The CW's new 90210 debuted on Aug. 28 to record ratings for the struggling network. Following the tradition set by its predecessor, it features twentysomething actors playing teenagers, high-school students having laughably adult conversations about their "relationships," and wildly inappropriate sexual content.
At least the 1990s version pretended to take the subject of high-schoolers having sex seriously, showing characters experiencing pregnancy scares and strife with parents. This latest incarnation pretends at nothing.
In the first episode oral sex between two sophomores is played for comic effect, one 15-year-old girl asks another if she "joined the mile high club" during a date, and another student reveals that his father is "the biggest producer of X-rated movies in the world." But that doesn't mean his dad doesn't give him rules, he reports. One of his strictest being, "no watching porn until I'm 21." Add to that so much foul language and sleazy soap opera plot twists that even mainstream television critics (many of whom hailed the original for its "realistic" portrayal of teen sex) are calling it "over-exaggerated trash."
The only bright spot in the show is Jessica Walters essentially reprising her role as Lucille Bluth from the cult favorite Arrested Development. Unfortunately, as the grandmother of the two teens who move with their parents from Kansas to Beverly Hills, Walters is onscreen far too little. And she doesn't play the role with quite as much panache, as if even she knows this series is beneath her.
The CW seems to be trying to build a brand by targeting teens and preteens with overtly sexual programming. But while 90210 set a record for the CW, its audience size was considerably below average for other networks. And its equally repugnant shows like Gossip Girl have attracted far more media buzz than actual viewers. We can only hope that trend continues.