Spinoff Stories -- Beverly Hills, 90210 (Article VI)

Written Lathering Up for Multiplying Soaps by Bridger Cunningham.
Soapy angst never gleamed as young and restless as FOX's primetime franchises in the 1990's.  After Aaron Spelling's Thursday soap entry gained momentum, 5-year old FOX sought to expand into Monday-Wednesday programming.  To achieve this, they crafted spinoff Melrose Place, geared toward the adults.  This durable franchise lived on well into the 2010's, thanks to continuation series reviving the old premise.  Beverly Hills, 90210 stands as one of the most successful franchises with spinoffs to date.
The Original Hit Machine -- Beverly Hills, 90210 (1990-2000)
Image result for beverly hills 90210One year after Dynasty folded on ABC, Aaron Spelling desired to get a new primetime franchise going again and formulated teenage soap opera Beverly Hills, 90210. Its first season delivered tepid, self-contained plots, whereas later seasons accelerated the serialized formats and young drama, catapulting the series to its peak in 41st Place with a 11.3 rating for the 1993-94 season.  Given the series was gaining momentum and critical praise, FOX sought to repopulate its growing schedule and selected Beverly Hills, 90210.
The First Spinoff -- Melrose Place (1992-99)
Image result for melrose placeGen X'ers trying to make their way in the world against a West Hollywood backdrop.  That was the initial premise behind Melrose Place's self-contained episodes featuring the cast renting in adjacent apartments.  Like its parent show, Melrose Place tied in musical acts in the opening, becoming a desirable launch ground for musicians.  The ratings never crackled the first season until Heather Locklear guest-starred as Amanda Woodward in the first season (and never lost that narcissistic billing in the opening intro).  Suddenly, the plots became saucier, more serialized and outrageous.  Melrose Place ignited into a mid-90's firestorm, even helping FOX colonize Monday evenings.  The series blew the shark up in the Season 3 cliffhanger as unhinged Dr. Kimberly Shaw (Marcia Cross) imploded the building.  MP continued strong in the next season, but dropped off after nearly every tenant in the building had slept with each other.  As frequent cast changes and shallow plotting continued, FOX pulled the plug after 7 seasons.  That is, however, a success story as the series outlived the average series.
The Second Spinoff -- Models, Inc. (1994-95)
Image result for models inc
Saucy, sordid scheming in the modeling world?  A return to the primetime soap world for Linda Grey?  How did this series not succeed?  This Melrose Place spinoff, designed as a companion as FOX moved MP to Mondays in the fall of 1994, received some decent establishment on a (then) grounded Melrose Place.  Amanda Woodward's (Locklear) estranged mother, Hillary Michaels (Grey) makes an attempt to reconnect with her daughter and is shut out.  Also present was aspiring model Sarah Owens (Cassidy Rae), whom Jo Reynolds (Daphne Zuniga) takes under her wing during a photography shoot.  The series launched with a trite whodunit with haughty model Teri Spencer (Stephanie Romanov) being offed early on.  After the mystery resolves, Romanov emerged as a lookalike named Monique Duran.  Soapy?  The ratings never caught on, with the series finishing 113th Place with a 7.1 for the season.  FOX fired the series and ordered in a newer, younger television show to squat on their schedule.
The Third Spinoff -- 90210 (2008-13)
Image result for 902108 years after the original series ended, CW revived the premise (and was perhaps the culprit in the 2010's trend of reboots and resurrections).  Following the younger connections from the original series, Erin Silver (who simply called herself "Silver"), the younger sister of Kelly Taylor (Jennie Garth) and David Silver (Brian Austin Green) held the same trivial drama her siblings did years earlier while attending high school, including an addict mother.  Retooling the original premise, the Wilson family, comprised of husband Harry (Robe Estes, from Melrose Place fame) and his wife Debbie (Lori Loughlin) relocate their teenagers, Annie (Sanae Grimes) and Dixon (Tristan Wilds) from Kansas to California.  The teen drama drew in plenty of viewers, but the greatest headliners were cameos from original stars Jennie Garth, Shannen Doherty, Tori Spelling and Ann Gillespie.  The series performed modestly for CW, with its first season being its strongest with a 1.4 demographic average.
The Fourth Spinoff -- Melrose Place (2009-10)
Image result for melrose place 2009If ripping off an old show worked well the last season, why not do it again!?  That seemed to be the rationale CW had when they continued on Melrose Place 10 years after the original ended.  While it received favorable reviews for toning down the vapid, shallow plots, criticisms arose for toning the original series' vets into vile shells of their former glory.  MP 2.0 started the series with a whodunit (because it worked so well for Models, Inc 15 years earlier) by murdering Sydney Andrews (Laura Leighton).  Wait, didn't Sydney die in 1997?  That's what we thought, as this plot twist was as pointless as bringing back a former veteran, just to insultingly kill her again.  Jane (Josie Bissett) and Jo (Daphne Zuniga) were rewritten as an opportunists.  Michael (Thomas Calabro) regained some of his composure from the silly antics of the series' end, yet came across as weakened in this reboot.  Same goes for Heather Locklear's Amanda, whom apparently menopause had affected negatively as she lost her bite.  After one dismal season, Melrose Place scored a 0.7 season average in 138th Place, guaranteeing a ticket to eviction.
Crossovers and tie-ins were done sparingly amongst these series.  A handful of 90210 regulars crossed over to MP's first two episodes as Kely (Garth) and Jake (Grant Show) broke off their fling.  Beyond that, the crossover action happened between the original shows and their continuations.
Why Most of These Franchises Worked
What made Melrose Place and (Continuation) 90210 more successful than Models, Inc. and (Continuation) Melrose Place?  The common denominator is character development, which the winners invested in to hook viewers.  Melrose Place was often viewed as sensationalist and vapid, yet the first two seasons invested heavily in developing a likeable cast the viewers could watch behave badly.  As did 90210, which fleshed out a realistic portrait of teens in the 2000's.  Melrose Place in 2009, however, lacked the heart the original had during its run.  Both Models Inc and Melrose 2009 sought to launch their premises with a "shocking" murder early out of the gate.  A bad idea, as viewers have little to no reason to be shocked to a senseless murder.  Regardless, the Beverly Hills, 90210 franchise is one of the most successful to date with 24 stacked seasons of programming.

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