May 14, 2013



To say that in its fifth and final season 90210 was running on fumes would be to disparage fumes.  The show, after a very bumpy start in which it ran through several developers and showrunners and tried far too hard to stoke memories of its Beverly Hills, 90210 forebear, settled in for a moderately entertaining run, much of it through AnnaLynne McCord’s knack for screwball comedy and the shift of her character Naomi from high school bitch to the show’s center.  The series managed the characters’ transition out of their teen years fairly smoothly, although it never made more than a token stab at depicting college years before having everyone move on to the usual universe of adult soap storylines.

By this season, though, as the ratings sank ever lower, the show started grasping at narrative straws.  Not that 90210‘s plotting had ever been more than a grab-bag of contrivances in the first place, but since after 4 seasons just about every major character had already slept with every other major character (often in more than one story arc), we were subjected to such developments as the break-up of Naomi’s marriage to computer tycoon Max (Josh Zuckerman)–a marriage that had never made much sense to begin with, and which was sabotaged by Max’s turned-out-to-be-gay best friend.  Then there was the previously unknown chef half-brother to Naomi and Annie (Shenae Grimes), whom all the female characters who weren’t his blood relatives lusted after and who promptly disappeared.  Plus Naomi’s adopted brother–as opposed to her half-brother–Dixon’s (Tristan Wilds) psychosomatic inability to walk, followed by Annie’s romance with Dixon’s wheelchair-bound friend, followed by said friend’s death on the operating table.  Silver (Jessica Stroup) discovered she had the genetic marker for cervical cancer, and wanted to get pregnant with the sperm of her gay best friend Teddy (Trevor Donovan), but while he agreed to supply the sperm, he wouldn’t let her physically carry the baby, forcing her to retain an unreliable surrogate who really wanted to be a singer.  Thinking of singers, sometime-star Adrianna (Jessica Lowndes) spent the season in or out of love with Dixon, Navid (Michael Steger) and several others.  Let’s not forget Liam (Matt Lanter) and the two ladies in his life, one a con woman who stole all his money, and the other a psychotic stalker who kept him imprisoned in a box.  And of course there was the hullabaloo about Annie’s blog, which became a 50 Shades of Gray-clone book about her own past as a part-time prostitute, causing complications for just about everyone.

It was all too, too desperate.

The final episode, written by Executive Producer Lara Olsen and directed by Harry Sinclair, mostly doled out happy endings.  The big rom-com climax went to Annie, who got to have Liam ride onto a runway on his motorcycle to stop her and propose before a private jet could take her to Paris for the rest of her life.  So, awwwww.  Naomi foiled her latest beau’s (Robbie Jones) conniving mother (Robin Givens) and had at least a temporary happily-ever-after with him.  Navid and Adrianna were reunited after a theater collapsed on her and he came to the rescue (no serious injuries for either), supposedly for the rest of their lives.  Nothing very much happened to Dixon, but he seemed to be in a good place.  The one conspicuous exception to the good tidings was poor Silver, who not only had to endure her surrogate’s miscarriage last week, but found out that she really did have cancer.  The closest she came to a positive spin was the decision not to commit suicide before the episode was over, and also to have major surgery.  (“Irony” is the wrong word here, but it was startling to have this storyline play out just a few hours before the news broke about Angelina Jolie undergoing a double mastectomy for the same reasons that the show depicted.)

It’s doubtful that many will remember 90210 with the same nostalgia as some did the Darren Star original.  CW’s version was a pale copy that improved to still be little more than a standard teen soap, with less nuance or imagination than the best in its genre.  It’s hard to tell if any of the cast is likely to go on after this to much of a career–none of them has broken out during the hiatuses these past 5 years–although Stroup showed flashes of strength when the scripts allowed it, and there’s no doubt McCord, the standout member of the cast, will get TV starring offers.  It was past time for this 90210 to go, but networks and producers are never loath to dig up the dead for future profit, so it may not be gone for good.  Next time around, its title will probably refer to a URL instead of a zip code.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."