LOS ANGELES, Aug. 14 (UPI) -- It used to be that a TV reunion special was the last gasp of has-been stars. This decade, reboots starring the original cast have been lucrative. Fuller House, Will & Grace, The X-Files and more have continued the stories of favorite TV characters years, sometimes decades, later. Beverly Hills 90210 ended in 2000 with the characters well past high school, so a 2019 reboot picking up with them as adults might make sense.
90210 stars Tori Spelling and Jennie Garth weren't interested in that kind of reboot though. They'd heard that pitch from opportunistic writers, producers and executives for the past 19 years. Instead, they came up with BH90210, in which Spelling, Garth, Shannen Doherty, Jason Priestley, Ian Ziering, Gabrielle Carteris and Brian Austin Green play themselves.
"It was something that we thought of together, and we thought it was a fun journey to take," Spelling said. "Everyone's been talking about a reboot for years, and the fans have wanted it. We just didn't want to do the straightforward reboot. You can't ever top the amazing 10 years we had when we started 30 years ago, so we wanted to do something fresh and groundbreaking, just like the original."
BH90210 allows the cast to have fun with their own legacy. Garth hooks up with a fan who calls her Kelly, then ends up back in Priestley's hotel room. Ziering is shilling a workout book. Priestley is a director, as he is in real life, but his BH90210 counterpart fights with his leads. It would be a total spoof, but by the end of the first episode you feel for the actors/characters and want them to succeed.
"Originally the concept was for a half-hour, and we did think it would be more of a comedy," Spelling said. "It was so nice to be able to partner and go home again to Fox and do a one-hour, which is what we did originally, and to be able to try to set a tone that is different from what is out there. We couldn't really give examples or references of what the show was because we were essentially creating something new. So it is that blend of drama and comedy and soap all mixed into one."
BH90210 may be the first series where the stars of one show play themselves on a reboot that is about rebooting the original show. There were baby steps to get there. Shows like Entourage and Episodes brought viewers up to speed about inside Hollywood comedies, although those shows created original characters surrounding celebrity cameos.
"We benefit in that I think people understand what they are more," executive producer Chris Alberghini said. "My partner Mike [Chessler] and I did a show with Tori 15 years ago called So Notorious which was a comedy where Tori played a fictionalized version of herself. ... I think people didn't quite know what to make of it at the time. I do feel that we benefited [on BH90210] from the existence of those other shows and the public awareness of those types of shows as a format."
When Spelling steals her own 90210 memorabilia, it's funny. When Green finds out his musician wife was getting him movie roles and Ziering learned his fictional wife is cheating, there's no laughing.
"We came up with this concept to make it a little bit more interesting to everybody," Garth said. "Interesting to the actors and a little bit more interesting to the viewers because the viewers have seen the straight reboot a million times over."
Perhaps it is ironic that Spelling's storyline involves Hollywood refusing to take her seriously as a producer. Her fictional self is a reality TV star just as she was in real life, but Spelling produced several series beginning with So Notorious. She can laugh about it now, but Spelling always felt underestimated.
"That's probably my perception," Spelling said. "I think it's difficult as an actor to be taken seriously as a producer, as a woman. That's what it really boils down to. You keep fighting for your beliefs."
So what's real and what's just for the show? Well, Spelling and Garth are really close friends in real life, as they appear on the show.
"Yeah, we're best friends in real life," Garth said. "We co-created this show together and worked tirelessly for two years together. We have a very strong bond."
Ziering does not have a workout book and Green is not married to a musician. He's married to Megan Fox. In fact, the cast drew the line at involving their real spouses and children on BH90210.
"I have no spouse in the show," Doherty said. "My husband is private, and he's got his own career, and he was pretty adamant about that not being a part of it, which I can completely respect."
Other characters are married to different people on BH90210 than they are in real life.
"For those of us who do have spouses, we chose to use completely fictional characters for those roles, just to protect our families," Garth said.
Fans just wanted to see Brenda, Brandon, Donna, Kelly, Steve, David and Andrea again. Now they're watching the "real" Doherty, Priestley, Spelling, Garth, Ziering, Green and Carteris in crisis and it's possibly more compelling than the high school drama ever was.
"That's the thing about this cast," Garth said. "We're pretty unflappable. I think we all had that moment where there are perceptions of us and we think we should use that in the show, definitely. We used people's perceptions, and that was a great launching point for a lot of our storytelling because it's a perception. For us to sort of take back the power, spin it and use it to tell these stories was a really interesting angle, I think, for everybody involved."
Heck, even Shannen Doherty had fun with the idea that she would be the holdout for a 90210 reboot. Doherty remembers all the bad press she got when she left the original show, and there were rumors that Spelling asked her father, producer Aaron Spelling, to fire Doherty. BH90210 isn't about dredging up that drama though.
"I'm the girl who wants peace and who has found her life and has things sort of figured out," Doherty said. "I think there's only a few journalists left in the world who actually want to keep going back there. There's none of that in the new 90210. I definitely am not interested in being a part of that kind of show. I just want to keep spreading good, positive energy into the world in real life, as is my character."
The six episodes of the first season give the cast a taste of being self-deprecating and celebrating their 90210 legacy. If they can continue into a second season, Alberghini thinks they could do more than six more episodes.
"I think the six was right just in terms of figuring it out and figuring out what our tone would be and figuring out the types of stories that we wanted to tell," Alberghini said. "I think that for a second season, probably more episodes would be a good thing for us."
Now the cast and producers are having such a good time, they would consider filming at least one episode as their original 90210 characters. The season finale may set them up to finally film the actual 90210 reboot.
"If there is more for us to produce, you might see an authentic episode at some point," Ziering said. "I would think we would all come together and say, 'Let's make it happen. Let's step back into the original characters for an entire hour.' But right now it's all about the journey of us coming together and getting the show back on the air."
Spelling has more ideas too.
"We would love to continue to work together," Spelling said. "I liken it to high school when you think, oh, you never get a chance to do a do over, and there were things that you know now that you didn't know then that you would have done differently. And we get that opportunity. It's really come full circle, but we have so many stories to tell that this could keep going on season after season, so we hope it does."
BH90210 airs Wednesday nights at 9 p.m. on Fox.