Before "The O.C.", there was "Beverly Hills, 90210", which launched in 1990 to almost instant success, turning its actors into stars overnight. The series ended its run in 2000 and, since then, "90210" has been one of the most requested shows in terms of shows that hadn't been released yet on DVD.
The series was often focused on twins Brenda (Shannen Doherty) and Brandon Walsh (Jason Priestley), two teens (who looked like they were in their 20's), who found themselves in Beverly Hills when their parents, Jim and Cindy (James Eckhouse and Carol Potter), moved the family from Minneapolis to Beverly...Hills, that is.
The series quickly introduced and integrated Brendon and Brenda's set of friends, including troubled rich girl Kelly Taylor (Jennie Garth), David Silver (Brian Austin Green), smart outsider Andrea Zuckerman (Gabrielle Carteris), Donna Martin (Tori Spelling, whose character was, according to the commentary track, not originally planned to be a main character), rebel Dylan McKay (Luke Perry) and Kelly's ex-boyfriend, Steve Sanders (Ian Ziering).
The show focused on the group as they faced their ups-and-downs, including teen issues like alcoholism, dating, grades, drugs, rape and more. However, while the series was a fairly easygoing mix of light drama and after school special-style lessons early on as the Walshes learned more about their new surroundings and made new friends, by season 9, the series had evolved into more of a soap opera (as the back cover of the set announces, it's "The Most Shocking Season Yet!" (one can almost hear the ominous drums.)
In all seriousness, while the series does amp up the drama in ways, meanwhile it also certainly shows signs of winding down, especially with the departure of Priestley, who exits stage left after the 5th episode of this season, in the superbly titled ... "Brandon Leaves" (Brandon heads off to Washington for a new career) and the fact that some of the storylines start to feel overly soapy and/or rather recycled by this point.
While the series could have quit while it was ahead a couple of seasons prior, the show's producers made the choice to head for an even 10 seasons, and the results aren't bad. While the ratings for the series had fallen significantly since the early seasons (the show was ranked about half of what it was during the peak of its popularity), viewers still had a soft spot in their hearts for the characters, with a massive audience tuning in for the series finale after it became evident that the series was going to be cancelled. While I've never been concerned much with fashion, it's still amusing to watch the series to see some of the loud fashions on display, which really don't seem to evolve a great deal throughout the show's 10 seasons.
The 10th round of episodes sees the series trying to pull it together for one more round, with Brandon gone and the writers going to extremes - or heaping problems on poor Donna - as the series winds to a close. It's not an easy season for any of the characters, especially Donna, who gets arrested for drugs that aren't hers, is mistaken for a hooker and the designer of her new business tries to sabotage it. Steve also finds himself unexpectedly becoming a parent, and while the initial moments are a bit clumsily handled, the character does develop a nice arc over the course of the season as he grows into his role as father. Garth's performance as Kelly is also one of the show's positives - the actress capably portrayed going from the popular girl in school to an adult who had to face a horrific crisis - the season opens with the aftermath of her killing her rapist. Garth's performance may not be Oscar-worthy, but it's certainly moving and emotional.
While the newcomers to the series really never caught on as well as the initial cast did, Vanessa Marcil makes for an enjoyable troublemaker as Gina, who causes problems for Dylan and Donna this season. As for Donna (who already gets dumped on quite a bit this season), she finds out that she's closer to Gina than she could have ever realized when a secret about her family comes out into the open. The connection between Gina and Donna is the stuff of soap operas, but it makes for an enjoyably over-the-top plot thread. Some of the other new characters - Matt (Daniel Cosgrove) and Noah (Vincent Young)'s self-destructive problems never really lift off too far beyond "Movie of the Week" territory. Meanwhile, while one half expects him to point and go, "Heeeeyyyyy", Perry actually does provide a heartfelt performance during the episodes that have him tracking down his long-lost father.
Again, while the newcomers never entirely made their mark, the core performers who remain still offer enjoyable performances, and have first-rate chemistry with one another - especially Perry and Garth. Overall, some of the stories at this point are a bit tired or ridiculous - and the series is certainly past its prime - the core of the series that made it work well still shines through at times during this last run (and given that the cast probably knew it was the last run, maybe they gave it that extra push.) The show's finale - which certainly brought back the fans who had begun to tune out - also does a pretty nice job of wrapping up loose ends, including Donna and David's relationship.
While the look of the show has become dated, the performances still remain enjoyable after all these years, as it's obvious that the series was cast superbly, both in terms of its leads and in terms of its supporting/one-episode players. The story lines start to go overboard by this point, but the actors handle this sort of soap opera material well.
269 10-01 08/Sep/99 The Phantom Menace
- Kelly is arrested for killing her rapist.
270 10-02 15/Sep/99 Let's Eat Cake
- Steve is not pleased by news from Janet, while Gina tries to sabotage the gang's surprise party for David.
271 10-03 22/Sep/99 You Better Work
- Kelly and Donna prep for a fashion show, while Gina is up to no good. Meanwhile, Dylan gets bad news about his college plans.
272 10-04 29/Sep/99 A Fine Mess
- Steve proposes to Janet, while Dylan asks Gina to move out.
273 10-05 20/Oct/99 The Loo-Ouch
- Gina and Noah turn the After Dark into a strip club, while Steve and Janet's parents are displeased about what they find out.
274 10-06 27/Oct/99 '80s Night
- Donna is mistaken for a hooker after she accidentally wanders into the gentlemen's club right before it's raided.
275 10-07 03/Nov/99 Laying Pipe
276 10-08 10/Nov/99 Baby You Can Drive My Car
- Kelly blames Noah for Jackie and Mel's breakout, while Janet and Steve lead the gang on a hunt for their wedding venue.
277 10-09 17/Nov/99 Family Tree
- David doesn't believe Kelly when she finds out that Gina blackmailed Mel about cheating. Elsewhere, Steve and Janet's honeymoon takes a rocky turn and Donna discovers that Gina might be her sister.
278 10-10 17/Nov/99 What's in a Name?
- Part 2 of "Family Tree"
279 10-11 15/Dec/99 Sibling Revelry
- Gina turns to Dylan for comfort after learning about her family tree.
280 10-12 22/Dec/99 Nine Yolks Whipped Lightly
- Steve confronts Janet's parents about their negative attitude towards them. Matt proposes to Kelly without knowing that Dylan still has feelings for her.
281 10-13 12/Jan/00 Tainted Love
- Dylan grows uneasy about his god-parenting responsibilities with Kelly..
282 10-14 19/Jan/00 I'm Using You 'Cause I Like You
- Dylan's anger takes a turn for the worse when he and Donna are arrested after Josie's drug stash is found and Steve realizes he and the new babysitter have a history.
283 10-15 26/Jan/00 Fertile Ground
- A visit from Matt's brother triggers Kelly's disapproval. Noah is kidnapped to get a ransom from Dylan.
284 10-16 09/Feb/00 The Final Proof
- While trying to deliver the ransom, Dylan is ambushed by Josie and Shane.
285 10-17 16/Feb/00 Doc Martin
- Gina leaves LA, while Dylan tries to explore his chances with Kelly.
286 10-18 01/Mar/00 Eddie Waitkus
- After seeing a news report, Dylan is convinced that his father is alive.
287 10-19 08/Mar/00 I Will Be Your Father Figure
- Matt, Kelly and Dylan track down Dylan's father in Arizona.
288 10-20 15/Mar/00 Ever Hear the One About the Exploding Father?
- Dylan tries to decide whether or not to let his father back in his life.
289 10-21 22/Mar/00 Spring Fever
- Matt unknowingly takes acid and sleeps with a desert raver on a dirt biking trip with Dylan. Steve lets fame go to his head and Noah meets a fellow AA members.
290 10-22 05/Apr/00 The Easter Bunny
- Matt grows heavy with guilt over his one-night stand.
291 10-23 19/Apr/00 And Don't Forget to Give Me Back My Black T-Shirt
- After being found intoxicated in Ellen's car, Noah convinces her to return to AA. Steve invests in Donna's website after Janet says no - just before the website designer tries to sabotage Donna's big night.
292 10-24 26/Apr/00 Love Is Blind
-Kelly and Matt set a wedding date, and Dylan's lavish gift angers them both.
293 10-25 10/May/00 I'm Happy for You...Really
- Camille returns after vacation in hopes of patching things up with David.
294 10-26 10/May/00 The Final Goodbye
- Cast members look back on the series.
295 10-27 17/May/00 The Penultimate
296 10-28 17/May/00 Ode to Joy
- Series finale.
VIDEO: "Beverly Hills 90210" is presented by Paramount in 1.33:1 full-frame, the show's original aspect ratio. The presentation quality is satisfactory and the last few seasons do look better than the prior season sets, but there are still some concerns of note. Sharpness and detail aren't terrific; the picture looks a tad crisper than earlier seasons, but the image still has a moderately soft feel.
On a positive note, the presentations appear cleaner and smoother - while a few instances of shimmering and wear are spotted at times, the picture has a fresher, cleaner appearance. Colors also look a touch warmer and richer in comparison to earlier seasons.
SOUND: The stereo soundtrack offered crisp, clear dialogue. Keep in mind that music has been changed for this DVD release, almost certainly due to expensive rights issues.
EXTRAS: "The Final Goodbye" retrospective episode is included, but one can debate that this episode should be included either way. Still, it's nice to have the episode, where the cast looks back (complete with behind-the-scenes footage) on a series that had really become such a household name. It is too bad that no commentaries from the actors or other material could have been pulled together for this last set of the show.
Final Thoughts: While the show had certainly begun to run out of steam at this point, aspects of the show - fine performances from the core cast, a handful of engaging stories - do shine through at times throughout this 10th and final round of episodes. The DVD set offers fine audio/video quality, but not much in the way of supplements. Recommended for fans.