The ZIP code matches, the central family's situation is similar, and there are even a few faces from a storied past. But producers say CW's "90210" is not the same place as its predecessor, '90s cultural phenomenon "Beverly Hills, 90210."
"It was really important for us to do our own version of the show," executive producer Gabe Sachs says. "Hopefully (viewers) can see it as a contemporary version" of the original.
As in the first "90210", the descendant (Sept. 2, 8 p.m. ET/PT) starts with a Midwestern family — from Kansas, not Minnesota — whose members find themselves fish out of water in glitzy Beverly Hills. Familiar faces Jennie Garth, Tori Spelling, Shannen Doherty and Joe E. Tata return as guest stars for multiple episodes, as (respectively) a guidance counselor, boutique owner, high school musical director and owner of The Peach Pit.
This "90210" also centers on a brother and sister who attend the famed but fictitious West Beverly Hills High School. Then the differences begin.
Annie (Shenae Grimes) and Dixon Wilson (Tristan Wilds) are not twins, as the Walsh kids were. Dixon was a foster child later adopted by the Wilsons.
Beverly Hills is not a completely alien world, either. Harry Wilson (Rob Estes), the new high school principal, grew up there, and the family moves in with his mother, faded TV star Tabitha Wilson (Jessica Walter). Parents Harry and Debbie (Lori Loughlin) will be featured more prominently than their counterparts in the earlier series, Sachs says.
The full new cast gathered recently for its first group photo shoot; the roles differ from those in the Aaron Spelling/Darren Star original, he says. "Naturally — and I understand the confusion — when it first started, everyone was asking the kids, 'Who are you playing?' It's not that world."
When casting started, the better-known actors, such as Estes and Loughlin, immediately seemed like good fits when their names came up. Sachs and fellow executive producer Jeff Judah were "sick fans" of The Wire, admiring Wilds' work. "Degrassi: The Next Generation" grad Grimes had an element of innocence they envisioned in Annie, Sachs says.
"We have the characters defined on paper, but when you meet them, they really become 3-D," he says. "You start to write toward who they are."