Familiarity, despite a cliché stipulating the contrary, does not breed contempt.
Nearly two decades after bidding us goodbye, the original “Beverly Hills, 90210” is returning to TV, rebranded as the acronymically enhanced, flashy sounding “BH90210,” the latest small-screen title to get the reboot treatment.
Reboots, of course, are as prevalent in Hollywood as flash bulbs on a red carpet, but this one feels different, doesn’t it? Save for a “Friends” reunion, there’s probably no series that could come back that would entice, enchant and intrigue its rabid fans more. “90210” has the distinction of speaking for an entire demographic of people who came of age in the ‘90s — collectively known as Generation X — so unearthing this beloved show at a moment when its passionate fan base crosses into its 40s and 50s is a no-brainer.
True, there is a risk that “BH90210” will fail and its plot is cloaked in secrecy — we’re told only that it will be a show where the actors play “heightened versions” of themselves (as well as portray the characters we've all come to know and love). That type of meta approach has worked wonders for the likes of Larry David, but it could be a way to mess with the formula we expect to see. Ian Ziering will play … Ian Ziering? That's about as odd as the Peach Pit serving Chinese food.
Whether or not this kind of tongue-in-cheek approach works isn't necessarily the point, though. The mere thought that the cast is getting back together on "90210" turf is a soothing thought. Even if you think the premise is foolish, you’ll tune in just to see for yourself and return, even if only for a brief time, to your ‘90s self. There’s credit to be given for at least thinking outside of the box.
There’s also the obvious: Fans are still reeling over the unexpected death of Luke Perry and the biggest question mark will be how the show will handle that. His impact on '90s culture and Generation X cannot be underestimated. Seeing the old gang under the "90210" umbrella will be cathartic on the surface, but how will his death be addressed? Will the Dylan character or Perry himself be referenced? Will either somehow play a part in any storyline? There are lots of questions. It should be noted that this project was announced before Perry died in March; his death merely amplifies our interest.
I’d posit that there’s more to it than that, though. Research has indicated that watching nostalgic TV has psychological benefits and right now the people who grew up watching “90210” could use some good cheer. We’re getting older. The country is as divided as it’s been during any time we can remember. We’re immersed in our own lives and, even in the streaming era, we don’t have much time to invest in shows, so we welcome seeing something new created out of something old. Yes, we long for the familiar.
There’s just something powerful about going back to what we know that is seductive, an escape from the stress of today to the memory of yesterday, made with a modern spin. If we can again feel like the youngsters we once were, then let’s do it. Let our kids roll their eyes while we hum along to the theme, declare "I choose me" or chant "Donna Martin graduates!" Fox wants a ratings grab, while viewers want to be reminded of yesteryear. It's the most ideal marriage since David and Donna tied the knot.
The very reasons Perry’s death shocked and saddened us parallel why we need “90210” more than ever: It’s a reminder that we are no longer young, but this new show gives us the opportunity to feel that way once again.
"BH90210" may not work, but it’s definitely worth the gamble. In a pre-social media world, it was common not to know what happened to people from our past. Well, our friends from the country's poshest zip code are coming back and we’re going to find out what’s happened to them. Sometimes, it’s best to leave the past in the past, but for a legion of Gen Xers who tuned in for a decade, it’s best for the past to rear its head all over again.