'90210': To new beginnings, the series starts fresh tonight

Donovan_Wilds_Lanter.jpgIt was right around this time last year that the highly-anticipated " 90210" remake was garnering pretty good buzz, having premiered on September 2nd to record numbers for The CW.

However, heading into its second week, the ratings tumbled a bit, and the story lines stumbled, and the show never did regain that shiny gloss or the solid number that the series opener got... even when the subsequent episodes did feature Shannen Doherty (Brenda Walsh)... though hard core, old school "Beverly Hills 90210" nerds like me and Diablo Cody were definitely watching.

So what happens now?

With "90210"'s second year debuting tonight, the focus has quite clearly shifted off the veteran cast to focus completely on the new class of West Beverly kids. In fact, "9-0" vet Jennie Garth, who is a recurring character on the show, does not even appear in this evening's premiere. But her absence isn't what you'd call glaring. Though most old school fans raised an eyebrow when the series' new fearless leader, Rebecca Sinclair, announced her intention to make the new show about the new kids, it was probably a good and necessary move on her part. If "90210" is going to get its legs and go the distance, we've got to get invested in Adrianna, Annie, Silver, Naomi, Dixon, Liam and Navid. Oh, and Teddy. Tonight, you'll meet Teddy.

In Teddy, the first of many new male faces on the show, we have a high school tennis champ with a movie star father who supposedly possesses "Clooney-esque" charm. At least that was the goal for him. And though he doesn't quite live up to that description in the premiere, there is still time. Will he be, however, the "90210" character we can finally fall in love with? Not likely.

But the good news is that Dixon, Navid and Liam -- the boys we already know -- could be.

Dixon ( Tristan Wilds) has always had a natural charm and likability, but as he breaks free of Silver this season, begins surfing with his buddies and befriending new girls, his Brandon Walsh-esque qualities are magnified. And that's a good thing.

Navid ( Michael Steger) is looking very well -- somehow sexier than when we last saw him... not sure if it's wardrobe, a weight loss/gain or what, but he's got something new going on -- and now that Adrianna is with out-child, we'll have the opportunity to see him as a real dude: desperate for sex, getting denied by his girlfriend and not feeling good about it.

Liam ( Matt Lanter) is simply good casting. Because not only is he a beautiful boy, but now that we've got the B.S. of introducing his whole "allure" out of the way, he also can be a real character with a rocky home life ( John Schneider joins the show as his evil step dad next week) and relatable struggles.

As for the ladies, there is strength in numbers and the new season has Naomi, Adrianna and Silver hanging out constantly. Their crew is like the anti-"Heathers," all supportive and well-meaning, which is actually a nice change from the constant back-biting and infighting we saw last year.

Still, there will be back-biting and good amount of girl-fighting. Mostly between Naomi and Annie, though. Yes, Naomi still thinks Annie slept with her man, Liam (though her skanky, conniving older sister was the real culprit). But Annie's got bigger problems with the whole hit and run incident she got herself into last May. That storyline -- which is a bit of a mystery to unfold -- might be the hook to keep us coming back each week.

Also, there's the laugh factor. Because there's definitely more comedy mixed into the scripts now. At least, the attempt is clearly there and is successful at times. Plus the nostalgia factor, with the kids hanging at the Beverly Hills Beach Club tonight and the boys really getting into the surf scene, is a draw. Just as New York is a character in "Gossip Girl," Los Angeles seems to be raising its profile in the new "90210."

So, should you give the second season of the show a shot? Yes. And by that, I mean that you should stick with it for a few episodes at least. The ball is beginning to roll in a different direction and if we're patient and just give it a bit more time, we may actually get attached to a few of these new millenium West Beverlians...

"90210" premieres this evening at 8 p.m., just before the series debut of " Melrose Place" at 9.



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