Posted on Blogcritics.org.
In the ’90s it would be nearly impossible to find someone under the age of 30 who didn’t know about Beverly Hills, 90210. Its intense popularity lasted long after that, and only recently spawned its own modern spin-off, 90210, with several of the old cast reappearing.
The show was a dramatic soap opera, focusing on the lives of a group of friends in California from high school to college to post-graduate life. For ten years it dominated and turned all of the cast members into real stars and heartthrobs, although many of their careers did not stick. The seasons have been slowly released on DVD and now season eight is out for all those fans of the show to relive. And anyone who never saw it before is going, “Oh my god, is that Hilary Swank?” Welcome to Beverly Hills, 90210 season eight.
The gang is now officially out of college and have to find their footing in the real world. Kelly (Jennie Garth) and Brandon (Jason Priestley) struggle with their relationship as they move in together and eventually get engaged. Both have serious dilemmas of their own when Kelly gets amnesia for a few episodes from a traumatic drive-by shooting, and Brandon gets arrested and refuses to give the name of his source for an article. Donna (Tori Spelling) goes into business with Valerie (Tiffani-Amber Thiessen) who starts stealing her clients, of course. It’s Valerie. She’s the bad girl! She has a scare of her own later in the season when she realizes her way of living might be seriously dangerous as she waits for the results of an AIDS test.
David (Brian Austin Green) digs himself a deep financial hole and uses loan sharks, causing some real problems for him and for the people around him. This leads to Donna kicking him out of their apartment, so they have an angsty back and forth for most of the season. He befriends Valerie again which leads to all kinds of badness, because remember, she’s the bad girl. Steve (Ian Ziering) gets very serious about a single mother, and he spends most of the season dealing with her and how he feels about becoming a surrogate father.
There’s partner swapping and drugs and insane drama like always in this season. Two new big characters are introduced, although only one of them stays. Carly is played by Hilary Swank, who is now an Oscar winner, which is hilarious if you think about it. Everyone starts out somewhere, right? Her character dates Steve for most of it, and she has a pretty solid role as the single mother. She was quite likable. Then Vincent Young joined the cast as Noah Hunter, and he stayed on the show after this season. Noah was the bad boy to replace Dylan’s (Luke Perry) character, and he bounced between Valerie and Donna.
Season eight was their attempt to deal with life after school, and while the show floundered a bit at times the drama over work stuff could be rather interesting — more so than the same old romantic entanglements everyone could see coming a mile away. No one watches Beverly Hills, 90210 for exceptional acting or serious stories, but for the fun of the show. It’s dramatic and amusing and a real guilty pleasure. The show was wearing down a bit by season eight, and it would only last two more seasons, but it still had plenty to offer for diehard fans.
The DVD set comes with seven discs with the full episode list of the season, and not much else. The picture is very clear and not grainy in the least like some television show adaptations from the ’90s, so it looks great in the DVD format. The sound is solid, with dialogue being just as strong as the music and it’s very easy to follow. The show offers several different languages in subtitles, but there are no real extras coming with this box set. That’s a little disappointing, although it makes sense that it would be hard to get a lot of the cast members to offer anything for this release. Most of them have moved on. But they couldn’t get any of the crew or producers or directors to say a few things? This season took a big jump from the others since it was the characters moving to a new big step in their lives. It’d be great to have some commentary or even a behind-the-scenes look at the season.
Fans of the series will not mind the lack of extras, however. They probably own all the other seasons and just want to keep completing their collection. If you’ve never seen Beverly Hills, 90210 I wouldn’t start in season eight, but it is a good turning point for the characters so hypothetically a new viewer could jump in here. It just wouldn’t be the smoothest transition. It was great to revisit the sometimes silly but often heartfelt world of Beverly Hills, 90210, and the season eight DVD set is a must-have for fans or collectors of the series.