When Fox announced BH90210, no one really quite understood what it would be.
Sure, we knew that it would reunite the original, beloved stars of Beverly Hills, 90210 for a limited series that would be neither reboot nor revival. Rather, it would be a meta reunion of sorts, finding Tori Spelling, Jennie Garth, Gabrielle Carteris, Shannen Doherty, Brian Austin Green, Ian Ziering and Jason Priestly—Luke Perry, who passed away in March, was hoping to make an appearance prior to his passing, but his work on Riverdale meant he couldn't be fully involved—playing some version of themselves in a Curb Your Enthusiasm-esque situation where their fictional selves were working on mounting a revival of the iconic Fox soap.
In short, it was confusing. Just how much art imitating life could we expect?
"All of the characters are fictionalized versions of ourselves," Spelling, who serves as executive producer and co-creator alongside fellow co-star Garth (the rest of the cast earned executive producer credits as well), explained to press at the 2019 Television Critics Association summer press tour hours before the show launched on August 7. "We kind of wanted to leave it to the audience to figure out what's real and what's heightened."
"That's the fun of the show, picking out the little things and thinking, 'Is that true or not?'" Garth admitted during a recent appearance on Daily Pop.
She's not wrong. Three weeks in, one of the big joys of BH90210—aside from seeing the gang back together on screen again, of course—is attempting to parse the fact from the fiction. It's not always easy though. As such, we thought we'd help you out and break down what we know to be true and what's pure make-believe.
Spelling's storyline may be the one to pull the most from her real life. In BH90210, she's married to a man named Nate (played by Ivan Sergei) and has six kids. After her reality series, Tori and Nate: Spelling the Beans, gets canceled, she finds herself in dire financial straits. Her home life is further strained when Nate turns down work because he feels it's beneath him. And then there's the small matter of her connection with Green, whom we learn took her virginity while filming the original 90210. After the gang all reunites for a 30th anniversary celebration, she gets the idea to pitch a reboot to Fox before setting out to enlist the rest of the cast, hoping to tap into some of her father, the late Aaron Spelling's, producer skills.
The Real Story: While Spelling and her husband, actor Dean McDermott, have starred in myriad over the years, there's little evidence that McDermott has turned down work like his fictional counterpart. The couple has, however, had its fair share of troubles—financial or otherwise—over the years, though Spelling stresses that her hubby is nothing like Nate. "He's my biggest supporter, so he's nothing like my husband on the show," she said on Daily Pop this week. "But we were trying to set up that dynamic of someone that has a big career, what happens when a woman is at home with the kids for a while and now she's becoming powerful again?" In real life, they share five children, not six, ranging in ages from 12 to 2. And considering she and Garth are credited as co-creators with whom the idea for BH90210 originated, the bit about Tori spearheading the faux revival is true to life, as well.
Oh, and about losing her virginity to BAG? While she did admit on Lifetime's Celebrity Lie Detector in 2015 that she slept with the erstwhile David Silver, she told Daily Pop's Morgan Stewart, "That one is not true."
"My husband asked me the same question the other day after he watched the show. I'm not kidding," she added. "I was like, 'Well, there's some things that are heightened. Little threads of truth. And some things, completely fictionalized.'"
Much of Garth's storyline revolves around her love life, specifically the dissolution of her third marriage. We also see her grapple with her only daughter Kyler's desire to follow in her mother's footsteps and pursue a career in acting, much to her mother's dismay. There's also great attention paid to her strained relationship with the fictional Priestly, whom she verbally spars with before drunkenly falling into bed with him in the premiere—despite the fact that he's married, albeit unhappily.
The Real Story: While Garth has been married three times in the real world—first to actor and musician Daniel B. Clark from 1994-1996, next to Twilight actor Peter Facinelli for 11 years until they divorced in 2013, and finally to Dave Abrams in 2015—her third marriage seems to have survived a 2018 filing for divorce. The couple filed a petition earlier this year to dismiss the divorce proceedings, with a rep telling People in February, "They're very happy." Other differences between the show and the real world? Garth actually shares three daughters—Luca, 20, Lola, 14, and Fiona, 11—with Facinelli. And her rocky relationship with Priestly seems to have been created for the show, as well. "It's not reality, so I don't like using heightened reality," Garth insisted to E! News ahead of the show's debut, bristling at certain ways its been categorized. "It's a fully scripted show and these are fictionalized characters that we have all come together and created individually."
While we've seen very little of Doherty in these first three weeks, what we've gotten paints a picture of an unmarried, devoted animal rights activist who remains estranged from her former co-workers—aside from being secret BFFs with BAG—and was most recently living in the wilds of Peru until Spelling dragged her back to the Fox lot. That's it. That's all we've gotten so far.
The Real Story: The real Doherty is a passionate animal rights activist, but the website PawsitivelyShannen.org does not exist. The actress also happens to be married in real life, to photographer Kurt Iswarienko, though she's explained that she has no intention of dramatizing her union. "My husband is very private, and he has his own career and he was pretty adamant about that not being a part of it for me," she said at TCA. "I have no spouse (in the show)." It remains to be seen whether or not Doherty's real-life battle with breast cancer—she was diagnosed in August 2015 and revealed she'd gone into remission nearly two years later—will be a part of her fictional counterpart's story, as well.
On BH90210, Carteris is the president of the Actors Guild of America and a new grandmother who shares an experience with a bartender nursing a teenage crush on Andrea Zuckerman that appears to awaken feelings in the actress, leading her to ask that Andrea explore her sexuality in the revival so that she may do so herself while remaining happily married.
The Real Story: In the real world, the Actors Guild of America doesn't exist. However, Carteris has served as the president of SAG-AFTRA for three years and is currently seeking re-election. She is not, however, a grandmother yet. She's been happily married to stockbroker Charles Isaacs since 1992 and they share two daughters, Kelsey, 25, and Molly, 20. As far as we know, there's been no exploring of her sexuality in her real life.
Brian Austin Green
In the world of BH90210, Green is married to a pop star named Shay (played by La La Anthony) who's been the breadwinner in the family while he's served as a stay-at-home dad to their three daughters His main source of strife stems from the fact that Shay's popularity has entirely eclipsed his own and she's resorted to throwing it around to help him get work. Oh, and he (and the rest of the cast, it would seem) has a creepy stalker.
The Real Story: While Green isn't married to a Grammy winning recording artist with her own private plane, he is married to actress Megan Fox. The two tied the knot in 2010, filed for divorce in 2015, and reconciled in 2016. They share three sons, Noah, 6, Bodhi, 5, and Journey, 3. He's also worked rather steadily in the last decade, starring on shows like Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Desperate Housewives, Wedding Band and Anger Management. Oh, and he has no stalker that we know of—though he and Fox have had dramatic run-ins with the paparazzi, who are sort of like stalkers who get paid for their stalking, if you think about it.
When we pick up with Priestley in BH90210, he's a hot-headed director who punches an actor on the set of some TV superhero show, has a very rock marriage to powerful publicist-turned-wife Camille (played by Vanessa Lachey), and sleeps with Garth. After returning home from the cast's trip to Vegas, he learns that Camille is pregnant, though by the end of episode two, he'd learned that the odds of him getting his wife pregnant without medical intervention are very slim. The man who got her pregnant in his stead? Only the briefly hired head writer for the show-within-the-show (which he'll be directing).
The Real Story: While the real Priestley shares a passion for directing with his fictional counterpart, having directed dozens of episodes of TV (including 15 on the original 90210 alone!), the idea that he would get violent with one of his actors seems to be a complete fabrication. In fact, there's never been any rumors about the star having issues with his temper. He's also never directed the sort of CW superhero show that his fictional counterpart is working on when the incident unfolds. And his home life couldn't be further from the one he's bringing to life on screen. He's been married to make-up artist Naomi Lowde-Priestley since 2005. Together, they share two children: daughter Ava, 12, and son Dashiell, 10.
On BH90210, Ziering appears to have the perfect life: Married to author, fitness influencer and Real Housewives of Beverly Hills hopeful Stacey, the two have written a book, The Holly-Wed Workout: Sweat Together to Get Together. But by the premiere's end, we learn she's cheating on him and by episode two, he's divorcing her. Ever the entrepreneur, he pitches Spelling on a line of products the two could slap their names on to help them both out financially.
The Real Story: In the real world, Ziering's home life is much happier. He's been married to wife Erin Ludwig, who maintains a fashion, travel, and mothering-focused blog called At Home With the Zierings, since 2010. The two share two daughters: Mia, 8, and Penna, 6. And he's a bit less precious about his brand than his fictional counterpart, having starred in all six of Syfy's Sharknado movies over the past few years.
Odds and Ends
While the arrival of actress Christine Elise McCarthy, who played the iconic Emily Valentine in the original series, in last week's episode as the new Fox exec who'll be helping to shepherd the show-within-the-show to the small screen is a very fun little twist, given her and Priestley's shared history in the real world—according to his 2014 memoir, they lived together and shared their lives for five years in the early '90s—she's never worked as a network executive at Fox or otherwise. And the love connection brewing between her and Carteris? Fully fictional, as far as we know.
As for Carol Potter—aka the erstwhile Mrs. Walsh—popping up in week three as the cast's group therapist, turns out that one is rooted in some absolute truth. Potter actually is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with an office in Culver City, Calif. "In the fall of '95, I went back to school and got a master's in marriage and family therapy, and became a licensed therapist," she told The New York Times in 2008. "I did another job after 90210, through Aaron Spelling, a daytime soap opera called Sunset Beach. And I was doing that while I was getting all the hours I needed for my license. So it was a wonderful combination: I went to the set in the morning, and it was all about me, me, me, me, me - my hair, my makeup, my wardrobe, my emotions, my intentions, my motivations. And then I'd go to the counseling and see 3 to 5 clients, and I could put all that stuff aside. And just become completely focused on them and their experience and their life and their feelings." Alas, according to her Psychology Today profile, she's not currently accepting new clients.
And though you may not have realized it, week three took things to an extra-meta level with the storyline revolving the musical chairs in the fictional revival's writers room. We watched as Spelling had to fire the writer who knocked up Priestley's wife, leading to a promotion for the female writer Ziering mistook for a PA (and all we have to say about that nod to the post-#MeToo world is that hopefully the real Ziering is much more enlightened than his fictional self), and while the circumstances may not be the same, the plot point seemed to be a reference to the very real personnel turnover BH90210 experience in May when initial showrunner Patrick Sean Smith and multiple senior-level writers quit the show, reportedly over disagreements with some of the actors and an executive overseeing the project.
BH902010 airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on Fox.
(This story was originally published on August 14, 2019 at 7 p.m. PT.)