90210 panel: Brenda's back, and the new generation - TCA Report
Talk about a mismatch: Even though there are plenty of people in the press tour audience who fit in The CW's target demographic of women age 18-34, most of the people who seem to grab the microphone and ask questions during most sessions are firmly not in that demo. In fact, their demo could be described as "men, age 35 - infinity." Hearing some of them ask questions of the young stars of 90210, for instance, sounds almost creepy.
That being said, the CW sessions are always good to attend for two reasons: 1) the comedy stylings of communications chief Paul McGuire, and 2) the frustrating non-answers given by CW entertainment president Dawn Ostroff. Both are entertaining in their own way.
In order to keep the critics in their seats, the network bookended the presentations for little-talked-about new shows Privileged and Stylista with the session for the highly-anticipated 90210 update and Ostroff's executive session. Before he introduced the 90210 crew, McGuire cracked that Ian Ziering was last seen auditioning to be Ostroff's handyman. I guess you had to be there. On the panel was the entire cast, including Lori Laughlin, Rob Estes, and Jessica Walter, and producers Gabe Sachs and Jeff Judah, formerly of Freaks and Geeks.
First, they announced that Shannen Doherty was coming back to play Brenda Walsh, which we mentioned earlier today. Apparently, Brenda's gone on to become a successful theatre actress and director, splitting time between London and New York (looks like Brenda's having a better career than Shannen is). The administration at West Beverly High convinces her to come back and direct their musical production. Shannen's the third alum to reprise her role in this "updating" or "reimagining" or "spin-off," or whatever the name for it is; Tori Spelling and Jennie Garth are the other two.
What do the producers think this version of 90210 should be called? "(This is) a completely original invention," said Judah. "It's somewhat of an homage to original show." From what I can see, it's just simply about a new generation of kids at West Beverly High, focusing on the Mills family, who just moved from Kansas City (paralleling the Walshes' move from Minnesota). The kids and parents deal with all the issues that come with being wealthy and teenagers in what Walter called "the aughts."
Speaking of which, Walter was asked what the differences were between her character, recovering alcoholic Tabitha Mills, and Lucille Bluth from Arrested Development. "Lucille liked vodka and Tabitha liked scotch," she joked. She does feel, however, that Tabitha is nicer and trying a lot harder than Lucille did to be a good mother and grandmother.
According to Sachs and Judah, The Peach Pit -- and Nat -- will return (in fact, the breakfast was Peach Pit-themed, complete with Joe E. Tata on hand for interviews). But, it'll be more of a "cool cafe" than a diner, and there will be a club upstairs for music, so, according to Judah, "it won't be like the old show where it's 'Hey, it's Color Me Badd!' and they come up and play."
One of the teens will be played by Tristan Wilde, who played Michael on The Wire. Wow, that's about as big a swing between two shows as you can get. Of course, that difference was brought up, and Sachs and Judah both professed to be huge fans of the gritty HBO drama. Judah recounted that when they met with Wilde to talk about the role, "I was like Chris Farley on SNL: "Remember that time? When you were on the stoop?'" After the laughter died down, Judah contiued. "For this role, we knew we wanted Tristan and we were the biggest fans of The Wire. Espcially season four; it's one of the best seasons in the history of TV."
After the 90210 session, I and a small group of reporters found Jessica Walter in the scrum. We asked her about her role on this show, what her daughter's reaction to it was, and, of course, just what the heck is going on with the Arrested Development movie (she's pretty sure it's happening for 2009, but isn't as definitive about it as her co-star, Jeffrey Tambor, was):
Jessica Walter on her role and the AD movie (7:28)
More from The CW, including the executive session, later.