The zip code we'll never forget

Many of the plots were outlandish, but the cast of 'Beverly Hills, 90210' also faced some of the same real-life issues as their young viewers.

May 14, 2000|By Amy Oakes | Amy Oakes,Sun Staff

My friend Kelly has been through a lot.

In the 10 years I've known her, she's overdosed on diet pills, been badly burned in a house fire, joined a cult, landed in drug rehab, been stalked by a fellow addict, suffered a miscarriage, been shot in the belly, overcome amnesia, called off a marriage to her friend Brandon at the altar, been raped and then shot and killed her attacker. And all by the age of 25.

Now I worry that she will make the mistake of marrying the wrong man.

In a few days, she must choose between her fiance, Matt, a boring attorney, and her lifelong friend, Dylan, a tortured soul who has been through equal amounts of life trauma.

OK, so by now, it's probably obvious that Kelly and all her problems aren't real. But, the names and troubles probably sound vaguely familiar.

Yep, Kelly is just one of the ever-troubled characters on "Beverly Hills, 90210," the decade-old Fox TV show that, after 300 episodes, comes to an end at 8 p.m. this Wednesday.

Set in, well, Los Angeles, the show has chronicled the plush lives of Kelly and her friends Brenda, Donna, David, Steve, Andrea and the aforementioned Brandon and Dylan. We've watched them navigate the halls of West Beverly High School, graduate from California University (at least some of them, anyway) and then tackle the "real world," facing every possible drama conceivable in television land.

Sure, it didn't take long until our suspension of disbelief gave way to skepticism, but we kept watching. We embraced them as our friends, we even copied their style (think sideburns).

Maybe it's because their lives always seemed more interesting than those of the people around us. Maybe it's because, at the core, they actually faced the same issues as we, the target audience, did, as we aged with the show. Or maybe it was just to see what would happen next.

Cast with character

From the start in October 1990, when the curiously affectionate twins Brandon and Brenda Walsh moved from Minnesota to Beverly Hills, we were quickly trapped in the glossy world of fashionably spoiled kids cursed with substance addictions and parental misguidance.

There was Dylan, a trust-fund alcoholic with no parents in sight.

Donna, a ditsy blond with overbearing parents.

Steve, a class clown with a "television" mother.

David, a nerdy geek with a philandering father.

Andrea, a bookish overachiever with middle-class parents who has to be bused into swank Beverly Hills from the city to go to school.

And there was our Kelly, a former model with a white-collar criminal father and a coke-sniffing mother.

Welcome to their lives, said its new network, Fox, which found the show to be just the right formula to help make its mark.

Along the way, some of these characters left, and a few came back again. There were numerous additions to the basic circle. Some stayed a little longer than others, most notably Hilary Swank. (No doubt, her stint as a single mother/love interest for Steve helped propel her to an Oscar-winning performance in last year's "Boys Don't Cry.")

When Brenda (Shannen Doherty) left in 1994 to pursue acting in England and Dylan (Luke Perry) left town the next year (after his wife was shot and killed by hit men who were targeting him), the show added characters Valerie Malone and Noah Hunter to the cast to fill the nasty girl and angry-man roles, respectively.

When Brandon (Jason Priestley), after calling off the wedding to Kelly (Jennie Garth), left in 1998 to work as a newspaper reporter in Washington, Matt Durning joined the show before Dylan came back.

Connection with Kelly

And at the center of it all has been Kelly.

She's evolved from a high school party girl to a young professional who has started her own public relations firm, becoming a central character as some of the others left the show. No longer the spoiled (though occasionally misunderstood) snob from Beverly Hills, she became the one we cheered for.

When she suffered severe burns to her face and back at a rave party turned tragedy, her struggle to regain her self-esteem moved us.

When she ditched Brandon to join the "New Evolution," a cult begun by a renegade professor, we excused her for going through that typical "college experimental phase."

When her she started sniffing coke every day and night, we blamed her father, who had continually let his daughter down.

When she shot the man who raped her, we cheered and hoped the wound was fatal.

Over the past few years, the show has actually revolved around seeing Kelly happy. After graduating from college, she started a clothing store with her best friend and roommate, Donna (Tori Spelling). Then she dabbled in public relations as she tried to figure out what she wanted to do with her life -- the sort of post-graduate pondering we've all done.

Of course, she hasn't gone through these life experiences alone. In the time we've known her, Kelly has been linked with several men, but primarily Brandon and Dylan.

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