Maxwell Caulfield joins the Spellingverse once again…
Twin teenagers Brandon and Brenda Walsh make friends at a new high school, then learn about love, life and more in Beverly Hills in the pilot show of this series.
Beverly Hills Season 1 Episode 01 Trailer 2, Beverly Hills Fan
Both the TV Series Beverly Hills 90210 (1990-20) and the film The Goonies (1985) have a teenage character named Brandon Walsh. This review is on the character in the former, a 1990s teen drama about twins, Brandon (Jason Priestley) and Brenda (Shannen Doherty) Walsh, a pair of 16-year-olds who move from Minneapolis to the rich and affluent Beverly Hills with their mum and dad (for what appears to be judging from the pilot alone, is for no more than plot convenience).
Over 10 seasons (!) of this Aaron Spelling series, the twins and/or their West Beverly Hills High School buddies learned about life issues, friendship and love (hopefully in a non-preachy way). The show’s original premise was to tell kids about that all-important issue of the week and about the twin’s culture shock after moving to this new city.
However, this show reportedly somewhere along the way became more teen soap as this series continued. Other issues examined in this series included peer pressure, cults, shoplifting, cheating, AIDS, drug abuse, friendship and relationships (including love triangles). This series was the first of a six-part, seemingly never-ending and real-time soap franchise.
Today I’m looking at the pilot double bill episode of Beverly Hills 90210 (1990-2000), and this is my first ever viewing of this series. I’d had only heard about it back in the 1990s after a much younger cousin confessed to a bit of a crush on the character, Dylan McKay in this show. Dylan was played by the late Luke Perry, who died last year and he was seen in last year’s Tarantino movie, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019). Beverly Hills 90210‘s pilot episode sadly did not have Perry (who appeared in a number of episodes after this one) but it did have the presence of a familiar face from my past telly and film viewing, Maxwell Caulfield.
Maxwell Caulfield was the actor and leading star from Grease 2 (1982) where he sang, danced and fell for a very young Michelle Pfeiffer. Beverly Hills 90210 was just one of many Aaron Spelling television productions that Maxwell appeared in. In the 1980s, Caulfield starred in Dynasty (1981-89), The Colbys (1985-87) and Hotel (1981-88). He later starred in The Love Boat (1977-87) sequel that (probably) should never have happened, named Love Boat: The Next Wave (1998).
This pilot for Beverly Hills 90210 is in two distinct parts. The first half introduces us to the then to be regular characters and cast, and the second concentrates more on the twins’ respective storylines. The series starts as the mulleted (and permed?) Brandon (played by then 20 year old Priestley),
boy man-splains the plot of the first part, as he wakes up to his new life in Beverly Hills;
“First day of school… strange city… new house… no friends… I’m psyched!
Meanwhile his twin sister, Brenda is having a fashion dilemma on what to wear and is upset that she hasn’t got a cool haircut. As the pair drive to their new school in an old banger, the opening credits roll. Then it cuts to their new school where it seems all the kids have very expensive cars and for some bizarre reason, these kids even have a valet to park their car when they get to school.
This fact was learnt in a (never ending) montage with cars, more cars, kids doing high fives and a group of four kids in a (wtf) choreographed dance routine (who possibly thought they’d signed up for a Fame (01982-87) reboot). A blond curly mopped and mulleted Steve Sanders (Ian Ziering) then compliments his ex-girlfriend Kelly Taylor (Jennie Garth) on her new nose job in a bastardly kind of way. After watching this I cringed inwardly and admittedly I was all set to give up on this show. But the thought of seeing Maxwell Caulfield spurred me on (not realising then that I’d just under an hour til his first scene).
Meanwhile, on screen, it’s also the first day of high school for freshmen buddies, Scott Scanlon (Douglas Emerson) and future Desperate Housewives (2004-12) totty, Brian Austin Green who appears as David Silver. Predictably, Kelly and Brenda become bosom buddies(immediately) after Kelly invites Brenda to be her chemistry lab partner.
Brandon also (surprise, surprise) becomes pals with Steve who he meets in their Spanish class. Brandon also meets Andrea (Gabrielle Carteris), a girly swot, hopeful Ivy League student and head honcho of the school newspaper. The plot then all kinda chunters along, and suddenly a plane goes overhead with an invite to a party written on the ribbon streaming behind it. (As you do when your parents are loaded).
This invite is from rich, popular and party girl Marianne and her invite is for everyone but the freshmen. Inevitably the entire cast goes to this party (apart from Andrea) and it’s full of cliches (drunk and dancing pupils, a band and David and his buddy gatecrashing and one of them being pushed into the swimming pool).
Brandon chats a girl who is sitting alone and apart from the others. After he complains about how crap the party is he discovers, she also is the hostess. This pair have kind of an attraction, she gives him her number and they dance… (yawn, and tune in to see the remainder of this storyline).
Back at school, the vice headmaster has asked the Spanish teacher out on a date, after seeing her dancing after a class (this is still not Fame for gawd’s sake). In Chemistry class, Kelly fakes some ID cards so she and her girl buddies can go to the over 21s Blue Laguna disco in the city at the weekend. Brenda (who “has never broken the law before” ) happily joins them for this escapade.
Brenda is the only one of these girls, the bouncer (Djimon Hounsou) lets into the disco. He does not believe the other girls’ “ages” and rips up Kelly’s ID. She and the other girls go home humiliated and Brenda is left alone in the disco, thinking her new friends have deserted her. A mulleted man, Jason makes his move…as Maxwell Caulfield (finally) joins the episode (yay).
Jason is a lawyer and he claims to be 25, and unbeknownst to him, she is (about) 10 years older than Brenda. Despite Brenda’s obvious difficulties in even ordering an alcoholic drink and talking about her life as a “college” student, he is taken in by these (obvious) lies. He trusts her story of being a student at university and buys her a banana daiquiri. When you see this scene you could be excused for thinking he’s a bit of a creep, but to me, he just seems incredibly stupid or naive.
Then Jason takes to his place and snogs her (complete with a bubble machine, I kid you not). He tries to undress her but Brenda refuses to take things further. He understands and drives her “home” to a church that Brenda claims to live in. He even gets taken in by that fib. This leads to a few dates with Brenda using tons of makeup and then telling her trusting family she’s going out with her new girly friends.
Brenda meets Jason and his cronies for dinner on a school night and tells her family that she’s going out to a certain fast-food restaurant. At this dinner, her lies get bigger and more “elaborate” as she claims to be an astrology student in front of Jason’s friends. But the game isn’t up even when his pal asks what a black hole is and she replies its a hole that’s black, and they all look at her in awe on hearing this revelation.
The super gullible Jason even trusts her as she tells him that she doesn’t have a phone number. Jason then invites Brenda to stay with him for the weekend. After Kelly tells Brenda he should tell him the truth about her age, I begin to like Kelly, a little. Brenda bleats on about how she kinda loves Jason and how she wants to lose her virginity to him. Kelly insists the truth must be told, saying if he doesn’t understand then he’s not worth it.
Then Brenda confesses all to Jason that she’s 16 going on 17 (but sadly not in a song) and still at high school. Jason then goes (understandably) ballistic in the restaurant, and continues to rant as he drives her home (and who can blame him)…
Although the twin’s storylines took centre stage in the show, this pilot double bill gave everyone a chance to shine. The characters were well set up and the themes explored. As a first time viewer for this show, I am hoping that these Beverly Hills characters improved from my first impressions of them. I did find the Beverly Hills kids a bit irritating and superficial in this first episode.
Steve came over as a bit of a douchebag but some hints given about his unhappiness at home. So dare I hope for some more understanding of this character if not a character arc..? Kelly appeared a bit superficial and unsupportive but later in the episode she seemed a bit nicer with some helpful relationship advice for Brenda. Luckily, both these characters became a bit more relatable later on in the script.
The twins seemed very close, but this felt a bit icky at times. They spoke to each other about their feelings for their classmates, their respective dates and their aftermath after these relationships ended. As Brenda talked with her brother about not losing her virginity to Jason, her revelation seemed a bit at odds with the scenes where she had confided more with Kelly. It was good to see both Brenda and Jason’s thoughts on her dishonesty in her storyline.
I did enjoy watching Caulfield’s one off appearance in this series. His character initially came over as a terribly nice but incredibly dim character. I didn’t find him creepy as I felt more sympathetic to his character as Brenda had lied to him. At the start, Caulfield played him as amiable a guy as he was in Grease 2, but by the third date admittedly there were hints he would have been quite uncommitted to them. But to this storyline’s credit, as his character found out the truth, Caulfield showed a realistic portrayal of how her dishonesty had hurt him.
I listened to a recent podcast about this episode, where the show’s stars Jennie Garth and Tori Spelling interviewed Caulfield about this particular role. Caulfield reflecting on his character said Jason had a “yen for young women” and was a bit of a “lech”.
He also spoke about the filming of this episode and enthusiastically about his and his wife’s (Juliet Mills) television career in those aforementioned Aaron Spelling TV shows. It is clear he enjoyed his time on The Colbys set in particular talking of his joy working with those Hollywood legendary names, Charlton Heston and Barbara Stanwyck. He also spoke about his off screen experiences with Michelle Pfeiffer on Grease 2.
After reading more on this show, I learned other guest stars in this series included Casper Van Dien, Nicolas Pryor, Hilary Swank, Judie Aronson, Lucy Liu, and Matthew Perry. I was also happy to discover Maxwell wasn’t the only The Colbys acting name in Beverly Hills 90210. Interestingly, Stephanie Beacham who had played a maternal role to Caulfield’s character Miles Colby by chance appeared later in this series as Luke Perry’s character’s on-screen mother Iris. Beacham just one of a cast in a franchise with everyone but his mother, in the show that started it all, once upon a time in Beverly Hills 90210.
Weeper Rating: 😦😦/10
Handsqueeze Rating: 🙂/10
Hulk Rating: /10
The Cool Rider: Maxwell Caulfield Blogathon, 2020 No 26
This post was added to Pale Writer’s The Cool Rider: Maxwell Caulfield Blogathon. Other reviews with this cast include Maxwell Caulfield in Dynasty, The Colbys, Hotel and Grease 2. Shannen Doherty starred in Girls Just Want to Have Fun and Magnum PI. Tori Spelling appeared in Murder She Wrote, The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, Hotel and Glitter. Jason Priestley had a role in Welcome to Sweden. Ian Ziering took centre stage in the Sharknado films. Brian Austin Green also starred in Knots Landing. Djimon Hounsou starred in Furious 7. Reviews with guest stars of this series included Casper Van Dien (The Warrant), Nicolas Pryor (Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Omen II) Stephanie Beacham (The Colbys and Dracula 1972), Judie Aronson (Weird Science), Grant Show in the Dynasty reboot and Lucy Liu in Chicago.