The word you’ll most often hear associated with the new 90210 is “tame.” Despite the blowjob reference, it wasn’t really much naughtier than the original; certainly, as critics are already pointing out, it’s not as naughty as Gossip Girl (which isn’t all that naughty itself, certainly not as much as it thinks it is). That may not turn out to be a problem, since, as I keep mentioning, Gossip Girl isn’t actually a hit, and the original 90210 has a much more successful formula: an essentially wholesome show with elements of soapy glamour. The good side of the 90210 franchise is that unlike Gossip Girl, which has tried to sell itself to kids as the show that adults don’t want them to watch, 90210 is more of a family event, because of the basically wholesome nuclear-family setup and the nostalgia value. And you can’t have a real hit show unless the kids’ parents watch along with them.
But I can’t say that the pilot was exactly gripping stuff. Most of it really consisted of very old, very typical teen sitcom plots — teenage girl goes somewhere without telling her Mom; teenage boy tries to play prank on opposing sports team — with more glamorous and rich settings. The original 90210 also started out with relatively small stories and only gradually became full-fledged insane melodrama; but this show is not truly a new show, and doesn’t have the benefit of being able to start small; it immediately opens up comparisons to the original, and looks a bit, well, tame compared to the insanity we expect from this franchise. Of course if this show lasts a while it will get into large-scale melodrama; but honestly, I think most people were expecting something juicier right off the bat, and it’ll be interesting to see whether the relative tameness of the pilot causes a big drop-off in viewers next week. If the drop-off isn’t too bad, that’ll indicate that people liked what they saw or at least will give it time to get crazier, and that could mean it’s headed for success.