90210: Behind the Zip Code – Review of a Wonder

By Ethel Mermaids contributor Gareth of The Haus of Garvie, Earth

Growing up in a postmodern, post-ironic, Postman Pat era allows our generation to embrace high culture and low culture, the cheesy and the heartfelt, in equal measure. For me, one of the ultimate fusions of cheese and heart is Beverly Hills, 90210, an Aaron Spelling produced, Darren Star created, masterpiece of televisual schlock/wonder. 90210 could at times move you to tears of sadness (or happiness), it could make you want to throw your shoes at the TV screen in annoyance, or it could give you two sneezes worth of an orgasm at the sight of Tori Spelling falling over in a mermaid outfit. It was campy, classy, serious, fun, well-acted, badly acted and just an all-round entertainment giver.

It’s strange to think just how popular the ‘210 was in its heyday. The actors got mobbed at malls, the merchandise flew off shelves, repeats increased ratings in 29 out of 32 syndicated metered markets and it made Douglas Emerson a household name. Maybe the last one only applied to my house – your loss. 90210 is one of the longest running hour-long dramas ever made, an early season guest starred Debbie Gibson, and the last season had an appearance by Christina Aguilera; if that’s not a sign of longevity I don’t know what is. Of course 90210 is also part of Haus of Garvie’s religious texts – ‘90210 begat Melrose Place, Melrose Place begat Models, Inc and Models, Inc begat Carrie Anne Moss being sold to the white slave trade’.

It was a crisp late-summer morning when I decided to root through the bins of an ex-Swan’s Crossing starlet and discovered the joy you are about to witness. Upon seeing the glorious item within my hands, I knew I had to share it with the world or be forever regretful.


An unauthorised video exposé of the show and its stars! This was one trash rooting / photoshoot that really paid off! I just hope the selfies of myselfsies covered in dirt don’t get out. Or do I? Maybe this video contains pictures of Jason Priestly covered in dirt? Could we be that lucky? Let’s stick this baby in the video machine and get the dirt dished…


Things kick off with a neon logo and a Saved by the Bell-esque ringing. Some woman who sounds a bit like Eminem doing a ladyvoice tells us to pay attention as there will be a test later. The voice-over lady, who I think we’ll call Mary from now on, gives us an in depth socio-political deconstruction of what Beverly Hills means in the 1990’s.


WA?!?!?!? Those cheeky tricksters at Maximum Image Video Magazine are playing a trick on us! Oh those cads! An 80’s rock guitar kicks in and scenes of early 90’s Rodeo Drive get mixed with some awesomely cheap video effects to stills of palm trees. If you remember the start of the 90210 pilot, it’s like that, but done in a college editing suite by a janitor who’s snuck in after hours to fulfil his creative dreams. I realise I may be the only person who remembers the start of the pilot, but to be honest, that’s just shame on you. By this point, Mary’s voice has changed to infomercial mode.




What sounds like, but is not quite, the 90210 theme kicks in and Infomercial Mary tells us about all the exciting info we’re going to be finding out about in the next hour. I’d go over it here too, but that would ruin the surprise and I know how much you like surprises. Surprises like this one…


Mary, now in serious mode, tells us that Brian Austin Green (aka BAG) was already an accomplished actor by the time he started on 90210! By the way, is that a frog in the ocean? Or an old Star Trek toy? Either way, Mary tells us that Brian was on a show with Hayley Mills called Good Morning Miss Bliss (the show that eventually ditched Miss Mills, moved to Bayside and became Saved By The Bell), a couple of student films, three seasons on Knots Landing and a PBS television movie. Mary then shows us some pap shots of BAG, including one where he’s sporting a Melrose Place T-Shirt that I don’t have. Bastard. Mary tells us that Brian has no love for drugs or alcohol, but that he does have a big love in his life…


His dog! Apparently all pictures of the dog had been seized by Interpol, so in their absence we get a lovely doodle and stock audio of some dogs barking. According to Mary, the dog is a Shitzu miniature named Teeko. Brian also likes to BAG it up with numerous sporting things and spending time with his family (with whom “he holds onto traditional values”). Fans like his character on 90210 because “he’s the most real guy, he’s not a fake, he’s real”. This was the character that got hooked on drugs, became an addict and managed to give it up all within the space of two episodes/weeks. That seems to be your lot for Brian Austin Green, maybe not the detailed biography we were after, but after the dog doodle, I don’t think we can complain. Next up, Mary’s going to tell us a little bit about the greatest comedy actress of our time…


Candy’s Baby Girl! The one, the only – Miss Tori Spelling! Like an equine angel from Heaven, she’s come to grace the pages of this website. We are so not worthy. Even Mary sounds a little happier that she’s got to talk about someone interesting. There’s a wealth of Tori rumours to pick and choose from so I’m hoping Behind The Zip Code is really going to delve. I mean it’s not going to be some puff piece is it? Is it? Is it? IS it?


Mary, sounding like someone who has a gun to her head but is still looking forward to tea and biscuits afterwards, brings out the often told story of Tori’s road to success – she auditioned under a pseudonym and didn’t tell the producers she was Aaron Spelling’s child at all. They had no idea! And there was me hoping this video would confirm that Jack Nicholson rumour, oh well, at least we get to hear Jason Priestly sarcastically tell the press that Tori works really hard. More investigative reporting from the folks at Maximum Image Video Magazine reveals that Tori originally wanted to be a manicurist but then changed her mind when she was “about 5”. Then we get to see some clips of Tori doing charity work, which seems to consist of her saying “organisation” and “involved” a lot. Mary tells us that “Tori has proved herself in a competitive industry, and done it on her own”. Mary breathes a sigh of relief as the gun is pulled away from her and moves onto the cover story…


Lots of teenagers tell us they love watching 90210 because it’s so realistic and relatable, Tori tells us about their responsibility to teach children and to “keep it real”. Obviously, they all went to a school just like mine. Some of the fans seem exactly the sort of Blossom-esque people you’re expecting, but some seem like they just got out of jail. We’ll see some more of them later. We like them more than anything. Mary mentions that 90210 wasn’t always the success it is now and brings out some reviews. Howard Rosenberg, LA Times TV critic, called 90210 “a zip code for stereotypes and stock characters”, Mary’s voice actually shits with excitement (or the tape went funny – you decide!) as she tells us that no one listened to him and ratings went through the “ruuf”. At this point, I should mention that one of the major reasons this tape is rocking my suburb is due to the proliferation of Candy Spelling footage. Candy, darling, never talks, she just stands next to her husband and looks Hollywood. If only we were all so lucky. Oh fuck it, shall we have a picture of her and her paramour?


Isn’t she fabulous? Candy Spelling – husband of Aaron, mother of Tori and Randy, owner of numerous present wrapping rooms and, more recently, a mega successful Broadway producer (you would know that if you watched ‘Oprah’s Where Are They Now”). Her obituary is going to be the envy of the shires.

The video moves on with some more red carpet clips of the stars and grubby teenagers saying such things as “it’s just great” and “he’s like my father, I mean, I have a real father, but y’know”. I think the point of the cover story got a bit lost here, as Mary starts yabbering about the Spelling Mansion and lists some Spelling produced shows. Regaining focus, Mary tells us that all the cast have become pin-up idols and puts up some pictures of numerous magazine covers with the 90210 kids gracing the pages. It made me nostalgic for Tiger Beat. That seems to be the end of the cover story as we get some radical 80’s guit-ar and yet another red carpet montage. Then this…


It’s about 10 seconds before you realise what’s going on. Eventually Mary, sounding incredibly coy, divulges that it’s quiz time and asks viewers to match up actors with dead guys they have played. True fact: Douglas Emerson, who plays the above dead guy, was on an episode of Blossom I happened upon the other day on the youtubes, he played “guy #2”. Quiz time over with, it’s time for another profile…


J to the E double-N I E! Mary reveals that Jennie Garth is not spoilt, annoying or diva-like, she is, however, down-to-earth and centred. Mary obviously wants to prove this point as she brings out a clip from The Joan Rivers Show (RIP GODDESS) with Jason Priestly saying “she’s sooooo sweet” whilst looking adorable yet furrowed. I’ve asked our house boy to edit that clip so it appears that JP is talking about me. Bless him. Back on the Garth tip, Mary dishes some dirt (finally) – Jennie *hated* the character of Kelly Taylor to start with and was pleased when writers saw her potential as an actress and managed to make Kelly more likable. Some reading of Jennie’s CV is followed by this fabulous picture…


…which, quite frankly, is one of the best pictures I’ve seen in my entire life! It’s almost enough to make Jennie Garth my favourite 90210 actress, but then we get a whole segment about what a beautiful home-body she is, and how homely her beautiful home is and how she beautifully went home straight after the Emmy awards to her beautiful home. Mary slyly pulls away from Garth Gossip and the fans get to talk about their favourite episode. The fans at this point have become my favourite thing in the entire world – thanks Tramadol!


This one, who we’ll call Jolene-Jolene, is the youngest fan and also the wisest. How do we know she’s wise? Well, her wisdom is demonstrated in her choice of favourite episode, an episode which also happens to be my favourite episode as well! The episode in question revolves around bad girl Emily Valentine tricking Brandon into taking drugs, I’m sure I’ll write about it eventually if only for an excuse to get some screencaps of Brandon in a state of Euphoria. If you spot the 90210 in-joke there, you’re a very glorious person. Oh sweet Traci Lords, how could you? I’ve just seen what’s next…


BLAH BLAH BLAH. Phone interview from ex co-star. BLAH BLAH BLAH.

Mary follows Iron’s riveting profile with the worst piece of filler to ever hit an unofficial guide – 10 minutes of horoscope readings for the actors. To be fair, Mary gives it her best, alternating between bathos and pathos with panache.


Next up on the profile list is Gabrielle Carteris, otherwise known as Andrea (or On-drea). You may be seeing a pattern between the titles of the profiles and their content, this one is no exception. Mary tells us that even though an agent told Gabrielle she was too ugly to be an actress, she carried on anyway. Mary tells us this in about 10 different ways. Each time with more passion and frustration than the last. Is it a coincidence that we only hear Mary? I hope not.


Top marks to Mary for pointing out that Gabrielle was born in 1961, this means that even today I am friends with people younger than Miss Carteris was when she first played 16 year old Andrea. For some reason this gets me excited, but not as excited as Gabrielle gets over charity work – we get a 5 minute speech about how important it is, at one point there’s a shot where she looks a little bit like Robin Williams.

The fans then give their opinion on the hot topic of the day. Should Andrea let Brandon bone her? The general consensus seems to be “maybe”.


*FLUNK* Even though he occasionally looks like a troll, and his experiments in facial hair are rarely successful, I would totally tongue wash him for like, no charge at all. So, what does Mary have to say about my favourite slice of Canadian Bacon? Well, apparently he likes hockey and “unlike a lot of boys, Jason was already an actor”. Good to know.


Three top things about that picture:

  1. The cigarette
  2. Shannen’s expression
  3. The interviewer’s hair

We get some more Joan Rivers Show clips to give Mary’s voice a rest and to give us a slight hint of romance between Jason and Shannen, albeit mainly via subtext. Jason tells Joan a lame Burt Reynolds anecdote before hawking his latest film, Calendar Girl. A film which history has shown to rank quite highly in google image searches for “Jason Priestly Nude”.


Mary better watch what she says about my idol, but at this point I think we can be fairly sure she’s not going to say anything scandalous. Reeling off the CV Mary is starting to sound a bit bored, until she mentions that Shannen once won Teen of the Year award, Mary goes APE over that information, but then gets bored as she mentions La Doherty’s charity work. Apparently Shannen is very anti-smoking. Although a quick internet search indicates that darling Shannen may not have held onto that belief for long.


It’s Shannen with Arnold Schwarzenegger from that bit in Total Recall! Be careful a bomb doesn’t go off Shan-Shan – it might mess up your hair! Mary’s just commented that despite the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, Shannen has managed to remain down to Earth and humble. I’m beginning to think Mary doesn’t really know what she’s talking about.


At least she picks good pics. If it wasn’t for the crappy VHS resolution this would so be my new wallpaper. Some fans talk about Dylan and Brenda and one of them looks a bit like someone I despise. Hmmm, who’s left to profile?


Yes siree, Bob! It’s Luke Perry! The other 90210 man in my life. Mary reckons that part of his appeal is down to his small town charm, but a lot is down to his smile (or smell – it was hard to make out). Ah, bless. Mary thinks she’s got a chance. Whore! “Luke encourages the 90210 writers to concentrate on the real issues.”

Throughout this video there has been an abundance of cheap and cheerful digital transition effects, not content with regular wipes or fades, this production has gone all out using bouncing spheres, jigsaw shapes and the occasional extreme zoom between transitions. For some reason, Mr Perry’s biography has got extra special treatment with a range of 3-D cityscapes and superimposed baseball player silhouettes to change between static picture after static picture. He sure is one lucky boy! Mary just divulged that in High School, Luke once landed on the football field from a helicopter wearing yellow tights and webbed feet in his role as the team mascot. Was that it? No top or head mask? The thought is strangely alluring.


Doesn’t he look young? The ol’ Jason P On Joaney R clips are called out again to really milk that license fee (I like thinking that Joan Rivers earnt enough for a bagel from this video) and Jason tells us that “Luke’s a great guy, really down-to-earth, he does a lot of charity work”. If I hear down-to-earth or charity work one more time on this video I swear I will kill Mary in a very hostile manner. I may wear white for the occasion.

Mary then gives us a quiz. One of the answers is “Tori is exactly 60 days older than Brian.”


And that’s it. Our exclusive documentary is over. Oh wait, hold-up! It’s the early 90’s, so just before the end credits we get a list of charities mentioned throughout with their contact details. Wasn’t it great when people cared?

Overall I think 90210: Behind the Zip Code was a very unsatisfying experience. Where was the dirt? The secrets? The topless Preistly & Perry shots? I bet bloody Mary kept them all to herself that little good-for-nothing, down-to-Earth, charity worker! Looks like I’ll have to delve into the world of Reddit for some real 90210 dirt…


Ahh, that’s better. Satisfaction is mine.


Gareth is a founding member of Haus of Garvie, an intergalactic collective based on the writings of Jan Leeming. He likes niceness and Drag Queens

Read the Loverboy interview with The Haus of Garvie here

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