'Beverly Hills, 90210: Behind Closed Doors': How the '90s show changed teen drama on television forever

With its characters and unique storylines, 'Beverly Hills, 90210' gave young adults a series that told their stories


                            'Beverly Hills, 90210: Behind Closed Doors': How the '90s show changed teen drama on television forever
(Fox)

This October, it will be 30 years since 'Beverly Hills, 90210' first debuted on television. The network, Fox, was in its early days back then and a new Reelz special, 'Beverly Hills, 90210: Behind Closed Doors' gives us many inside details and dives deep into how the network's fledgling position shaped much of what the show became.

'Beverly Hills, 90210' ran from 1990 to 2000, with the spin-off '90210' running from 2008 to 2013. Last year, fans were also gifted with a fictionalized revival, 'BH90210', which starred much of the original cast. It's clear that the '90s teen drama is still quite enduring. And there's a good reason for that. 'Beverly Hills, 90210' changed teen drama on television. With its characters and unique storylines, 'Beverly Hills, 90210' finally gave young adults a series that they could relate to and highlighted many issues including teenage pregnancy, drugs, alcohol abuse and AIDS.

Interestingly, the show could also be credited with leading the rise of reality TV genre, which is highly popular today featuring stars such as Kim Kardashian, Teresa Guidice and Spencer Pratt. Curious as to how that could be?

When 'Beverly Hills, 90210' became popular, other networks tried to replicate the success. One such network was MTV, which did not have the money to hire real actors. Instead, they decided to make an unscripted show called 'The Real World'. This show paved the way for later reality television shows to become what they are today. However, when the show first debuted in October 1990, this was not the case. The series opened to low ratings and lackluster reviews, and for a long time, the cast and crew were waiting for a potential cancelation. The only reason it stayed on was that the network could not afford to replace it with another show.

'Beverly Hills, 90210' (Fox)

However, it was the oddest of events that led to the popularity of 'Beverly Hills, 90210' — the first Gulf War. When the war broke out in 1991, almost all networks focused on covering the war. However, Fox kept airing new episodes of 'Beverly Hills, 90210', even in the summer, which was unheard of. This paid off and many viewers, exhausted with the continuous war coverage, began tuning into Fox to escape the news. They told their friends and the cycle continued until the show exploded in popularity.

What kept 'Beverly Hills, 90210' relevant was the way it tackled serious issues. When Brenda Walsh (Shannen Doherty) and Dylan McKay (Luke Perry) had sex for the very first time, they showed Brenda as remorseful. Advertisers and station managers did not like it and led to a lot of fallout, including the writers deciding to break Brenda and Dylan up. Today, it's unimaginable for teenage sex to create much uproar, but 'Beverly Hills, 90210', in many ways was a pioneer in television.

There is a lot more inside information in the Reelz special. For longtime fans of the show, it will be a memorable visit to the old times. We also get to know more about what happened with respect to Doherty's departure. We also see a tearful Luke Perry speak about Jason Priestley's accident at the Kentucky Speedway in 2002. The special does not ignore the reboot or revival either and delves into how '90210' brought back original cast members. Producer Chuck Rosin and writer Karen Rosin also spoke fondly about the 2019 revival. 

For many, 'Beverly Hills, 90210' was a show that reflected their childhood and their teenage years. Even for the generations after, the show represents much of what their favorite television shows are today. A lot of our favorite shows, including 'Gossip Girl', 'Riverdale' and more owe a lot to 'Beverly Hills, 90210', and the Reelz special does great justice in bringing that out.

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