This is the apex of ‘Unauthorized’ television biographies, boys and girls and it has everything you could hope for from a Lifetime movie about one of the greatest high school TV shows about rich, white kids ever. It has (PG-13) sex! Cat fights! Car crashes! Terrifically horrible writing! Nightclub battles! And a whole host of other shenanigans. Oh, the shenanigans! We’re truly in a golden age of television, my friends.
1. Just look at that fucking cast
Sweet holy Dylan Mckay do I love Lifetime and their propensity for showcasing bizarro alternate universe versions of existing realities. To Lifetime, so long as an actor shares at least 2/10 of the original physical attributes of an individual then BOOM! quit your day job Sally cos you just got yourself a job. The Unauthorized Story of Beverley Hills 90210 is like one of those magic eye picture books that your Dad wouldn’t buy you when you were a kid (cos, like, it’s just an ink blot test for morons, d’uh) – squint hard enough at your screen and Max Lloyd-Jones will cunningly reveal himself as Jason Priestly. And hey, look! Is that President Ronald Reagan over there? Why yes it is! Like, am I actually watching a fucking documentary here or what? Cos you could have fooled me.
2. Speaking of which, is that Homer fucking Simpson?
Yep, Dan Castellaneta plays a convincing Aaron Spelling (I say convincing. I just had to google what he looks like and eh – it’s passable, right? I guess. Magic eye?) via like, every states official or media henchman of Springfield ever. In many ways you could say that the original Beverley Hills 90210 was the Springfield of television, whilst this ‘Unauthorized’ behind the scenes look at it is the Shelbyville (prepare your ‘hate-hoots’ now, people!). Everything is the same but not. It’s basically the supermarket own brand of behind the scenes ‘Tell-Alls’.
3. Okay, but that wardrobe is not legit
God, I feel like I’m trashing this Lifetime movie but I’m not. Honest. I sincerely loved every second of it. Possibly more than I should. But like, who was doing wardrobe for this thing? Would it have been so hard to just head down to a Williamsburg flea market and pick up handfuls of whatever ‘retro’ 90’s garbage they’re flogging for $80 a go instead of whatever horrendous Forever 21 replicas they were dressing everyone in instead? You’re not fooling anyone, Lifetime.
4. The original cast were basically playing themselves in the show?
In this alternate reality version of 1990 where James Dean was apparently still alive and well (and slumming it as a construction worker! Well fuck me, at least he looks good) and existing within the sweet, tender flesh of a young, pissed off Luke Perry, it appears as though all of the cast had little ‘acting’ to do in order to ‘become’ their characters. Because, hell, they’re already there.
The producers apparently had Luke Perry smoking in the office, cussing and brooding, squint-reading his lines from the script like a Harlem-Globetrotter casually firing balls into the net backwards from the half way point. Slam-fucking-dunk, people – they basically built the role around him (incidentally, I hope this particular anecdote is 100% true. The idea of Luke Perry going straight from his construction worker job to an audition, all sweaty and dirty and ashing his ciggie into a pen holder probably worth more than his yearly construction salary ignites my loins into a smouldering cinder, let me tell you).
And then, of course we have Gabrielle Carteris who was apparently sensible, smart and sarcastic playing sensible, smart and sarcastic Andrea, badass-bitch Shannen Doherty playing badass-bitch Brenda Walsh, meathead with a heart of gold Ian Ziering playing Steve Sanders and slightly pointless prototype Vanilla Ice Brian Austin Green playing, well, you get the picture. We’re through the looking glass, kids. Zip code: 90210.
5. Brian Austin Green liked to dance. Little else.
There’s nothing like a Lifetime movie to really make you question the reality of life, love and general existence. In this instance, the role of Brian Silver is really highlighted as being a disastrous and compellingly mysterious addition to the Beverley Hills 90210 lineup showing a 16 year old Brian Austin Green basically failing at freestyling hip-hop in his dressing room and well, dancing wildly to, I don’t know, Kriss Kross (?!) in his headphones. Remember that episode of Beverley Hills 90210 where David Silver performs at the Beach Club? Yeah, he spent the entirety of his formative career building up to that moment. It was his Citizen Kane. Just take their damn money and dance, David Silver. America needs you.
Incidentally, was he hired purely because a young Tori Spelling had a crush on him? Seems that way. And if so, bravo to junior Spelling for manipulating an entire network into satisfying her primordial teenage fantasies. Girl had game.
6. Of course there’s a Sharknado reference in this thing
The Unauthorized Story of Beverley Hills 90210 has made me realise that I’ve been mispronouncing Ian Ziering’s name since forever. Which is fine since I’ve always just called him Steve Sanders anyway, but please don’t tell me that American’s actually pronounce Ian as Ion…or I-ane…whatever the fuck it is, because, nope.
In other shit-tastic movie news, let’s all take a moment to cringe applaud the Sharknado reference that is clumsily rammed into a wonderful piece of bro-fist writing. ‘You’re like a shark’ a Zimmering tells Doherty in a speech supposed to be addressing her wild, out of control on-set and off set antics, ‘you’re like a tornado…’ he continues to muse, ‘You’re like a mixture between a shark and a tornado!’.
‘That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard’, Shannen retorts.
Oh boy. Give those writers a prize.
7. All hail Shannen ‘Queen Bitch’ Doherty
Look, it’s cool to be a nice person, and especially in everyday life, being a normal person with a standard job and being nice to your fellow humans is super nice, but who really wants that from their Hollywood stars? Shannen Doherty has always been portrayed as being a hellion, an out of control Queen bitch of such fantastical proportions that her on-set strops were directly proportional to Californian seismic disruption, or whatever. And, I-love-it. The Unathorized Story loves showing Doherty as a professional brat, number 1 on the call sheet and number 1 in life, y’all! She’s the one wearing the Letterman’s jacket whilst the rest of the cast are basically waiting in the wings to have their shot at the ball. She makes the whole cast wait for her arrival on-set everyday, challenges Jennie Garth to a fight in the car park, has an extra fired for getting too much attention off the boys, and gets charged with assault and battery after brawling (it’s hardly a brawl) with some dork with a ponytail in a Hollywood nightclub. Doherty is a quite simply a goddamn boss. Long may she reign.
8. Brad Pitt, huh?
I never knew until now that Jason Priestly once lived with Brad Pitt during the formative days of their career (oh to be a fly on the wall of that bro-pad). The Unauthorized Story sadly fails to cast anyone to fill his role (can you imagine the casting process for that? “I’ll be in at 4am on Monday morning to start screening actors for that one, Maureen”), but his spirit is there like a holy relic glimmering away in Priestly’s past. A script even arrives for him! Thelma and Louise, you say? Pah. Sounds like a chick flick.
9. We are all Gabrielle Carteris
Andrea Zuckerman, I think we can all agree, was a fucking wonderful character. She wasn’t a rich, entitled brat, she was smart as hell and she wore the greatest pair of glasses seen on TV since Twin Peaks’ Log Lady. At the beginning of the Unauthorized Story Carteris’ agent tells her that at 30, she’s past it in Hollywood. Best she starts looking around for hostess gigs and preparing herself for roles in am-dram productions of Death of a Salesman off Broadway because 30? You may as well be dead.
As a woman hurtling right up against the big 3-0 (I’m excited, obviously), I can relate. But Carteris gets the job! One of the best scenes in the Unauthorized Story is of a party weary Carteris yawning her way out of a night out at 10pm. The rest of the girls look at her with a horrified disappointment. ‘When you get to 30, you’ll understand’ she tells them, before shuffling off to presumably jump into her pyjamas, eat pizza in bed and catch up on her shows. Amen to that sister. Just recently I found myself at an all-day gig complaining that there was insufficient seating to rest my poor, ancient bones between bands. Punk rock waits for no-one, people.
Simply the best ‘whatever happened to these guys…’ recaps
Just look at these. My particular favourite is the one about Luke Perry (if you haven’t seen Oz, then start. Immediately. It’s amazing) whilst the one about Shannen Doherty is just a cheap pop against A) being a boss and B) being a witch. As if witches are a bad thing to be – aim big, bitches. Don’t let Lifetime dictate your bitch quota for the week.
Amy Roberts (a.k.a Alabama Roxanne) is a writer, blogger and multidisciplinary artist based in Liverpool, UK. She’s published internationally, in print and online, and recently had a guest editorship at Queen of the Track zine. Her poetry explores the mythologies of the Final Girl, which is the basis of her collection-in-progress. She was featured on a panel of David Lynch experts at a Northern Film & Media event in early 2015, and is the bassist for crust-punk band Aüralskit. Her blog ‘I Never Knew You Were Such A Monster‘, fiction and non-fiction about the horrors of everyday life, was shortlisted in the Blog North Awards two years running. She’s interested in illustration, photography, go-go dancing and Timothy Olyphant. She is vehemently, batshit insanely, Team Catalano.