Beverly Hills 90210 and Melrose Place

Beverly Hills 90210 (1990-2000)
Melrose Place (1992-1999)
Type: Spin Off
Group: 12

   In a million years I would have never though Beverly Hills 90210 would have been a hit. Why would a kid in the mid west want to watch a bunch of rich kids involved in plots where they whine about how bad they have it? Boy was I wrong. I forgot to factor in some other things - hot chicks, handsome hunks and soap opera twists.

   At the start, Beverly Hills 90210 was the story of two Midwest kids, Brandon and Brenda Walsh, moving to Beverly Hills and trying to fit in. It was a light soap opera-ish drama for the teen set. As the cast grew up, the show evolved. Both the Walsh kids eventually even left the show. It morphed into a twenty-something light soap.

   Now you might be saying, what do you mean "light" soap. You've got your romantic entanglements, you've got your intrigues... why not just say it's a soap, period? Because its still got that youth show mentality at its center. Episodes dripping with redeeming social values pop up that you wouldn't get on other night time soaps.

   For example, one episode featured all the girl characters getting together when one of them pulls out a pamphlet on examining your breasts for cancerous lumps. With a laugh they all decide to try it. They all check and sure enough one of them finds something. This leads into a story about the dangers of breast cancer. I'm not knocking this. It's a good thing but its closer in tone to an after school special than a steamy soap. Also, not to make light of the topic, but I wonder that the same attention is not paid to testicular cancer. It is just as big a concern for men and men also need to be informed on inspecting themselves yet this didn't get an episode. My guess is that it just wouldn't play. The idea of a bunch of guys hanging out and chuckling over a pamphlet on how to examine themselves and then actually doing so in front of each other is 1.) Unrealistic and 2.) Uh, creepy. Luke Perry, Jason Priestly and company sitting in a group juggling their goodies is just not gonna happen.

   Again, the plots might get juicy but never seemingly too far out of control. Its just not a down and dirty soap... like its spin off Melrose Place.

   When Melrose Place premiered, Beverly Hills 90210 was still a drama show about rich teens. In Melrose Place the producers hoped to create something similar for the average twenty year old in the audience. Instead of being about the lives of rich Beverly Hills teens, Melrose Place would be about a slightly older group of characters living on the other side of the tracks in the working class side of town. It would be an honest portrayal of young people without trust funds trying to make ends meet in expensive L.A. It was introduced on 90210. Rich girl Kelly fell for the older rogue with the heart of gold Jake, who would be one of Melrose Place's principal stars.

   Jake knew he shouldn't be seeing Kelly. She was much younger than him. On the other hand, she was also much younger than him! And hot! And rich! As Melrose Place started, Kelly and Jake's romance played out on MP, forming the lure to draw the 90210 viewers to the new show. Several other 90210 cast members made minor appearances accompanying Kelly to visit Jake at the apartment complex where MP was set. But for the most part Kelly was central. After several episodes though, Jake realized he had to end things. He tricked Kelly into thinking he was otherwise involved and, to make sure he had ruined any fantasies she still might have, took some pot shots at her and her lifestyle. But of course, really being a nice guy doing it for her own good, he didn't truly mean any of it.

   Like I said, Melrose Place started out as an attempt to give a somewhat honest portrayal of average young people trying to make it in L.A. It did it so well that it was tediously boring. You want to come over to my house and watch me try to balance my checkbook? Hell no! You and the show's twentysomething target audience are watching TV to escape how hard it can be in the real world, not to be reminded of it. So as the ratings dropped, the show was revamped and steamed up with the addition of a new vamp Heather Locklear as the manipulative Amanda Woodward. It soon became the true "soap" 90210 never would.

   Plots were now over the top and charged. Backstabbing and bed hopping ran wild. And yet, at its peak, it still managed to somehow ground its characters at least partly in reality. Here's a prime example. The character of Jo was a somewhat somber female photographer looking for happiness. She meets up with an old high school friend and starts a relationship. It plays out sweet and real. Only, surprise, he's a drug dealer. Of course by the time this comes up Jo is pregnant. Soon her drug dealer ex-boyfriend is taking the very pregnant Jo hostage and Jo is forced to kill him to save her own life. Next thing you know Mr. Drug Dealer's parents are fighting to get custody of the unborn baby (once it is born). Hey, she killed their son. Jo plots with Kimberly (a doctor Jo does not realize is crazy) to deliver the baby, fake a miscarriage and keep the baby. Only, surprise, Kimberly steals the baby. What's Jo gonna do? She told everyone she miscarried. In the end when everything came out, a judge decided that due to her actions, Jo cannot keep her baby.

   Wow! All that from going on a date with a guy from High School. As outlandish as the above plot may seem, the thing that truly made it work was the integrity of the character of Jo. Scummy boyfriends, unwanted pregnancies, fighting for your life and fighting for the welfare of your child at any cost: these are things that have at least an emotional foothold in the real world.

   Eventually the plots got more out of control and more contrived. The acting became more over the top and verging on parody. The characters left reality far behind and the viewers started to drift away as well. But at its peak this show was a sweet guilty pleasure for lots of folks.

Other Beverly Hills 90210 Crossover Links
Beverly Hills 90210 and 90210

Other Melrose Place Crossover Links
Melrose Place and Models Inc.

Click here to return to main Crossover List

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