Beverly Hills, 90201 gets a sexy update.The lives of the rich and over-privileged have always fascinated us, especially when we find out they're just as screwed up as the rest of us. It's what made the original Beverly Hills, 90210 such soapy, addictive fun, and appointment TV in the '90s. This fall, the CW is hoping lightning will strike twice with its new version of the series, a spinoff featuring a new cast but following a familiar new-family-in-town formula– with a few familiar faces.
Jennie Garth will reprise her role as Kelly Taylor, now a guidance counselor at her high school alma mater. Shannen Doherty will recur as the director of the school musical, and although negotiations broke down with Tori Spelling, producers hope she and other original cast members will agree to appear on the show later in the season. Joe E. Tata will be back as the owner of the Peach Pit, now a hip hangout and music venue called the Pit.
Meanwhile, buzz is has been intensifying about the new cast members, a uniformly beautiful bunch, ever since the show's pickup was announced in May. Among them are several viewers will recognize from other shows, including Rob Estes (Melrose Place) and Lori Loughlin (Summerland) as Harry and Debbie Wilson. Newly hired as the principal at West Beverly High, Wilson moved his family from Kansas City back to his old neighborhood and into the mansion owned by his mom, a fading, alcoholic actress (Arrested Development's Jessica Walter). According to Estes, these parents will have a lot more to do– and show– than the peripheral Jim and Carol Walsh did in the original series
"It's much more of a marriage today, a relationship today," Estes says. "It's an adult, hot, sexy, good marriage." And that translates to lusty love scenes. "They're on the kitchen table," he says. Loughlin agrees that the show will push the envelope in terms of storytelling. "At first I had real reservations because I'm a fan of family-type TV, but I realized it was going to show what was actually going on, and it's a good opportunity for parents to get some insight about what's happening with their kids."
While the Wilson kids– wide-eyed newbies Annie (Shenae Grimes) and her adopted brother Dixon (Tristan Wilds)– are the innocents abroad, at least at first, expect lots of life-in the-fast-lane behavior from other members of the junior set.
AnnaLynne McCord plays high school hottie Naomi, a slightly dialed-down for broadcast TV version of her character, Eden, on FX's sexy Nip/Tuck. "I'm still the bitch, definitely the Queen Bee," she says. Naomi "has to manipulate. Everything has to be her way in order for her to survive. Her parents throw money at her but they don't give her the love and attention that she needs so she acts out. She's very intelligent but she plays a little dumb sometimes because she tries to fit in." She's involved with handsome jock Ethan (Dustin Milligan), "the guy you see Naomi be herself with. It's her first love. You see her heart– you can see the little girl Ethan loves. But you have to label her something, and when you first watch it you're going to be like, 'Bitch!'"
On the faculty side, there's a crush-worthy new teacher, Ryan Matthews, played by Ryan Eggold, last seen as reporter Faber on FX's Dirt. "He's not from Beverly Hills, but he's from a similar kind of town on the east coast," says Eggold. "He's just out of college and comes from a very moneyed background. He got completely into drugs and now he's turned himself around and wants to show these kids that there's a bigger world out there, outside of Beverly Hills."
Ryan will be the object of affection for both an older and younger woman– Garth's Kelly Taylor and a student played by Jessica Lowndes. "She comes to me for support because she thinks I'm the only one who understands her. I try to keep it professional at first," he says, not sure where the relationship will go.
Also figuring in the 90210 mix are the characters Silver (Jessica Stroup), a blogger whose relationship to the original show's David Silver will be revealed early on, and Navid (Michael Steger), who runs the high school news department. With these two around, no secrets will stay hidden for long.
Of course, Beverly Hills itself is a main character, with real restaurants, stores and other recognizable locations setting the scene. And while it will take more than eye candy to keep viewers glued, producer Jeff Judah believes 90210 has that covered. "It's grounded with real emotional stories," he says, explaining why he thinks Middle America will be able to relate to Platinum-card holding, Maserati-driving California teens. "On an emotional level, they suffer the same way that every one of us do," he notes. "They're struggling to sort of get through the day."