DONNA J. PLESH
YOUNG AND NAUGHTY...AGAIN!
Remember these names. They'll be in the teen magazines this fall: Shenae Grimes, left; AnnaLynne McCord, center; Jessica Stroup, right. They're all in the new spinoff series called "90210."
This is JoAnna Garcia
The CW network sticks
to a tried and true formula
By DONNA J. PLESH
The key to succeeding in any endeavor is finding a winning formula and sticking to it. By and large, The CW broadcast network and its predecessors--The WB and UPN, which merged a year ago to create The CW--have done just that, along with the model for them all, the Fox network.
They've stuck by many shows rather than yank them for tepid ratings, especially the ones aimed at tween, teen and twentysomething viewers: "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer," "That 70s Show," "Beverly Hills 90210," "Veronica Mars," "Party of Five," "Dawson's Creek," "The O.C.," "Angel," "Felicity," "One Tree Hill," "Smallville," and more recently, the much-talked about "Gossip Girl." None of these has been a ratings topper in the league of ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" or any of the new "CSI" franchises.
But they do attract a hardcore, weekly "appointment" audience. An audience that, in many cases, has the money to spend on, say, a sweater like one worn by one of the "Gossip Girls." In fact the "Gossip Girl" web site encourages this cross-pollination with links to items seen on the show that viewers can purchase. This in turn makes the show attractive to advertisers who covet the disposable income many of these viewers have available.
So it's no surprise that two of the CW's new fall series fit nicely into the mold set by their predecessors. One of the two has already garnered a lot of publicity--always good for a show--because of its lineage. It's a spinoff--that's how the folks at The CW describe it--and not a sequel to the 1990-2000 Fox series called "Beverly Hills, 90210."
The original revolved around the Walsh family, which had just moved to Beverly
Hills from Minnesota. Mom and dad (Carol Potter and James Eckhouse) were seen
infrequently as the show focused on their teen children, Brenda (Shannen
Doherty) and Brandon (Jason Priestly) and their new West Beverly Hills High
School pals--Kelly (Jennie Garth), Dylan (Luke Perry), Donna (Tori Spelling),
David (Brian Austin Green) and Andrea (Gabrielle Carteris). The show delved into
real issues that impacted teens then (and now, too)--drugs, sex, drinking, money, acceptance by peers, etc. This was not your "Happy Days" crowd hanging out at Arnold's diner.
The series took off like a rocket and soon it seemed that everywhere you turned there was something "90210" in your face--from magazine articles, books and scrapbooks to school lunch boxes emblazoned with the "90210" logo. As the show's popularity grew, so did the rumors that the cast members (particularly Doherty and Garth) did not get along. Doherty left the show in 1994, Priestly in 1998, Perry in 1995 (but he returned in 1998 for two seasons), and Carteris in 1993. New characters came and went, but the show just wasn't the same without the original core cast.
Now it is 2008 and "90210" is back. The "Beverly Hills" has been dropped from the title of the spinoff because, after all, we all know the city by its zip code, right?! The new show has what The CW calls an edgy, contemporary look and a cast of teen types whose names you won't recognize other than maybe Tristan Wilds who was on HBO's "The Wire." Mom and dad Wilson are Rob Estes and Lori Loughlin, "gran" is played by Jessica Walter (late of "Arrested Development"). The kids are Annie (Shenae Grimes) and her adopted brother Dixon (Tristan Wilds). The family has moved to Beverly Hills after dad is hired as the new principal at West Beverly High.
The move also enables the Dixons to keep an eye on "gran," a former TV star who likes her liquor maybe a little too much.
The cast is bolstered by the return of three of the original cast members. Jennie Garth's Kelly is a guidance counselor at West Bev, Tori Spelling's Donna owns a local clothing boutique near the school, and....drum roll, please!...Shannen Doherty's Brenda is back for what The CW is billing as a a limited number of episodes as the guest director of a school musical.
If the title alone doesn't command a good-sized audience, the return of the three originals should bring back some of the viewers of the original show who want to see what happened to their favorites. The show will premiere on Sept. 2 in what The CW is calling a "two-hour event."
More girls for the fall:
From left, JoAnna Garcia,
Ashley Newbrough, Lucy
Kate Hale, all of The CW's
The CW's "Privileged" is aimed at the same audience, but is set on the other coast in rich, rich, Palm Beach, Fla. It follows the ups and downs in the life of Megan Smith (JoAnna Garcia of "Reba" fame) who has a Yale degree and has begun her climb to the top of the journalism world (or so she thinks) having landed a job at a tabloid-style magazine. Then she gets fired.
But in what likely only happens in the world of TV, she lands a job tutoring the spoiled teen twin granddaughters of a very, very rich Palm Beach cosmetics mogul (Anne Archer). But, and no surprise here, the job in paradise is no walk in the park. One of the twins resents Megan's entrance into their lives and fights her tooth and nail.
Not only that, but Megan has family problems courtesy of an estranged sister and
a father living in the area. Oh, and Megan's best friend is a guy who is in love with her and, natch, she doesn't know it! So what we have are all the ingredients for a nice little potboiler to follow "90210" on the schedule. It debuts Sept. 9.
The bottom line with both of these new shows is that The CW is sticking to a tried and true formula that has worked for it in the past. Pretty people, glitzy locations and enough serialized elements to hook an audience into tuning in every week. Or at least that advertiser-coveted tween, teen, early twentysomething audience.
©2008 by Donna J. Plesh. The photos are courtesy of The CW. This column first posted Aug. 4, 2008.
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