I never watched the original version of Beverly Hills 90210, and I am some 20 years north of the show's target demographic. So my reaction may not mean much, but y'know, as dumb teen soap operas go, this two-hour premiere wasn't half bad.
Our heroes this time around are Annie and Dixon Wilson (Shenae Grimes and Tristan Wilds), teens who are unhappy about being hauled from their home in Kansas to Beverly Hills, where dad Harry (Rob Estes) has accepted a job as principal at West Beverly Hills High (his own alma mater). Harry's brought the family to California to be with his mother, Tabitha, who apparently can no longer live on her own, though it's never quite spelled out why (Jessica Walter plays Grandma, doing yet another variation on her bitchy lush persona).
There are brief hints of a complicated backstory involving Dixon's adoption into the Wilson family (he is African-American). The Wilson family is rounded out by mom (Lori Laughlin), who makes so little impression in the first two hours that I don't remember if we even heard her name.
The show wastes no time throwing the Wilson kids, especially Annie, into the drama of WBH High social life. By the end of the premiere, Annie has managed to befriend both queen bee Naomi (AnnaLynne McCord) and moody geek girl Silver (Jessica Stroup), and to become the center of a love triangle involving Ty (Adam Gregory), who is filthy rich even by Beverly Hills standards, and the school's king jock Ethan (Dustin Milligan). How she's going to juggle these conflicting social circles is beyond me -- Naomi and Silver hate one another, and Ethan began the episode as Naomi's boyfriend -- but if anyone can do it, it's Annie, who is so sweet and wholesome it could make your teeth hurt.
Meanwhile, Dixon takes his place among the jockocracy by joining Ethan on the lacrosse team, lacrosse having inexplicably taken over from basketball and football at WBH High as the sport of choice, and becoming friends with Navid (Michael Steger), the school's star journalist. (Right, because the jock and the school news geek are always best buds. Were one in a cynical mood, one might suspect that the two ethnic minorities were being given the best-pals-goofing-around storylines in order to avoid having to pair either of them with one of the show's white female leads.)
And even poor Harry gets his own romantic fallout storyline to deal with, learning that his one-time high school sweetheart, who happens to be Naomi's mother, gave up their son for adoption without ever telling him she was pregnant.
Clearly, one theme of the show will be the struggle of the Wilson kids to maintain their wholesome Midwestern decency, innocence, and goodness in the face of the evil, corrupt, decadent California values, which this version of the show can present more explicitly than the original ever could. There is, for instance, implied oral sex almost as soon as we get to school, roughly five minutes into the hour. (So much for the "family hour.") And I haven't even mentioned the drug addict who steals other girls' purses to finance her habit, the English teacher who's hitting on the guidance counselor (Jennie Garth, reprising her character from the original BH90210), or the "borrowing" of three pigs from Navid's porn-producer dad.
Yes, all of the expected flaws of the high-school soap are present. The acting's a bit on the hammy side; the storylines are flamboyantly melodramatic; and none of the West Beverly students looks any younger than 23. But for fans of the genre, those are also its charms. The kids are pretty (Steger and Gregory are particularly handsome young men); the adults have the sense to stay in the background; and the soap is as sudsy as you could want.