The O.C. vs. Beverly Hills 90210
By Erick Johnson and Stacy Jenel Smith
What is it about rich California kids that makes them good TV material -- or haven't you noticed that today's hottest prime time teen soap opera has a lot in common with a certain well-heeled predecessor? Now that The O.C.
" has taken the viewing public by storm, it's time for a showdown between the Newport Beach crowd and those time-tested inhabitants of "Beverly Hills, 90210." Which rules? We match them up. You decide.
WALSHES VS. COHENS
First things first, there must be an uber-wealthy family around which the drama centers. Tucked up in the hills, back in the early '90s, that family was the Walshes -- Jim (James Eckhouse), Cindy (Carol Potter), Brenda (Shannen Doherty) and Brandon (Jason Priestley). The Walsh family was fresh from the Midwest when the series started and by-gosh-golly Jim and Cindy had raised their kids with some morals. And you also have to give it up to Jim and Carol for not going the divorce route until mid-way through the series' run.
The Cohens of "The O.C." are another story when it comes to family values. Consisting of Kirsten (Kelly Rowan), a mom with lots of old money, and Sandy (Peter Gallagher), the criminal attorney dad who surfs, and son Seth (Adam Brody), the town's Catch-22 kid (lots of money but really nerdy and no friends) -- the Cohens come complete with a filthy rich granddad (Alan Dale) who has a 26-year-old babe (Nichole Hiltz) for a companion. And, with their next-door neighbors, The Coopers, splitting up and mama Cohen's close relationship to Mr. Cooper (Tate Donovan), there exists a possibility of marital problems in the Cohen household -- in the show's first season.
: "90210" The Cohens are hipper. Still, we'd rather have the Walshes over for dinner.
THE RESIDENT REBEL
Back at West Beverly High, the resident rebel was Dylan McKay, as played by a young, James Dean-esque Luke Perry. He had problems with his parents -- his father was murdered supposedly because of rather questionable business practices. And of course there was the "forbidden love"/"love triangle" aspect, with Dylan and his relationship with naive Brenda (Doherty). And then there was Dylan falling into the arms and out of the arms and back into the arms of lifelong love Kelly (Garth) that kept viewers tuned in for seasons.
Out in "The O.C.," they had to go to that dangerous, out-of-the way land called Chino -- a blue collar community that's actually driving distance from Newport Beach -- to find this show's rebel, Ryan Atwood, played by Benjamin McKenzie. So far, he's stolen and wrecked a car, nearly lost his life if a fire at a multi-million dollar manse where he was squatting, and had a fling with Grandpa Cohen's wifey. And of course the out-of-reach love is just next door at the Cooper household, where daughter Marissa (Mischa Barton) is caught in a myriad of confusion as she must decide between Ryan or Luke (Chris Carmack) the unfaithful rich jock she seems destined to marry.
ADVANTAGE: Even. These guys both show why the old "brooding handsome outsider" cliche works!
This brings us to the V, as in Virgin Factor, present in both series. "90210's" Donna (Tori Spelling) was a virgin right up until the show's bitter end after 10 seasons. Many critics complained that her chastity was unrealistic and that there were other reasons that her character on the show was allowed to stay so pure. (For instance, the fact Tori is producer Aaron Spelling's daughter.) Regardless of the reason, when you think about it, it wasn't all that bad to have someone on television with whom virgins in high school could identify, was it?
On "The O.C.," Marissa was the resident virgin, but that ended after only a few episodes. Now purity-minded viewers have only sensitive Seth to relate to. Maybe.
ADVANTAGE: "90210." We know Marissa's upset about her parents' divorce, but, c'mon -- keep it together, girl! If Marissa down-spirals too fast (as in passing out from Vicadin and tequila in a Tijuana alley), she'll be too pitiful to get to season two.
On "The O.C." we've got quite a bit of promise going with Rachel Bilson's Summer Roberts character, described as "the ultimate Newport Beach party girl."
"90210" had lots'a sexy, naughty characters throughout its run, but the one everyone remembers is...actress Shannen Doherty in her real life. The nightclubbing, the romances and marriages, the cat-fights! Who could outdo that?