It wasn’t too long ago, when bored and inebriated, I decided to buy Beverly Hills, 90210, the complete season 4. Say what you will about Amazon, but they do enable purchases of this sort.
Some background: Season 4 was the last of the Brenda years, and the gang’s first year at California University, and where, among other things, Brandon joins the Task Force and has an affair with Lucinda Nicholson, Steve rushes KEG and is accused of date rape, Andrea loses her virginity and becomes pregnant, Kelly and Donna join the Alphas, David develops a problem with Uppers after doing the graveyard shift for KXCU, the campus radio station, and Dylan’s car is hijacked and he meets his long-lost sister. This leaves out Brenda, who in one year, transfers out of Minnesota University, becomes engaged to Stuart Carson after a three week courtship, is arrested for her new-found animal rights advocacy, and takes the lead in the campus production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roofed after rumors circulate of her affair with famed director Roy Randolph.
I love 90210 for a lot of reasons, not just the plot points. In some ways, it’s a window into the 90s, or some rich producer’s idea of the 90s. There are jean shorts, scrunchies and flowy dresses. It’s not just the aesthetics, it’s the politics: consensual sex, animal rights, and abortion politics. Out of all the things that strike me as unrealistic about the show, Andrea’s pregnancy is probably the most outrageous, even more absurd than David’s meth habit depending on fresh squeezed orange juice. Obviously, Gabrielle Cartes is about 33 when she’s supposed to be a freshman in college, and in every scene, this fact is impossible to ignore. And yes, she really was pregnant, so there wasn’t much chance of her getting an abortion. But still, the characters act as if her having a baby as a freshman in college is the only option and that Jesse threatening to break-up with her if she has the abortion is tantamount to a proposal.
Maybe since there was no internet and next day episode summaries, the writers aren’t too concerned with making the plot make sense. For instance, after rushing off to Vegas to elope with Brenda, Stuart Carson disappears for ten episodes. And what about that episode when Brenda discovers the diary of a young woman who lived in her bedroom decades before and casts the whole gang in her imagination as some version of this woman’s life in 1968? What of it? It’s hard to object any time Dylan McKay is in period clothing.
I’ve been watching 90210 s4 occasionally with a friend, and emailing plot points to another one in Bulgaria, whose career in Anthropology was in no doubt inspired by Lucinda Nicholson and her penchant for seducing younger men with a traditional feast from an aboriginal tribe in Guatemala. But like I did in the 90s, I’ve been watching this season mostly alone. There’s something oddly satisfying about watching something so unwatchable, and not even be able to confer with the internet about it afterward. It’s like the solitude of the mountains, but in my bed, on a laptop, on a lazy Sunday.