During the late summer and early fall of 1992, the song everyone loved to hate (but secretly loved) was inescapably everywhere: shopping malls, skating rinks and McDonalds across the nation piped in the teen friendly lyrics of Jamie Walters’ How Do You Talk to an Angel over tinny loudspeakers and a million and one girls swooned in unison and a million and one guys made sure to strategically place the number one million seller on their mix-tapes in order to capitalize on said swooning. Just how many unplanned pregnancies sprang from said mix tapes and song are not known, but grand times were had by all and no one gave much thought to the fact that without Beverly Hills 90210 the actor, Jamie Walters, and his ode to angelic love might never had insinuated themselves briefly into a culture that was rapidly ditching its Bugle Boys, feathered hair and Quiet Riot cds for a passel full of flannel and the latest Nirvana album.
All of the above is relevant to last night’s fifth episode of BH90210 in that it featured the return of the baddest of the so-called bad boys of the original Beverly Hills 90210, actor Jamie Walters who played the abusive boyfriend Ray Pruit to Tori Spelling’s girl next door Donna Martin. And yes, the actor who also gave us the hit song How Do You Talk to an Angel which itself came from the FOX show The Heights, Walters’ follow-up to his 90210 stint, was in fine form last night in his return to Beverly Hills.
Just how bad was the character of guitar playing Ray Pruit? Let’s just say that our well-coifed crooner was a tad sensitive to any umbrage’s both of the real or perceived variety by Donna and her West Beverly pals; Like, pushing Donna into a wall and throwing her down a flight of stairs kind of bad. Eventually the character was written out of the show (although the brooding crooner had a sorta-kinda character saving grace note later on in the series). To this day among Beverly Hills 90210 fans, the name of Ray Pruit occupies a spot for fictional bad guys usually reserved for the likes of The One Armed Man (The Fugitive) or The Trinity Killer (Dexter).
The producers of BH90210 – and Jamie Walters – knows the history of this Ricky Nelson clone turned bad quite well and deftly and lovingly sent it up in Wednesday’s newest meta-exploit of the actors of the original series reuniting to film a reunion of their iconic characters. See, it turns out that Tori Spelling believes that the mastermind behind the arson of the set and the mastermind who spray-painted the chest thumping Stop Acting Like I’m Not Even Here! was Walters – or Walters portraying a fictional version of himself (take three Tylenol and call me in the morning). In true BH90210 fashion, Spelling reasons that Jamie has been harboring residual hostility towards a character and show that ultimately hurt his career.
What’s a self-respecting group of thespians to do in the face of possible danger from a former cast mate? The entire gang hops into Gabrielle Carteris’ vehicle and embark upon a road trip that is one part Crosby and Hope brought to you by David Lynch on an acid trip. The mission is to track down and confront Jamie for his crimes, which might include among other sorted things copious usage of Dippity-do styling gel and an overabundance of brooding. Along the way, Tori shill’s for one of BH90210’s sponsors, Cadillac. While the crew barrels down the road. In. A. Cadillac. Lap it up fellow meta-heads, lap it up.
In a terrific reunion, Tori’s Magical Mystery Tour finds Jamie crooning out a passable version of How Do You Talk to an Angel in a bar and he happily greets everyone. In a neat little twist, he doesn’t recognize Shannen Doherty because – get this – he only came on the scene as Ray Pruit after Doherty had left the shows for greener pastures. Tit for tat, a nonplussed Shannen doesn’t recognize Walters and is incredulous upon finding out that the show actually even carried on after her departure. Fan service has never felt quite so sweet.
While Jamie admits that his career took a hit for playing a character that was not universally admired, he reveals that his life has happily moved on and sabotaging his former cast mates is nowhere on his To Do List (So who perpetrated these pesky deeds? Turns out it was Johnson Deitz, the owner of Donna’s roaring red dress).
With just one episode left before the curtains drop yet again on our Beverly Hills brethren, I’m struck by – my tongue in cheek comments to the side – just how much heart BH90210 possesses. We live in a society where it is sometimes frowned upon to admit just how much the pop cultural clutter of our lives actually personally matters to us. But this same ephemera that can be so easily discarded if we don’t guard it fiercely from those who don’t get it marks moments in our lives that matter and that makes the odds and ends from television and film land that populate our empty slots in life forever relevant. Watching an old episode of Beverly Hills 90210 is a specific marker in much the same way an old song can be: “I was sixteen when I got my first car and the first song to blare from its crappy speakers was Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love,” becomes “I recall the first season of Beverly Hills 90210 because it premiered the same year that I got super-drunk at the prom and threw up all over my date.” BH9010 has effectively reframed the legacy of Darren Starr’s and Aaron Spelling’s brainchild and assured for posterity that the memory of the show, like a sweet song, will only grow and flourish as the years trickle on. Que Jamie Walters’ How Do You Talk to an Angel as we pull back and fade out, forever changed by a group of kids from West Beverly High.
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