In Need of a Little Zip, CW Resurrects '90210'

The old "90210" gang at high school graduation in 1997. CW has decided to head for the Hills again.
The old "90210" gang at high school graduation in 1997. CW has decided to head for the Hills again. (By Andrew Semel -- Fox)
By Lisa de Moraes
Friday, March 14, 2008

Ratings-starved, CBS-run CW network, casting about for a companion show for its rich-teens soap "Gossip Girl," has decided to give mouth-to-mouth to the '90s hit "Beverly Hills, 90210" and see if it can't get the cadaver breathing again.

CW is developing an alleged "spinoff" to the soap which did so much to put on the map the then-struggling, newish Fox network -- now the most watched network in the country.

But, unlike most spinoffs, which have some direct line to the original, this one does not seem to be bothering. The original show's creator, Darren Star, will not be involved. Neither will the guy with the nearly flawless casting instincts who produced it, Aaron Spelling. He died in 2006.

And it's unclear whether the characters in the spin would be the children of the characters made famous on the original -- who can forget Brandon and Brenda, the annoyingly pretty Walsh twins -- or whether the original characters would simply be reincarnated for the new series. And no, you're not the first person to think how neo-ironic it would be to give the part of Donna, the Beautiful Virgin Blonde, to Jamie Lynn Spears. (In the original, Spelling gave the role to his daughter, Tori, which was ironic in its own way.)

Nope -- so far as we can tell from the people we talked to and the report in the Hollywood Reporter, the only surviving element is CAA, the talent agency that packaged the original "90210" and is credited by THR as being the "mastermind" behind the spinoff idea. Yes, in Hollywood, redoing "90210" passes for genius.

THR noted an earlier "Bev Hills, 90210" spinoff, "Melrose Place," did not feature any major characters from the mothership. Though, of course, it was also created by Darren Star. This "spinoff" thing is pretty tough to nail down these days.

On the other hand, "Beverly Hills, 90210: Do Over" presumably would be cheap for CW. Spelling's TV company was based at what's now called CBS Paramount Network TV and was actually absorbed by that division a few years ago. So CBS owns the library.

Instead of Starr, "Veronica Mars" creator Rob Thomas is in negotiations to write the pilot. Additionally, Mark Piznarski, who directed Thomas's "Veronica Mars" pilot and also shot the "Gossip Girl" pilot, is in talks to direct the "BH-90210" spinoff.

"Beverly Hills, 90210" lasted 10 seasons on Fox, and was finally canceled in early 2000 because its audience was down to 10 million viewers. Its final episode aired in May 2000, and was watched by 25 million.

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And, speaking of stuck in the '90s and Rob Thomas, ABC has given thumbs-up to Thomas to resuscitate his '90s sitcom "Cupid," about a man who believes he has been sent to Earth by Zeus to help out the lovelorn.

The show got rave reviews when it debuted in the late '90s, starring Jeremy Piven as the irrepressible Trevor Hale, who thinks he's the god of love, which causes him to wind up in a mental hospital.

Grievously, it also starred Paula Marshall -- notorious show-killer -- as the uptight psychologist and "romance" expert who releases Trevor from the hospital, realizing that unless she did, there would be no second season. Sadly, there wasn't one anyway because, as we said, it starred Paula Marshall.

And, of course, it didn't help that ABC had scheduled it in the death-by-time-slot Saturday 10 p.m. hour. Back in those days, ABC was like that. These days, of course, ABC knows better than to put critically adored series on Saturday night. In fact, it doesn't put any original series programming on Saturday night. But neither do any of the other broadcast networks. Saturday night has been given over to Rerun Theatre.

This past fall, ABC told Thomas to get started on a possible revival of the series. Now, the network has given the go-ahead to shoot a pilot episode.

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