Ah, good old 1990 ï¿½ such an important year in our history. The Soviet Union was in a state of social and political upheaval, David Robinson had just taken the professional basketball world by storm, and I was hatching plans for my first double-digits birthday.
Oh yeah, and Beverly Hills, 90210 hit the airwaves for its inaugural season. Obviously, at the time I was a bit young to have been interested in this teen soap opera, so watching this first season DVD set has not be full of reminiscence for me.Instead, itï¿½s been like discovering for the first time what 1990 could have been like, had I been a beautiful, spoiled-rich teen living in Beverly Hills, as opposed to a chubby, pre-pubescent boy residing in the Arctic ï¿½ er, Canada.
My three biggest regrets about missing out on 90210? I could have looked back now and laughed about the bad hair, bad clothes and bad music that I thought were so cool back in the day. Actually, I did laugh at that stuff, but surely not as heartily as I would have, had I been an old-school 90210 fan.
If I was old school, I would know the story by heart. Itï¿½s about a bunch of abnormally attractive teens living the high life in Beverly Hills, whilst dealing with the universal issues of high school existence. Fraternal twins Brandon (Jason Priestly) and Brenda (Shannon Doherty) are the central characters in this first season, supported by spoiled Kelly (Jennie Garth), macho Steve (Ian Ziering), brainy Andrea (Gabrielle Carteris), bad-boy Dylan (Luke Perry) and David (Brian Austin Green), the cheeky freshman. Also, the twinsï¿½ parents (Carol Potter and James Eckhouse) play somewhat significant roles here, though I understand that as the show evolved, the parents were less and less involved.
Given the universal and relatively timeless nature of high school drama, the show has aged fairly well. Of course, you canï¿½t help but laugh at transient aspects like the fashion, but chances are youï¿½ll find plenty in common with these uncommon kids as they struggle to fit in, find themselves, and get entangled in complex relationships.
This series ran for 10 years, and evolved over that time, as the kids graduated high school, entered college, and then arrived in the ï¿½realï¿½ world. Over those years, 90210 addressed some difficult issues, including alcoholism, rape, teen pregnancy and drug abuse. If you followed the series through all of its drama, you may find yourself surprised at the sweet nature of this first season. Life wasnï¿½t quite so tough in the beginning, and thatï¿½s not a bad thing. Thereï¿½re still lots of heartbreak and entertainment here, and the sweetness may even fit better with the ï¿½wow, theyï¿½re so young!ï¿½ perspective youï¿½ll find yourself taking.
You already know whether you want to buy Beverly Hills, 90210 ï¿½ The Complete First Season. Either you love it or canï¿½t stand to be near it. Well, the syndication factor may also be a consideration, as you can probably still find this show on a channel or three in your area. But that wonï¿½t let you relive the good times at your own pace, or even discover the show for the first time right from the pilot on.
So the show is a modern classic teen soap. Howï¿½s the DVD set?
Beverly Hills, 90210 ï¿½ The Complete First Season is presented on six discs, with all 22 episodes in 1.33:1 full-screen format. The transfers probably look better than your old taped-from-TV VHS copies, but not by much. The picture is grainy and washed out, and there are compression issues on shots with a lot of motion, along with problems with the original film, including dirt and tears. Some episodes look better than others, but overall this is poor quality DVD video.
The menus are all static, and scored.
English audio is Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, and it sounds ok. Dialogue is clear, but overall the sound is pretty flat. Thereï¿½s a warning on the setï¿½s box that some of the original music has been changed, most likely due to rights issues, but I canï¿½t comment on the changes because I donï¿½t know the show well enough to know new from old.
Audio is English only, with just Closed Captioning available.
Thereï¿½s a fair amount of bonus material included with this set, but not much to really sink your teeth into. There are audio commentaries for two episodes, and a handful of featurettes.
The commentaries are by creator Darren Star, and theyï¿½re available for the first part of the pilot, and the episode Spring Dance. He admits that he hasnï¿½t watched these episodes in a very long time, so itï¿½s no surprise that he doesnï¿½t offer up a lot of technical information. However, he does provide some interesting commentary, so big fans will want to listen to these tracks.
Beginnings with Darren Star is a six-minute interview, in which Star discusses a range of topics, including his original idea for 90210, getting into production, and how the series evolved. It offers up a pretty good level of depth for a short piece, so check it out.
Meet the Class of West Beverly High is mostly reading material, with a few short video clips. This featurette offers a chance to get to know the characters, including Brandon, Brenda, Dylan, Kelly, Steve, David, Donna and Andrea. Thereï¿½s nothing here most fans donï¿½t already know, Iï¿½d imagine.
90210 Behind the Scenes is a five-minute promo that basically just introduces the show, and then offers short interview clips from most of the cast and Darren Star. The promo appears to be something that ran on FOX a while back, so you may have already see this.
The extra stuff wraps up with Looking Back ï¿½ Season One: The Recap, which is just an episode guide with brief descriptions of each episode of this first season. Kind of a misleading title for this ï¿½featuretteï¿½, if you ask me.
Love it or hate it, Beverly Hills, 90210 is one of the most popular shows in recent TV history. Fans will rejoice that the series is finally available on DVD, despite the poor video quality and lackluster extras. I canï¿½t stop you from buying this set, but I certainly do hope Paramount tries a little harder for subsequent season releases.
Special Features List
- Two audio commentaries
- Beginnings with Darren Star
- Meet the Class of West Beverly High
- 90210 Behind the Scenes
- Looking Back – Season One: The Recap