back by popular demand... a close "reading" of 90210!!!
the thing we need to establish pronto, before we delve too much more deeply into this intoxicating 90210 world, is that there are fundamental differences between the television programming of the 90s and the television programming of whatever decade it is that we're in now (the teens? the twelves?). the primary difference being that in the 90s, television tackled big issues while today, television- by and large- tackles jackshit. my only proof in support of this hypothesis is the fact that every single episode ever made of gossip girl has revolved around the throwing of a party. (no, really. go back. watch them. every. single. one.) what further proof can you possibly need?
in contrast, shows like saved by the bell and 90210, while admittedly fluffy/melodramatic/cheesy/[insert derogatory adjective here], actually managed to tackle their fair share of important stuff along the way. and so we have the sbtb episodes on drunk driving, drug use and homelessness, and the 90210 episodes on abstinence, condom distribution in schools, school districting, gang violence, kidnapping, custodial issues for divorced dads, bigotry, post-traumatic stress, the treatment of veterans post-war, pregnancy, abortion, hazing, inter-racial dating, cocaine addiction, mental illness, virginity, AIDS, drag racing, election fraud, drinking policies at proms and the proper etiquette for the negotiation of record deals (seriously- this list is infinite, there is not an issue of the 90s that 90210 did not touch).
whereas gossip girl just leaves us wondering if chuck and blair will ever be together and who gossip girl is, 90210 asked the really really important questions...
and addressed tough, timely issues. sunscreen, for example...
and gun control... (yes, even creeptastic gun dealers heart fro-yo)
which brings us to the season 4 90210 episode "twenty years ago today," wherein we've almost too many important subplots to keep track. let's break this down:
really important subplot #1: jim and cindy walsh have been married for 20 years. they're throwing a shindig. the whole gang's coming.
really important subplot #2: andrea's dating an older jewish dude who doesn't want to get married for at least 5 years (given that she's 18 and he's maybe 22 at most, this shouldn't be terribly shocking, but omg it so totally is).
really important subplot #3: mel and jackie are divorcing and there's some custodial blah-blah happening between them because erin's babysitter called in sick when mel wanted to go to cabo to spend a weekend with his lover. this is totally unexciting in contrast to...
really important subplot #4: brandon is tutoring a jock in sociology, but the jock just wants to shoot hoops and so brandon goes to the gym to pump some iron where (covered in literal beads of sweat that look as though they've been placed like diamonds upon his forehead by a prop department slave) he meets (drumroll...) the scandalously oh-so-much-way-older woman.
(hand to heart, watching this season live on television in the fall of 1993, i thought lucinda nicholson was 45. AT LEAST. like, at the very bare minimum. upon the discovery that she is 27, a piece of my 30-year-old heart has died.)
really important subplot #5: brenda is dating stuart carson. whom she has known for two weeks. he is fabulously wealthy. she wonders, "is he the one?" brandon offers wise counsel...
really important subplot #6: as a gift for their parents, brandon and brenda have had one of their wedding pictures made into a jigsaw puzzle that is being stored at dylan's house. which is totally a problem because...
MAIN PLOT: omg, dylan is doing guns!!!
because... oh yeah, important context... two episodes before, dylan's car was jacked and someone stuck a gun in his face and he's all freaking out because he doesn't feel safe. and no one really knows how to talk to him about this beyond making really inappropriate waco references. moving on...
so the puzzle's at dylan's house and brandon goes to pick it up in such a hurry that there isn't even time to open the car door.
his increasingly impatient shouts of "yo, dylan!" do not result in dylan's coming to the door.
because dylan is showering.
and innocently tending to his hygiene needs when he hears someone breaking into his house.
this is brandon breaking into dylan's house.
dylan is scared (appreciate with me that, even though he was probably 35 by this point and playing an 18-year-old, luke perry circa 1993 was the sexiest man alive).
dylan puts on NOTHING BUT A TOWEL and grabs his gun.
he is ready to kill.
brandon is coming in, ugly curtains be damned.
i have to give it to brandon, for someone who has nearly just lost his life, he looks pretty nonplussed. more just pissed off by the slight inconvenience of having been delayed in his efforts to pick up his puzzle than anything else.
lest we forget, all of this drama has been precipitated by a jigsaw puzzle...
yet another important question...
so here is where my love of brandon briefly wavers. because he is about to say absolutely the most callous thing anyone has ever said in all the world.
yeah, that wasn't it...
"I KNOW YOUR DAD GOT BLOWN AWAY"?! really, is that something one should say to someone whose dad got blown away? it seems not only a gratuitous point to be making but also one in no way leavened by the lighthearted "man" at the end.
but the argument is apparently effective. dylan is moved.
and shamed (and, i might add, still wearing nothing but a towel).
brandon, on the other hand, is a bitch.
and yet, finally, he gives us answers...