a strange experience.”
Career Trajectory: Slow but steady
Actor: Shannen Doherty (Brenda)
Who Were They?: Brandon’s troubled, bratty twin sister. Had a tumultuous on-and-off romance with Dylan, her brother’s best friend. (She never recovered after their breakup.) Doherty’s reportedly diva-like behavior on the set led to an acrimonious departure from the show in 1994.
Post-'90210' Peak: Starred for three seasons as Prue Halliwell in Aaron Spelling’s supernatural WB drama, “Charmed.”
Post-'90210' Nadir: Sentenced to anger-management counseling by the Beverly Hills Municipal Court in 1996; convicted of drunk driving in 2001; married for about six months to actor Ashley (son of George) Hamilton; married for five minutes (annulled) to producer Rick Salomon (costar of the Paris Hilton sex tape).
The outlook: Where Are They Now?: Doherty, 35, is reportedly heading to Oxygen network to star in a reality show about toxic relationships. Couldn’t get a better expert. “Whenever I get frustrated, I tell myself, ‘OK, you could be working at a 7-Eleven right now, so never take for granted what you do for a living.’ ”
Career Trajectory: Still twitching
Actor: Luke Perry (Dylan)
Who Were They?: The bad boy. Dylan was disaffected, always cool and ever mysterious. He also got the most contrived send-off of any character, marrying the daughter of a mobster who had ordered a hit on his father. Eventually, a hit was ordered on Dylan, but the daughter was killed instead, leaving Dylan devastated and prompting him to leave town.
Post-'90210' Peak: Possibly “Windfall,” though too soon to tell; otherwise choices are slim, but we’d make it a tie between the reticent gay bird-watcher he played in a “Will & Grace” appearance, and the Krusty the Clown sidekick he played on a “Simpsons” guest spot.
Post-'90210' Nadir: Appearing in a 2004 stage version of “When Harry Met Sally ... " in London, promptly eviscerated by tough and nasty Brit critics.
Where Are They Now?: Perry, 40, is starring in NBC’s “Windfall,” which premieres Thursday and has been granted the network’s vaunted 10 p.m. “ER” slot through the summer. The drama follows a group of friends who pool their money and win a record $386-million lottery jackpot. Complications, resentments and rifts inevitably follow.
The outlook: “You know, some actors aren’t very gracious; I’m always trying to be gracious and act with a lot of tact.... You’ll never catch me throwing a phone.”
Career Trajectory: Climbing fast ... but from subterranean depths
Actor: Jennie Garth (Kelly)
Who Were They?: Spoiled but sweet party girl, caught in a love triangle between Brandon and Dylan. Kelly endured her share of suffering: popping diet pills, cocaine abuse and barely surviving both a fire and a cult. She was also raped (twice), had an alcoholic mother and a mostly absent father.
Post-'90210' Peak: Costarring with Amanda Bynes in the soon-to-be-defunct comedy “What I Like About You” on the soon-to-be-defunct WB network.
Post-'90210' Nadir:Tie: “Celebrity Poker Showdown” and “Beverly Hills 90210: The 10-Year High School Reunion.”
Where Are They Now?: Garth, 34, was married for the second time in 2001; mother of two daughters.
The outlook: “I wouldn’t be caught dead in Beverly Hills! I love the Valley -- it’s so normal.”
Career Trajectory: In danger of flat-lining
Actor: Tori Spelling (Donna)
Who Were They?: The shy virgin. Donna was a materialistic, spoiled clotheshorse, but her reticence and awkwardness made her likable. Her relationship with David came in fits and starts (he cheated on her), but ultimately they committed to each other.
Post-'90210' Peak: With her new, critically acclaimed VH1 comedy, in which she plays a fictionalized version of herself, Tori is back with a vengeance.
Post-'90210' Nadir: Her entire post-"90210" television movie career.
Where Are They Now?: Spelling is 33. “So NoTORIous” is reality show and smart satire rolled into one: an inside look at what it’s like to be the daughter of the most successful TV producer of all time. With the ink barely dry on her first marriage certificate, Spelling’s divorce from writer-actor Charlie Shanian went through in April, and she married Dean McDermott in May.
The outlook: “I’m really excited to get a pink snowboard. You still have to look cute. I only do sports when I can look cute.”
Career Trajectory: Skyrocketing
Actor: Ian Ziering (Steve)
Who Were They?: Corvette-driving jock and ladies’ man. This rich kid eventually settled down, buying and running his own newspaper, marrying, becoming a father and taking on diaper duty.
Post-'90210' Peak: None
Post-'90210' Nadir: None
Where Are They Now?: Ziering, 42, appeared with buddy Brian Austin Green in 2005’s “Domino,” directed by Tony Scott and starring Keira Knightley. Divorced former Playboy Playmate Nikki Schieler after five years of marriage.
The outlook: “I’ve got a few things in the fire. Nothing really that I’d like to discuss as of yet. Until they come to fruition, I don’t want to jinx myself. It’s just, you know, if slow and steady wins the race, I still feel like I’ve got legs for a long career in front of me.”
Career Trajectory: Career?
Actor: Brian Austin Green (David)
Who Were They?: Came from a broken home and always strove to be the coolest kid in the crowd. David was an avid rapper and DJ. He fancied Kelly, until she became his stepsister; dealt with drug and alcohol issues and, like his mother, was diagnosed as manic-depressive. In the final episode, David married Donna.
Post-'90210' Peak: Costarred with Freddie Prinze Jr. in the just-canceled ABC sitcom “Freddie.”
Post-'90210' Nadir: None
Where Are They Now?:
Green, 33, is single and has a son named Kassius.
The outlook: “It’s hard getting in the room with casting people and the directors. It’s a battle, and it could be for a long time. I knew when the show ended that it was going to be something difficult. You know, I’ve been acting since I was 9. It was difficult getting jobs before ‘90210.’ If I work hard enough, then I’ll get a job. If I don’t, or if I’m not right for the part, then I won’t.”
Career Trajectory: Down but not out
Actor: Tiffani Thiessen (Valerie)
Who Were They?: Had a fair number of notches on her bedpost, as it were. After the departure of Brenda, pot-smoking Valerie lived with the Walshes and was the new scheming diva in town.
Post-'90210' Peak: Appeared in the mediocre 2002 comedy “Hollywood Ending” -- but, still, it’s Woody Allen.
Post-'90210' Nadir: Appeared in the 2000 comedy clunker “The Ladies Man,” starring “SNL” alum Tim Meadows.
Where Are They Now?: Thiessen, 32, has her own production company, Tit4Tat. Married to actor Brady Smith.
The outlook: “I’m a very free spirit; there are two sides to me, completely. If I could take you into my closet, you’d go, ‘Yep, you’re right.’ It’s split right down the middle. I have just as many sweatshirts as I have sweaters. I have just as many jeans as I have black pants.”
Career Trajectory: In its death throes