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Beverly Hills, 90210:

Not even close

Rolling Stone, in August 1991, said Beverly Hills 90210 "owes its success to its unconventional approach to teenagers: It takes them seriously."

Katherine Wildt, a bona fide teenager, didn't agree. She reviewed the now-famous "Spring Dance" episode in the May 1991 Horizon, and was bothered by the "messages sent to the average viewer." Every character was a stereotype, from "Brandon, the perfect specimen of manhood and chivalry" to "Andrea, the geeky intellectual" who couldn't get a date. Of course, eventually "a taxi shows up and out comes the geek turned into Cinderella."

Even a later positive Horizon review of the show discounted its realism. "Who ever said TV has to be an exact replica of real life?" wondered reviewer Rachel Fetner in September of the same year. "It is supposed to be enjoyable."

Most adults who watch or hear about the show believe it is a replica of real life, discounting only the setting. They believe this "realistic" drama portrays accurately the attitudes and behaviors of the average teenager. Considering the attitudes and behaviors of the characters on 90210, that can be a dangerous misrepresentation.

At the end of "Spring Dance" all the characters make up and crowd the dance floor for a group hug. "We shut off our TVs and submerge ourselves in real high school the next morning. What a disappointment," Katherine lamented.

But at least we can hope that not all adults buy into the myth of "the show's frankness about teen life", as Rolling Stone's reviewer did.