Episode 8: 902-100
The Series 100th Episode Special Review
By: Carlos Uribe
90210 is a show about wealthy kids who do business and go to college in the zip. Or something.
The series begins with a title card that reveals that this is the 100th episode of the series because the last two digits of the series name are growing big along with an extra zero. It's a way for the series to establish the significance of this episode but it also made it unnecessary to have the opening credits after the first act. The episode ended with the name of the series showing up once again before the production credits begin. By beginning and ending the episode with a special reference to the title of the series calls to attention that the series is going to be doing special for long-time fans. That something special involves going back to West Beverly High School, bringing back old characters, having a special musical star perfom on the show, and reviving Vanessa. The question becomes if the one hundreth episode continues the steak of surprisingly good 90210 episodes or if going back to the high school meant also going back to the frustratingly stupid show of past seasons. The answer is that this episode sadly breaks the streak and brings this show back down to earth. What's even worse is that the episode is actually pretty dull for the most part.
Since this is the one hundreth episode, let's talk about the series as a whole. It started out as a sequel to the original Beverly Hills 90210. The first couple of seasons had characters from the original and it had developed some arcs leftover from the old show. This was to try and get the fans from the original show to check this one out. This sequel eventually got the confidence to stop catering to the old fans and the old characters, along with references to the original, disappeared in the third season. It has since then largely depended on itself to attract viewers and it should come as no surprise that this series is as low-rated as Gossip Girl now. This is because this is the first season of 90210 where the good has actually outweighed the bad. Considering that this is the fifth season of the show, it's simply too little and too late. This escapist show might not have never been that good to begin with but it did trick me into being a loyal viewer. That's all because I decided to check this show out and got hooked when Adrianna's life was in danger due to her drug problem. There's nothing like a decently executed cliff-hanger to ensure that I'll return. Of course, that was all the way back in the first season and this show hasn't really been good enough for me to admit it out loud that I like it. It's a guilty pleasure that I love to hate.
The series was initially developed by Rob Thomas, Gabe Sachs, and Jeff Judah. The version that Rob Thomas developed was actually pretty different than the one that aired. Some of his ideas were still used so he still got credited. Gabe Sachs and Jeff Judah presented a 90210 that was supposed to be more mature and realistic. The best part about their version was Jessica Walters basically reprising her role from Arrested Development. The duo would have major disagreements with the network over the storylines and the series was largely considered unsuccessful. They largely stepped down their roles halfway through the season to transistion over to Rebecca Sinclair. Sinclair was able to improve the show just enough for it to gain a stable fanbase. She's seen as saving the show but it's not like her version was a massive improvement. Patti Carr and Lara Olsen would take over the show starting with the fourth season. This is largely their version that I've been reviewing. They dropped the popular character Teddy and have only recently been presenting a passable show.
The characters themselves have changed. The series started out with a good amount of adults that were slowly phased out of the show as the teenagers matured. The series had started out concentrating on Annie and Dixon before realizing that Naomi was a much stronger protagonist. This worked for the second and third season but became a problem with Patti Carr and Lara Olsen took over. Sinclair had been able to keep Naomi's wealth within a reasonable level and her ability to throw parties was on a human level. In other words, Sinclair was able to keep Naomi grounded. A large problem with Patti Carr and Lara Olsen is that they have turned Naomi into a superhero when it comes to socializing and have given her infinite funds. A large problem with this episode is that Naomi is literally able to do anything without a single problem. She takes over a charity event that's supposed to happen later that day and she manages to change it's location to the Playboy Mansion and get a celebrity to perform there without blinking an eye. The creators have decided that because she had a small career as a party planner that the actual act of throwing together a massive event in less than one day is a cakewalk to Naomi. Their writing has turned Naomi from a human being that I loved in Sinclair 90210 into one that's largely a cartoon I tolerate. The only reason I can stand her is because Max is able to draw out the humanity she has left.
So what happened to Annie and Dixon? Dixon has always been a dull character and that largely hasn't changed. He finds out this episode that his girlfriend had been cheating on him but it's still hard to take his side when he abandoned her to go on a tour. Of course, Dixon simply wasn't handled well in the previous season. He had a drug plot that wasn't executed well (although it's reminder this season was) while his concentration on his career was dull. This season has made him more interesting because of his disability but I'm worried about his immaturity at the end of the episode. I understand wanting to seek revenge on Silver but it's seems unprofessional to use her contract to undermine her professionaly. It made him seem more like a child than the adult that he's supposed to be. As for Annie? It's hard to make a judgy hipocrite likeable and the series hasn't made any strides there. She does seem inspired by Jasper and Emily to write about her past mistakes in a blog. These two duo who were supposed to be the heart and soul of this show ended up being two characters that the series never properly figured out how to consistently use them. Just when it seems like the show seems like it's finally made one of them rootable due to a great plotline, the writers feel the need to remind us why these two simply failed to hold the show together.
Now let's talk about two characters that are completely different from the ones we met: Silver and Teddy. Silver used to be a tomboy rebel who hated popularity and school dances. She managed to remain that character for a while but she started to change. Character development is the entire point of a story but a character should never change their core person. The Silver from the first season looked down on shallow people and was more about depth and personality. The Silver from this season is currently facing a shallow crisis. Her medical fear and wanting to have a child are two plot developments that make sense for Silver. Having her be afraid that her body is going to look due to the pregnancy and surgery? That is something that seems out-of-character from the Silver I first met. It's a pity that while Silver remains one of the best characters on the show, we did lose the rebel character that wasn't hung up on superficiality. The only explanation other than lazy writing is that she's off her bipolar medication again. As for Teddy? His character development has been largely perfect ever since the writers made him gay. He wasn't a popular character when he was first introduced but he would eventually become the best character this show has ever done. That he's been reduced to the occasional guest role remains mystifying. Silver doing the Burlesque dance to show off her body might fit the arc but it doesn't fit the character. Teddy running away from his boyfriend's desire for serious commitment fits the arc and the character.
Liam is another character that has completely changed. He used to be the bad boy of the series. I still remember the scene where he basically called Annie a volcano. In fact, that's usually the first scene I think of when my mind goes to Liam. He was a troublemaker who had trouble communicating his point. He's now a famous model and actor who owns a bar. He is no longer the bad boy nor is he really the Liam from the first season. This is partly because of his character development and maturity but it was partly forced by the writers. If you had never known the Liam from the first season, could you imagine him going to Annie and making fun of her fake smile? That's exactly my point: he's developed into someone who is unrecognizble from his starting self. That's simply bad character development. This can't be blamed on the current showrunners as it started from the beginning of season three. It simply isn't until recently that it's really become apparent to me. It doesn't help that he's become a more superficial person. I'm not sure what it is about this show but it sure likes to take the human characters it started with and turn them into mere shadows of themselves.
The final two main characters that are currently on the show are Navid and Adrianna. Navid has always been the least interesting character from the show. Whereas you can tell what Dixon is going through based on who he's dating, you can tell who Navid currently is based on his dream job. First he wanted to be a journalist and he was in love with Adrianna. He eventually quit that job to run a music video studio out of his father's old porn studio. This is after his father had been arrested. He went on to be a club promoter as his studio magically disappeared. Now it looks like his job is to live at a bar in order to keep an eye on it. As for Adrianna? She was okay at first before becoming intolerable. The show then managed to turn my hatred towards her to apathy. Her plots are often the hardest to actually remember.
There are some other characters that played a role in this episode. There is Emily, a character from the third season who I've completely forgotten about. She literally left no impression. Did the writers actually think we remember her or did they include her because the actress was the only one free? She quickly disappears after bragging about how she's a big deal in the blogging world. Jasper comes back to give Liam his screenplay. Jasper was a character who literally dragged Annie into unlikeable territory. I was really wary about his presence and I was glad when it turned out to be nothing serious. I still don't like him. The other characters who played a role on this episode were introduced this episode outside of Vanessa. Her being in water opens and the closes the episode. In the beginning, Liam dreams about her drowned body. In the end, it's to reveal that she's still alive and probably the crazy person who is trying to frighten Liam. Bringing back old characters is fine for a hundreth episode but it feels like a missing opportunity to mention the main characters who have been dropped over the years. The adult characters, Ethan, and Ivy all come to mind. Catching the viewers up on them, even if they're on-screen, is more rewarding to fans than bringing in a minor and forgettable character from the third season.
902-100 was for the most part dull. There were some interesting developments such as Max's new CEO turning out to be a Benedict Arnold. On the other hand, it seems awfully quick for a CEO that just got hired to fire the visionary who built the company. It's also quite infiurating that every new character on this show who can walk is intrested in immediately scheming and all. Can't the show introduce characters that are normal like it used to? Whatever the case, 902-100 is an episode that breaks the streak this show has been on. I can't say I'm surprised, I'm just disappointed that it had to be this episode.
I seriously thought that Reese character was going to be Lila or Gia until she said her name. This was making no sense since I'm sure neither character had a problem with Naomi but it would have made sense considering how the series had been bringing back old characters.
Speaking about Old Characters: Annie calls Emily “Cousin Emily”-a cheap writing trick to remind viewers that the characters are cousin.
Silver's health problems through the show: she's bipolar, she can't get pregnant on her own, and she has a gene that makes it likely for her to get cancer. I don't think this bodes well for her in the future.