The real reason the Beverly Hills, 90210 revival got canceled
Since the TV industry was rebooting, revisiting, and reviving every other popular TV show from the ’90s anyway, it was only a matter of time before a new version of Beverly Hills, 90210, which premiered in 1990, returned to Fox. But unlike the new Roseanne or Gilmore Girls, this new show didn’t just pick up however many years later to show fans what’s happening in their lives now and in the interim. This reboot, titled BH90210 to differentiate from the original series and the 2008 sequel series 90210, was about a reboot of Beverly Hills, 90210, and looked at the (heavily fictionalized) lives of the original cast, now forty-something actors and actresses who played beautiful young adults in the country’s most ritzy of zip codes.
The first season of BH90210 ran for six episodes on Fox in the summer of 2019, and included most of the old gang: Jason Priestley, Jennie Garth, Tori Spelling, Gabrielle Carteris, Ian Ziering, Brian Austin Green, and Shannen Doherty. However, that first season will be the only season of the third incarnation of the popular series. Here are some of the reasons why BH90210 was canceled.
Was BH90210 just too difficult to make?
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While reboots and revivals can often feel like a hacky, lazy approach to television writing — just take the thing that’s familiar to millions and throw it on the air — the Beverly Hills, 90210 reimagining BH90210 was fairly ambitious and innovative. Rather than look at the lives of Brendan Walsh, Kelly Taylor, Steve Sanders and the rest of that gang 20 years later, BH90210 concerned exaggerated, struggling caricatures of the actors who portrayed those characters putting together a 90210 revival series.
That’s a tricky tone to nail down, and getting it right led to a lot of production drama. According to The Hollywood Reporter, creators and stars Jennie Garth and Tori Spelling wanted the show to play like Curb Your Enthusiasm, as opposed to the soapy, melodramatic tone of the original series. The creative team had a hard time agreeing on anything it would seem — while BH90210 ran for just six episodes, it went through two showrunners and lost more than a dozen writers. If a show is too much trouble to make, few involved are going to be sorry if it gets canceled.
Fox seemed reluctant to give this Beverly Hills, 90210 revival a chance
Beverly Hills, 90210 quietly debuted on Fox in 1990. At the time, the network was barely three years old and struggling, but shows like 90210 — the hottest show among early ’90s teens — helped put it on the map and gain traction as a viable fourth major broadcast network. Its popularity remained solid even after its characters graduated West Beverly Hills High and moved on to face the challenges of young adult life. As a result, Fox kept the show on the air for a whopping 10 seasons, pulling it off the air in 2000.
But that was a long time ago, and the TV landscape has changed tremendously. While Fox green-lit BH90210, a sort-of-revival of Beverly Hills, 90210 about the original cast staging a fictional revival, the network clearly didn’t have much confidence the show, nor expectations of success. It ordered a paltry six episodes (a season for most network TV shows runs 13 or 22) and dumped it on the air in the late summer, a time when people aren’t watching much TV and the networks air reruns, cheap reality shows, and filler. The network even had to be persuaded — creators/stars Jennie Garth and Tori Spelling peddled the show for a year before Fox gave it a shot.
Luke Perry’s death changed the tone of BH90210
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BH90210 reunited the original, core, and most memorable cast of the original 1990-2000 Beverly Hills, 90210. Jason Priestley (Brandon Walsh), Jennie Garth (Kelly Taylor), Tori Spelling (Donna Martin), Ian Ziering (Steve Sanders), Brian Austin Green (David Silver), and Gabrielle Carteris (Andrea Zuckerman) all signed up to act in the duration of the first season. But despite the many present cast members, it was hard not to notice who wasn’t there.
One half of the acting team who portrayed the mother show’s iconic, alpha couple, Brenda Walsh and Dylan McKay, was not and could be a part of the BH90210 revival. While Shannen Doherty (Brenda) agreed to appear in only the debut episode (sending up her famous reputation as a behind-the-scenes troublemaker), Luke Perry (Dylan) was absent. Just before production on the series began, he died in March 2019 at the age of 52 “after suffering a massive stroke,” according to his publicist, who spoke with CNN. What was supposed to be a light and breezy new take on a light and breezy TV chestnut took on a sad, dark tone in the wake of Perry’s death.
The ratings for the the Beverly Hills, 90210 revival were terrible
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Television is a business, of course, and networks aim to make as much money as possible by putting potentially popular shows on the air and then selling advertising time during those shows on the promise that millions of people are watching. Networks like Fox use Nielsen ratings and other metrics to determine just how many people tune in to a show, and if that number is too low, it’s not profitable or even cost effective to keep spending millions of dollars to make a show that doesn’t justify the ad buys. In other words, low-rated shows get canceled — it’s just business.
That appears to be exactly what happened with BH 90210, the revival of Beverly Hills, 90210. According to The Wrap, the series premiere in August 2019 brought in a healthy 1.5 rating in the sought-after 18-49 demographic. Viewer curiosity dropped off quickly and precipitously, however, with subsequent episodes scoring a 1.0, 0.8., 0.7, and 0.6 in the demo. That fall gave BH90210 the biggest decline of all network broadcast shows that aired that summer. Based on those dismal figures, now that the series won’t return for season two, it seems like relatively few people will notice or care.
The age of the reboot is over
From about 2016 to 2018, TV was all about reboots. Struggling to compete with streaming services and prestige cable TV, the big networks played the nostalgia card, reviving cherished television favorites of yore, such as The X-Files, Roseanne, MacGyver, Will & Grace, Dynasty, Murphy Brown, Roswell, and Magnum, P.I. Back in the ’90s, Beverly Hills, 90210 was at least as popular (if not more so) than all of those shows, so a reboot seemed like a good idea bordering on an inevitability.
But by the time BH90210 hit the air in the late summer of 2019, the TV reboot fad had, as fads do, started to die. Will & Grace’s ratings had just dropped by 46 percent, the Murphy Brown reboot wasn’t popular enough to garner more than 13 episodes, and those new Dynasty and Roswell takes were among the least-watched shows on network TV for the 2018-19 season. BH90210 just came along too late in the arc of the trend, and despite its parent network declaring it a “truly inventive and nostalgic revival” (via Deadline), it wasn’t enough. The outlet reported “the network has opted not to order another installment,” thus ending the revival within a revival before it ever really got off the ground.