Exclusive: Six Questions For 90210 Music Supervisor Scott Vener

13 06 2010

When 90210 featured The Script in an episode last fall, I had no idea who they were. Fast-forward to April when their single “Breakeven (Falling To Pieces)” went platinum–selling more than one million copies and playing on an endless loop inside my head.

In the last few months, I begun to increasingly wonder about 90210’s music selection process and (politely) stalked the show’s music supervisor, Scott Vener, for the low-down.

Vener took time out for a quick chat via e-mail about working on 90210 and two successful HBO shows.

TeenDramaWhore: What does it mean to be a music supervisor? What is the process for selecting music for a 90210 episode?

Scott Vener: The process is different on all shows.  But, on 90210, I pool together a library of music for the editors so they have music they can cut picture to.  I would say most of the songs come from me.  However, I’m really lucky on 90210 to be working with some really great editors who know music pretty well.  They make a lot of contributions.  Also, the showrunner [Rebecca Sinclair] has great taste and she is really supportive of using eclectic stuff, which makes my job a lot more fun rather than just placing songs that are currently charting on the radio.

TDW: Do you have a favorite 90210 “music moment,” a scene and song that really stands out to you in your memory?

Vener: I really loved using the song “Cat & Mouse” by this new group Nikki & Rich in the first episode of the season [Episode 2.01, To New Beginnings].  You can YouTube it.  It’s great!

TDW: The original 90210 had the After Dark, a club for the characters to gather where popular music artists would perform. This has also been seen on other teen shows, like The O.C., which had a place called The Bait Shop. Aside from The Script playing at the Beverly Hills Beach Club earlier this season [Episode 2.05, Environmental Hazards] and a brief performance by N.E.R.D [Episode 2.08, Women’s Intuition], the new 90210 has stayed away from that. Is that an intentional choice?

Vener: I don’t really know because I don’t write the scripts : )

TDW: How did Soundtrack 90210 come about? Any plans for a “volume 2”?

Vener: The soundtrack was CBS’s idea.  The show really lends itself to being a music-driven show.  So, having a soundtrack made sense.  I’m not sure if we’re going to do a new one.

TDW: You also work on Entourage and, more recently, How To Make It In America [starring Bryan Greenberg (Jake, One Tree Hill)]. How do you balance three shows and how do you think the music style for the shows differ?

Vener: They shoot at different times so it’s not hard to balance them all.  I definitely think the styles are really different.  There definitely is some cross-over.  I used Nas and Damian Marley’s song “As We Enter” and Broken Bells’ song “The High Road” on both 90210 and How To Make It.  But what I love about 90210 is I can use more singer-songwriter stuff that probably wouldn’t fit on either How To Make It or Entourage.  Entourage is definitely closer in style to How To Make It because they both lend themselves to hip hop.

TDW: Where do you get your inspiration from? Do you have a favorite artist right now?

Vener: I really don’t like to use anything I don’t listen to in my personal life.  I definitely search music blogs all over the Internet from people all over the world.  I got a few people (blogs) working for me, who have no idea they work for me.  I feel guilty. I don’t pay them. (No, I don’t. Ha.) Foals’ new album is great.  It’s not out yet but I have it and it’s awesome.  Also, The Morning Benders, Nikki & Rich, and Freddie Gibbs.

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Fun Fact

14 05 2010

All but two one teen dramas have main characters who are also musicians/singers.

On Beverly Hills 90210, we got our first real taste of David’s musical inclinations in season 3 when he started recording his own music and later performing at the Beverly Hills Beach Club. The storyline continued for a decent part of the season with David nearly having a record deal. At the end of season 4, David got a taste of the music life again when he toured with real-life musician Babyface. In season 8, David joined the band Jasper’s Law for a short time, which introduced us to “Keep It Together”–which I absolutely loved and still do. In an episode in the tenth season, Janet reunited with college friends and played the bass at the After Dark.

On Dawson’s Creek, Joey’s vocal talents were first revealed in season one when she performs a moving rendition of “Own My Own” for a beauty pageant. In the fifth season, Joey played with a band featuring Chad Michael Murray’s Charlie. After a few gigs, he asked her to come on tour but she declined. In the next season, Audrey fronts an all-female rock band but as her drinking spirals out of control, she has no choice but to give it up. Near the end of the series, we get one more performance from her: a beautiful, understated and haunting performance of Zakk Wylde’s “Way Beyond Empty.”

One Tree Hill has had the most musical characters by far, showcasing the talents of recurring character Jake and, more notably, Haley in the first season. Haley’s music career was a big storyline in season 2, where she performed–among other things–a duet, “When The Stars Go Blue,” with Chris Keller and later toured with him and real-life band The Wreckers. Haley gave up music for a while, though we saw her perform with another real-life band, Enation, in season 6. There’s a bigger focus on Haley’s music in the first half of season 7, where Haley has released an album and toured again, performing songs that were actually created by Bethany Joy Galeotti’s band Everly. Season 5 and season 7 introduced two more musically-inclined characters, Mia and Grubbs, but they weren’t main characters.

90210 also featured musical performances very early on with Annie and Adrianna being in the school production of Spring Awakening. Earlier this season, Adrianna serenaded Navid and has since started taking music quite seriously, writing and recording songs and performing with pop sensation, Javier, who is played by real-life musician Diego Boneta. Their duet, as far as I know, doesn’t have known title, but is called “One More Time” and I absolutely love it, and Jessica Lowndes most recently performed two of her own songs.

The O.C. and Gossip Girl have both featured real-life musical artists and the GG cast even has some who are building a music career, but neither show The O.C. hasn’t had actual main characters who were performers.

As noted below by Misty and Alyssa, there are two I left out: Beverly Hills 90210’s Ray and Gossip Girl’s Rufus.





Exclusive: Charles Rosin Talks Beverly Hills 90210, showbizzle and More

14 03 2010

Think the Spellings are the only real-life Beverly Hills 90210 family? Think again. Meet the Rosins: Charles, Karen and their daughter Lindsey.

As you may recall from my previous interview with Charles, he was the executive producer of Beverly Hills 90210 for its first five seasons. Karen wrote nearly 20 episodes between 1991 and 1994 and Lindsey had a memorable cameo in Episode 2.o6, Pass/Not Pass, as a little girl asking Brandon (Jason Priestley) to dance the hukilau at the Beverly Hills Beach Club.

I mentioned in January that my interview with Charles was one of my highlights of TDW Year One. I never dreamed I’d interview him once–let alone twice and this time in person. But that’s exactly what happened in January on a weekday morning in New York City, where Charles, Karen and Lindsey came to promote their new media venture, showbizzle.

Charles and I sat down to talk about showbizzle and, of course, Beverly Hills 90210.

TeenDramaWhore: If you had to give your elevator pitch for showbiz, what would you say?

Charles Rosin: Showbizzle is a digital showcase for emerging talent that combines a webseries called showbizzle with a platform for talent away from the immediate pressures of the marketplace. So it’s two mints in one: it’s a show and it’s a resource for emerging artists. The show is populated by emerging artists and it was really conceived by emerging talents, namely Lindsey Rosin being the first one to be showcased, as the writer and director of the majority of the shows. So that’s the basics of it.

Unlike so many people who do webseries, what they’re hoping is “Oh, everybody loves our webseries and we create so much action and energy, FOX or The CW will find us and want to put us on the air.” We’re not interested in that. If we wanted to do something specifically for broadcast or cable, we would go into the room with those people and say “We think this works for your medium because…” But we like this form, the potential of it, the idea that you can just do what you want to do and not have to go through committees. From a business standpoint, there’s ownership potential that works in the current marketplace.

So the premise of the webseries is that Janey, a young wannabe screenwriter, who is very plugged into the culture of Los Angeles, sits in a coffeehouse in L.A. trying to write her screenplay and looking forward to all her friends who stop by and interrupt her from that. That’s the basic premise of it. What is a lot of fun about it is that for someone like yourself and the audience that you know, that although you meet all these disparate characters doing these short little two-minute snackable, for-the-digital-world kind of stories, you start to realize these characters are related and there is a serialized story. It builds to a serialized place. We’re fans of that. We try to do it with humor and insight and with a lack of snarkiness that is so prevalent in the digital world. We try to do a show that’s engaging.

One of our slogans is, “Just take a little bizzle break.” The one thing about all media, all the shows you cover–and thanks for even thinking about showbizzle in relation to it–is what they really are is diversions. Somehow in the last 20 years, the importance of the television business, the shows that are made, have been thrown so far out of proportion because of the material value of it. But all they are–we have a lot of issues going on the world–is just a little place to get a respite, to get a chuckle or a laugh. One of the things that Lindsey really values is when her friends say, “That happened to me” or “I’ve got a story.” The whole social network aspect came from Lindsey saying, “We should ask our viewers what’s happened to them,” because even though it’s very specific to Hollywood, because that’s where we’re set, at the same time trying to get ahead in life and figuring out what you’re going to do and using every connection you have when you’re kind of an adult but not really an adult, is something [everyone goes through] and we wanted to explore that.

TDW: How did showbizzle start? Who came up with the idea?

Rosin: The origins of showbizzle go back to a day in December in 2005 when Disney announced they were selling Lost on iTunes, which effectively meant the end of the syndication model that financed network television. Producers would make X number of shows and if they had enough, they could sell them to the local stations and other places, and that’s how the revenue would come back to the companies and people would profit from that. Fortunately, I benefited from that twice. Once from [Beverly Hills] 90210 and more recently Dawson’s Creek, which moved into profit because of the syndication of it. But when you sell something prior to syndication, it dilutes the value of the syndication and to do something that as dramatic as to put episodes on iTunes the day they’re running or the day after they run is a fundamental change.

I started thinking about that and how network television was going to be changing. In the spirit of “everything old is new again,” I started thinking about branded entertainment, which goes back to the pre-network era, where with the television of the 50s, companies–Chesterfield Cigarettes, Lucky Strike, Kraft, General Electric–would come in and buy the half-hour or the hour and be totally associated with the show, whether it be variety or comedy or drama. They all had that. That’s how the revenue was derived. I started to think about what company had the resources to do this and is currently not an advertiser on network television. I realized that anyone who was going to put their name above an entertainment project was going to do it and want total ownership and control and then go to a network or then go wherever they want to go.

So I approached Starbucks about a project called Starbucks Presents. We did this in the winter-spring in 2006. We were trying to create a social network for the people who use Starbucks, in store or at home, and program hours of different ways to do things. At the core of it was a daily soap opera about what goes on in a coffee house. Showbizzle is the distillation of that idea. By the way, Starbucks’ response was “Don’t bother us. Come back to us in 5 years. We’re in the music business.” They’re no longer in the music business. They’re still in the coffee business.

TDW: Where does the name come from?

Rosin: Well, we wanted to call it hollybizzle for a while but it was taken. So, showbizzle, not quite show business. And certainly Snoop Dogg is very “fo shizzle” and made my kids laugh. We were sitting around the dinner table–I have two other children besides Lindsey–and we came up with that and said let’s see if that one will work. We like the name quite a bit. It’s friendly and open.

TDW: What is your role on a day-to-day basis? Is this now your full-time gig?

Rosin: I teach at UCLA and I still develop shows. I was very active in the business from the late ‘70s to about 2005. Found my name wasn’t on the lists that I liked anymore and this was a place to do it on my own. The idea to get more sponsorships, provide things for the community–that is where I spend a lot of my time [with showbizzle]. I think like 85, 90 percent of the time I still do other forms of writing and developing other projects as well. I like teaching and I like doing this. If J.J. Abrams called, I’d answer.

TDW: What is Lindsey’s role?

Rosin: I get to refer to her as “the talent.” She’s the writer and director. The other woman who did a lot of writing and directing for the first season is a woman named Arika Mittman and Arika just won a Humanitas Prize for an episode of South of Nowhere that she did. Arika was my assistant on Dawson’s Creek. She’s terrific and very talented and gets along very well with Lindsey. Arika, she’s someone who in a different lifetime would’ve been head of daytime. She plotted the serial a little bit with Lindsey. But Lindsey, I say to her–sometimes to her consternation; it’s a family business and all–anytime she’s involved with the site, it’s better on all levels.

TDW: What has been the response you’re getting from people in the business?

Rosin: I think they admire the effort and realize we’re pioneers. This is not formed. People haven’t done things like this. They always ask, “How are you going to finance this?” and I kind of talk about it but steer away from it a little bit. It’s designed to be branded entertainment and we’re here in New York now to try and find brands. We’re hopeful that we can and we present something that has potential and is different. There’s certain things we did in the first year–we did a lot of monologues; we didn’t emphasize the cinema. We’d like to have a little more production value. Lindsey has a lot of ideas for the second season. We know where to pick up the show and what kind of sponsors we’re looking for. Forms follows function, after all…

TDW: You mentioned finding sponsors. Is that what you did on this trip?

Rosin: One of the most difficult aspects of doing webseries is, whether you’re doing six episodes with friends in your dorm room or if you’re trying to do something to ultimately become a daily habit on the web, is to get the levels of support that you need. When you do branded entertainment, you want to get to brands. Brands have not been oriented to this. So we’re starting to see the change and transition as more and more brands advertise or consider sponsorships and realize that it might be worthwhile to look at certain web series, to brand projects and put their name above the title and all that. It’s a question, though, of “how do you get access to that?” One of the ways is you do something and it goes viral and they come to you and say, “How do you do that?” The other way is to do some work, you put it together, you have more ideas, you go to the brand and say, “With your marketing support, we do A, B, C, D and E” and that’s the method we chose. Creatively, I think showbizzle is somewhere in a middle ground or at least between premium high content and user-generated. We want it have the feel of an independent but be scripted.

There was an event [this week] called Brand In Entertainment, which was an event to meet people who are independent purveyors of content and meet brands and those that are interested in the sector or interested in tipping their toe in. It’s a risk-adverse world, especially after the financial meltdown. It’s all going very slowly. But I had meetings with one or two other people who have access to brands and I wanted to let them know what we’re doing. It was a business-oriented trip.

TDW: You mentioned that you have people who are just starting out in Hollywood playing the characters in the webseries. Is anyone getting “noticed” from it? Any success stories?

Rosin: The thing that’s interesting is remember my original definition: digital showcase, emerging talent away from the immediate career pressures of the marketplace. So really, it’s only about a creative expression. Too much discussion in Hollywood has moved away from any form of creative satisfaction and is only based on business elements. That’s why you always hear about returning an investment and all that. Well, what about creative satisfaction? So the goal of [participating] is not necessarily to further a career but to allow them to perform. We are going to try and accelerate it. We’re going to formally announce soon that we’ll have a rotating group of casting directors as residents and we’ll supply short little monologues and encourage our community to perform them, upload the video and guarantee them that the ones the casting directors like the most, they will comment on them and be on the homepage. You get on the digital showcase. You’re in our community and now you get to be singled out. That might help.

This time last year, a cute little blonde came in and started [working for us], making calls to colleges for outreach. She was really nice. One weekend she told me she had to go to New York. For my class at UCLA, I was putting together a list of what [new] shows [the networks] had ordered so we could [evaluate] them and I saw the girl’s name. It was Brittany Robertson [Lux on Life Unexpected]. She was the girl making our calls. I had Subway sandwiches with her for weeks. I sent her an e-mail and said, “Either you get major kudos or someone has stolen your name!” Now she didn’t perform on showbizzle and I don’t think necessarily that people have seen someone on showbizzle and said, “I need that girl or that guy,” but I think it gives people the confidence to be that girl or that guy.

In the second season we may go after a few names that people know to play little characters. It’ll probably make a difference. Two of the biggest names so far have been Fran Kranz, who was on Dollhouse and was just terrific, and James Eckhouse [Jim], who isn’t in the same demographic. But people can come [to showbizzle] for various reasons. As Lindsey likes to say, they can choose their own adventure. They can focus on getting industry resources or they can focus on the show, they can express themselves, they can take a bizzle break from all the troubles in life.

TDW: What lessons from Beverly Hills 90210 have you been able to apply to showbizzle?

Rosin: The main thing I learned from [executive producer] Aaron Spelling is you make a show for an audience. The audience satisfaction really matters. We continue to adjust to what our audience is looking for, what they say they want. The other thing, which I always like to say, is showbizzle is low-budget production. We were able to do a little content for not very much money but still paid people and all that. 90210 was lower-budget production. We had much less money in the first two or three years than what was there afterward. When we built the college set, that was a big thing for us. We didn’t have big restrictions. The first few years we did. We learned how to do something economically and you learn how someone is paying for all this. Usually that someone is your corporation, whether it’s Disney or Fox or Aaron Spelling. In the case of showbizzle, it’s us. You have to be prudent. Production we were able to handle very well. It’s the digital stuff, the Web site stuff that sometimes spirals out of control.

TDW: I was curious to know if you and Karen were already married when you started working on the 90210 or if the relationship was born out of the show.

Rosin: I met a really cute girl in 1976. We were married a year later in 1977. We’ve been together a long time.

TDW: That is a long time.

Rosin: Yes, we’re very old.

TDW: I know she’s had a career of her own but she wrote close to 20 episodes of Beverly Hills 90210.

Rosin: She wrote the best ones. It was an interesting thing. Mr. Spelling had had a bad taste in his mouth about putting a married team on a show from when he did Dynasty. He never really wanted to let Karen come on the staff and be a permanent part. It allowed her to stay home and raise our kids, which is a great thing but at the same time, she really deserved a lot more recognition as a writer, as a writer-producer, and didn’t really get that from 90210 and I always feel badly about that. But it was circumstances beyond our control. I really love collaborating with her, and I really love collaborating with Lindsey, because you find out with writers, all writers have strengths and all writers have weaknesses. A lot of writers who really excel at dialogue have trouble organizing the story, the scene dynamics. That’s what I do in my sleep. But I’ll struggle over dialogue for hours and hours. So it was a really nice fit with us. One thing I would to say anyone who is starting out and is thinking about collaborating, is that you have to feel whomever you’re collaborating with brings more to the party than you do. You’re not carrying them but you’re benefiting from them. And that’s my relationship with Karen as a writer. Anytime we work together, it gets better.

TDW: I know you did commentary for the earlier seasons of the DVD sets.

Rosin: Karen and I were asked to do it on season 3 and I did an interview for season 4.

TDW: Since season 4, there’s been no extras. We’ve had seasons 5-9 with no extras.

Rosin: Want my opinion? Because there’s nothing to say. The show ended with season 5, in my opinion. Season 5, if you were going to do one, the person you’d need to talk to is Luke [Perry, Dylan] because Luke was so important in those first 12, 13 episodes where he has his money stolen and has his whole depression and anger, leading to the crashing of his car. Luke drove those first 13 and it was a pleasure to do them with him. He had such intensity. If he’s not going to talk about it, then what are you going to say? Tiffani [Amber Thiessen, Valerie] would’ve been the other person to talk to for season 5.

TDW: Some of us have also been upset with the cover art and that many songs have been replaced on the DVDs or scenes were cut because of songs issues.

Rosin: Knowing how much Mr. Spelling cared about the audience, the fact that the music isn’t up to the standards that we had, he’d understand it as a businessman but he’d be rolling over in his grave.

TDW: I heard you were once working on a 90210 spin-off concept with Aaron.

Rosin: When we were thinking about moving forward with the college years, we also proposed they could spin-off a West Beverly High series but they didn’t want to do that at that time. Then in the year 2000, Spelling wanted to do it and I was hired to do something on it but it didn’t turn out to be what they were looking for. It was like 90210, the next generation. I think it had the exact tone of the high school shows but it was just for a different generation of high schoolers. Instead we have this bastardized version that’s on now.

TDW: What was your reaction when you first heard about the one that’s on now?

Rosin: The first reaction was that it just shows how important the brand is and how much branding means. Every generation has the right to do anything. I don’t own it. It was Viacom, Spelling. Darren Star created the show. It was more his world than it was mine. I was there to do something much specific. But now I’m more excited by a show like Life Unexpected than recycling shows from a different era just because of their title. I don’t feel [the new show] has that much in common with the original other than it has a high school premise and it’s in Beverly Hills. But tonally, from what I’ve seen, it doesn’t have that much in common.

TDW: Not sure if you’re aware but they recently killed Jackie Taylor [Ann Gillespie].

Rosin: Why?

TDW: They did this whole cancer storyline.

Rosin: I understand that. When you run out of ideas, you get people sick. No offense to Joey [E. Tata, Nat], but we were struggling and had to do 32 episodes. So Nat’s going to have a heart attack [Episode 4.18, Heartbreaker]. If you see characters getting sick like that at random, it’s usually evidence of a bankruptcy of ideas, in my opinion.

TDW: It came out recently that Rob Estes [Harry, 90210] is leaving the show and people are very surprised. “He’s supposed to be our patriarch. He’s supposed to be our Jim Walsh.”

Rosin: I would imagine that you do things like that when you realize a few things have happened. After the 5th year when I left [the original], so did Gabrielle Carteris [Andrea] but so did Jim Eckhouse and Carol Potter [Cindy]. At a certain point, you get to be a mature show. You realize you have to cut your overhead a little bit. You realize the storylines are going to move into a different direction and things are going to be different. So you do make adjustments. Why did Estes leave? Maybe he was profoundly unhappy with what they’ve done with his character. I wouldn’t know that but that’s usually why actors leave. They weren’t satisfied. The show thought they were paying too much money. He wasn’t being utilized, etc.

TDW: It came out recently that Jennie [Garth, Kelly] is sort of cutting ties with the show as well. The media went crazy with it.

Rosin: I only have admiration for Jennie. I don’t see her that often but I know she’s raising a wonderful family. She has political and social issues she’s very committed to. I really admired her on Dancing With The Stars. She wouldn’t have been able to do that at 21, 22. To have that courage, I admire that a lot. Jennie was very loyal to Mr. Spelling, very loyal to 90210 and I’m sure that led her back to [the new show] in a way. One thing you realize is that people do for their careers what they think is best, both in getting in with things and getting out of things. And I never like to comment on that because at a certain point they thought it was a good idea.

TDW: Are you in touch with anyone else?

Rosin: I am. I’m in touch with the guys. Luke, not as much. Hopefully will get back in touch pretty soon. But Jason Priestley [Brandon] I consider a really good friend. I love Ian Ziering [Steve]. He actually helped on showbizzle, doing an interview. And Jim Eckhouse I actually put in front of the camera. So those are the guys pretty much. And I keep in touch with Gabby through her husband, who is my stock broker.

TDW: I spoke with [writer-producer] Larry Mollin recently and he expressed some interest in doing a panel to talk about the show.

Rosin: If you ever want to do something like that, you let me know.

Come back next Sunday for another exclusive interview!

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Exclusive: Executive Producer Charles Rosin Reflects on 90210’s Early Years

4 10 2009

Today is a huge milestone in the world of teen dramas.  It is the 19th anniversary of the premiere of Beverly Hills 90210, the show that started it all.

In honor of this momentous occasion, 90210 executive producer Charles Rosin, who now runs showbizzle,  revisited the show’s early years and development thereafter.

TeenDramaWhore: What was your reaction when Aaron Spelling contacted you to be part of this show, then-called Class of Beverly Hills?

Charles Rosin: Curiosity.  Mr. Spelling was a legend in this business whose deal with ABC had ended and who was struggling to re-invent himself and his company for a new generation of TV watchers.  Truthfully, I was not a big fan of his most  popular shows –“Dynasty,” “Charlie’s Angels,” “The Love Boat”  — which all seemed very old fashioned and predictable.  My taste was much more oriented to a more challenging and thought provoking television like “St.Elsewhere,” ” thirtysomething,” and “Northern Exposure,” of which I was the supervising producer for the first season and was working on when I first met “The Mister” in his office at the Warner Hollywood Studios.

TDW: As an executive producer, what exactly was your role?  How were you involved in the episode process?

Rosin: In the TV business, a creative executive producer is known as a showrunner, who literally runs all the creative aspects of a show while being responsible for its financial vitality. On 90210 I would either come up with the ideas, or approve ideas brought to me; make sure my partners (The Spelling Company and Fox) approved of these ideas; supervise my staff in writing the story and scripts (or write the stories or scripts myself) based on these ideas; re-write scenes, etc. in my capacity as “the last typewriter” if I felt the material needed punching up; incorporate legal clearances and network notes into the scripts; have a concept meeting with the directors (who I hired); cast the actors for that week’s show; supervise a production meeting with all the department heads (wardrobe, art. etc);  be available during production to deal with whatever situations might occur; work with the editors to cut the film which might require dropping scenes, changing the act breaks, changing the order of the story, etc.;  then get notes from my partners; then work with my associate producer in getting the locked film ready for airing by adding music, sound effects, correct color, dub voices — and then being the final “ear” when the show is mixed….all while developing three-five scripts simultaneously and prepping for the next episode in line to shoot.

TDW: 90210 essentially started the primetime teen drama genre.  What kind of challenges were you up against?

Rosin: Fox was all about edgy/raunchy guy-humor like “Married With Children” while 90210 was a show that not only celebrated girl-empowerment but had this wonderful character named Brenda Walsh [Shannen Doherty] who represented the notion that a teenager could be sexually active and not be a slut, but actually a role model. Unfortunately, my first set of network executives did not see the world as I did . Someday I will write a long article about the censorship that occurred after Brenda lost her virginity at the Spring Dance [ed. note: Episode 1.21, Spring Dance] to her boyfriend (who had been AIDS tested) because she was happy and not full of remorse.

TDW: When do you think 90210 crossed over that ‘initial hump’ and started achieving success?

Rosin: When the Gulf War started in February, 1991 the three networks (ABC, NBC, and CBS) suspended all commercial activity to cover the invasion. Fox didn’t have a news department back than (hard to believe; wish they didn’t have one now. ha!) so Fox broadcast whatever was on their schedule. The 90210 episodes that aired during this time included “BYOB” and “Slumber Party” [ed. note: Episodes 1.11 and 1.13].  By the time commercial activity started up again some three weeks later with the re-activation of the Nielsen ratings, our show was no longer a bottom feeder. The network took notice; gave us an extended order for season two with the understanding that we would be producing summer episodes — and we were off.

TDW: In an interview last year with The New York Times, you said you went to Beverly Hills High.  How did it compare to the fictional West Beverly?

Rosin: I graduated Beverly Hills High School in 1970 which makes me a child of the 60’s! Even though it was a time of political activism and emerging youth culture,  there were many traditions from the 1950’s that were a vital part of my high school culture — and which ultimately were incorporated into the series.  We meet Emily Valentine [Christine Elise, ed. note: see related interview] in season two at “Hello Day” where each class welcomes new students through parodies and funny skits [ed. note: Episode 2.8, Wildfire]. The dance where the cheerleader is date raped by a football player in “Teenline” in season one was called The Pigskin Prom, which was a big thang back in the day [ed. note: Episode 1.9, The Gentle Art of Listening].  And, of course, episodes in the third year season dealing with ditch day and the senior yearbook poll all were part of school life at BHHS [ed. note: Episodes 3.26 and 3.25 respectively, She Came In Through The Bathroom Window and Senior Poll]. Oddly enough,  I played baseball for Beverly against Torrance High School, which was our location for “West Beverly” and which later became the high school location for “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”  [ed. note: click here for photos of Torrance/West Bev] One other odd connection — we filmed our summer episodes at the same beach in Santa Monica Bay where the kids from Beverly Hills High School used to hang out — which was known as Tee’s, not the Beverly Hills Beach Club which was filmed at the old Sand and Sea Club right after it got condemned.

TDW: Let’s talk about the episode where Scott [Douglas Emerson] kills himself (Episode 2.14, The New Fifty Years). Was that a product of Douglas wanting to leave the show or was it precipitated by the direction of the storylines? Was there backlash to that episode?

Rosin: Given our low license fee from the network, we were always trying to cut costs — and Doug Emerson was a nice young man, but not a gifted actor. I still wanted to find a memorable way to write him off the show — and that was when I read about an accidental killing of a high school student on Prom Night in a hotel room at the Disneyland Hotel.  So while David Silver [Brian Austin Green] was getting cool and into the Brenda/Kelly/Steve Beach Club crowd, I sent Scott to hang at his grandparents house in Oklahoma off-camera for six episodes as a way to show these two old friends drifting apart before our eyes. It should be known that this was the only story line that the network and Mr. Spelling worked together to try to squash — but they could sense my passion for the story, were very supportive of [our] script and were very satisfied with the episode, which also was highly promotable and did well in the ratings.

TDW: You were there during the high school to college transition, which all the teen dramas are doing these days.  What do you think that change added to the show?

Rosin: Not only was I “there” for the transition from high school to college, but I must take credit — along with my late producing partner, Paul Waigner — for spearheading the drive to move on and let these kids grow up. Part of the problem was that our cast looked to old/were too old to play believable high school students anymore — and I convinced network president Sandy Grushow that doing a high school show that did not deal with the prospect of college was bogus. Aaron was nervous about the change, of course. He was nervous about everything.  But once I agreed to let all the kids go to the same college, he let them graduate — which allowed me to write a senior year in “real time”. You ask what this added to the show? How ’bout four-five seasons worth of new episodes that would probably wouldn’t have been ordered if they stayed in high school.

TDW: Your wife also worked on the show, right?

Rosin: Karen’s first professional writing credit was for “Isn’t It Romantic?,” the AIDS episode where Brenda and Dylan [Luke Perry] first go out — and where an enraged Dylan slams the flower pot into the pavement before chasing after Brenda [ed. note: Episode 1.10].  Although Karen was never offered a staff position, chances are she wrote, or co-wrote your favorite episodes, including all the ones set in Paris [ed. note: Episodes 3.3-3.5], the condom in school episode [Episode 2.21, Everybody’s Talkin’ ‘Bout It ], the one where Scott  accidentally shoots himself, the one where Dylan meets his inner-child [Episode 3.22, The Child Is Father To The Man], the Christmas episode with the angels answer Donna’s [Tori Spelling] prayers by preventing a school bus from crashing bus [Episode 3.16, It’s A Totally Happening Life], and the graduation episode [Episode 3.29, Commencement], which we wrote together. You can hear our commentary for “Commencement” on the third season DVD. Karen,  a former actress and playwright,  has a great ear for dialogue. My strength as a writer was (and is) always story and story structure — so we were great collaborators. If Mr. Spelling and I had anything in common it was our love and appreciation of nepotism.

TDW: Your daughter is just a bit older than me.  Did she watch the show growing up?  What does she think knowing her parents played a big role in one of the biggest shows of the 90s?

Rosin: My eldest daughter Lindsey was five when I started working on the 90210. She’s the cutie-pie who asks Brandon to dance the hookelau at the end of summer luau at the Beverly Hills Beach Club [ed. note: Episode 2.6, Pass/Not Pass]. Growing up she never bragged about my job, in fact, didn’t tell her teen-aged camp counselors about me until the last day of the session. Lindsey knew at a young age she wanted to be a director, and is currently developing an hour pilot with CBS Paramount — in addition to be the creative force behind showbizzle.

TDW: You have said you left the show because it was “killing” you.  Can you elaborate on that?

Rosin: For the first two seasons, Beverly Hills 90210 had the lowest license fee in broadcast television — meaning that Fox paid the Spelling Company less money to make our show than any other show in prime time.  One of the ways we cut costs was to assemble a small writing staff composed of mostly new writers,  but once our production orders increased to anywhere from 28- 32 hours a year (a standard network order for a hit show is anywhere from 13-22 episodes a year; a cable show much less than that) the lack of a big staff took its toll and I found myself working 12-16 hours a day, 6 1/2 days a week, 11 1/2 months a year.  Six weeks after I mixed my last episode, “P.S. I Love You” [ed note: Episode 5.32], one of my arteries shut down. I was 43 years old.  We caught it early. I dodged a bullet. And 15 years later, I catch waves and feel great.

TDW: Did you keep up with the show after you left?

Rosin: I was a non-exclusive script consultant for the 6th season where I read outlines and offered my suggestions — most of which weren’t followed.  I do remember watching one episode that year where NFL star quarterback Steve Young was a guest star [ed. note: Episode 6.12, Breast Side Up] because it was written by Larry Mollin and directed by Dave Semel, who both remain good friends today.   I did not watch after that — and felt that show lost much of its cultural currency and degenerated into a more pedestrian and predictable soap opera– the kind of show more aligned with the traditional Spelling aesthetic.

TDW: Your last season–the fifth–was also Carol Potter’s last.  Did you agree with the decision to get rid of Jim [James Eckhouse] and Cindy?  (Ed. note: see my related interview here.)

Rosin: Reluctantly, yes. Creatively, the show no longer evolved around the Walsh House — and although we certainly could have come up with new storylines that included the parents in a supporting capacity, both Carol Potter and Jim Eckhouse were taking home a fairly big pay check — and by writing them off the show, those monies could be applied to other things — like paying Jason Priestley [Brandon] and Jennie Garth [Kelly] to stick around.

TDW: I have to ask:  Brenda and Dylan or Kelly and Dylan?

Rosin: Brenda was our favorite character to write; the scene where Dylan and Kelly hook up the night Jack McKay was released at the pool at the Bel Age in season three [ed. note: Episode 3.19,  Back in the High Life Again] was perhaps the hottest scene we ever shot — in other words, it’s a draw…

TDW: Kelly and Dylan or Kelly and Brandon?

Rosin: I’ll always be partial to Kelly and Steve.

TDW: What was your reaction when you found out the season 10 storyline (Episodes 10.18-10.20) that Jack McKay (Josh Taylor) was alive?

Rosin: Well, I first found out about Jack McKay when I opened your e-mail. (Like I said, I didn’t watch the show once I left). But we purposely filmed the sequence in such a way as to leave this “return from the dead” storyline available. I guess they had to wait until Luke Perry returned to the series to revive this plot.

TDW: What was your reaction when you found out David and Donna were marrying in the series finale?

Rosin: It seemed about right; Karen and I and our three kids visited the set at the Beverly Hilton the day they were filming the wedding — and it was the first time I visited since I left the show five years earlier.

TDW: Do you have a favorite storyline?

Rosin: Lots of them — my favorite episode was Commencement because with all the clips that were incorporated into the two hour episode, it felt like a retrospective of the high school years.

TDW: Do you have a favorite memory from working with the cast? A favorite guest star? (There were a lot of them!)

Rosin: I loved watching Jason directing the episode “The Time Has Come Today” from the 4th Season [ed. note: Episode 4.25] where Brenda discovers a diary from the 1960’s in her bedroom. My favorite guest star would be my wife Karen, who played a lesbian in the episode “Girls On The Side,” [Episode 5.28] which she also wrote. Also Marcy Kaplan, who played TV star Lydia Leeds in the episode in which Brenda worked at the Peach Pit and became Laverne [Episode 1.16, Fame is where You Find It]. Karen and I wrote that one together.

TDW: What surprised you most while working on the show?

Rosin: Like most writers I have an active imagination — and there have been times that I thought that the script I had just written would catapult me onto a podium for an awards ceremony. But I never could have imagined being a creative force behind an international television sensation! Or that you would be asking me these questions almost 20 years from the time that I started work on the show…

TDW: Do you have any regrets or anything you would do differently?

Rosin: Biggest regret is that I didn’t establish a relationship with media executive (and visionary) Barry Diller when he was running Fox. As far as doing things differently, I would have tried to take better care of my health, and maintain a sense of humor when dealing with the network instead of getting caught up in a war zone.

TDW: Looking back on the show today, what do you think is its place in television history?

Rosin: A footnote.

TDW: Are you still in touch with any of the cast?

Rosin: Yes — Jason Priestley is a buddy. James Eckhouse too. And Ian Ziering [Steve] is a great guy with whom I recently chatted about his early years in the business which we posted on Inside The Bizzle at showbizzle. Check it out. It is a must see for 90210 fans. [Ed. note: I linked to one of the Ian interviews here but there are many more here, including ones with BH90210 producer-writer John Eisendrath]

TDW: Have you watched the new 90210? Do you have any thoughts on it?

Rosin: I watched it once. It’s a good looking cast. But to do a show called 90210 and not allow your young characters to have any socio-political context in the age of Obama speaks to the cynicism and cowardice of commercial broadcasting.

TDW: You also worked on Dawson’s Creek a bit. How did your role differ there?

Rosin: I was more involved with the business side of producing than the writing of scripts — though I certainly had a hand in the creative development of the first episodes.

TDW: How do you think the shows themselves differ?

Rosin: I leave that for your community of readers to comment.

TDW: You’re now working on a site called showbizzle. What is it, and how did it come about?

Rosin: showbizzle is a digital showcase and destination website I created with daughter Lindsey (the Hookelau girl) for emerging talent away from the immediate pressures of the market place. We created a cool show featuring 29 young actors performing 141 two-minute scripted monologues about what they are doing to jump start their careers in Hollywood as told to Janey, a fictitious blogger who hangs out at an LA coffee house. Our goal here to create a vibrant community of young actors, writers, comedians, and performers around our showbizzle content where members are encouraged to upload their original videos with the chance to be paid $$ to perform on our digital showcase. So check showbizzle.com, become a member, work with us, tell your friends — and see why Cynopsis Digital said that it “should be required viewing for kids thinking of moving out to LA LA land to chase their dreams of stardom as it delves into the frustrations of being on the outside looking in.”

TDW: Anything else you want to add?

Rosin: Hard to believe the show’s 20th anniversary is coming up . To get to know what the early days were like check out Rolling Stone Magazine’s article “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (issue 624) originally published February 20th, 1992.

For more on showbizzle, head over to the site.

Come back next Sunday for another exclusive interview!

TDW Interview Index





Fun Fact

16 08 2009

Occasionally, bit actors will end up playing different roles on the same show.

Here’s a few interesting examples, all from Beverly Hills 90210.

DAVID GAIL

Role 1: One episode as Tom, a bellhop that helps Brenda when she can’t afford a hotel room (season 1).

Role 2: Seven episodes as Stuart Carson, Brenda’s boyfriend/fiance (season 4).

RANDY SPELLING

Role 1: Three episodes as Kenny, Andrea’s assistant at the Beverly Hills Beach Club (season 3).

Role 2: Eleven episodes as Ryan Sanders, Steve’s brother (several seasons)

Bonus Role: The real-life son of 90210’s executive producer, Aaron Spelling, and sister to Tori Spelling (Donna)

CLIFF DORFMAN

Role 1: One episode as Michael, a guy who tries to hit on Kelly at a Halloween party–the same episode where a different guy tries to rape her (season 2)

Role 2: One episode as a photographer (season 4)

Role 3: Four episodes as Joe Patch, Kelly’s rapist (seasons 9 and 10)

Bonus Role: Co-starred in Friends Til the End with Shannen Doherty (Brenda)

JOSIE DAVIS

Role 1: One episode as Madeline, a lesbian with whom Steve and Brandon try to date (season 8 )

Role 2: Ten episodes as Camille Desmond, David’s girlfriend and Donna’s business partner (season 10)

This is by no means a comprehensive list–just some of my favorite examples!





Spoiler: Mega Buzz

1 07 2009

RELEVANT QUESTIONS–DON’T READ IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW!!!

Is 90210 ever going to have a summer season like the original did? — Karen
MICKEY: Not this summer. But Season 2’s premiere episode (which is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 8th) will reintroduce us to the Beverly Hills Beach Club. As for the boys of summer, there will be plenty come fall. In addition to Teddy, both Annie and Naomi will have summer flings with which to deal, by which I mean “drop them like third-period French.” Their hastiness won’t be good for either of them.

I am super-excited (pun intended) about Brian Austin Green appearing on Smallville! Is there is any chance he will be on for more than two episodes? — Gabriela
MATT: At this juncture, BAG has been tagged for only the first two episodes of Season 9. But your query allows me to share this scooplet about Metallo’s small-screen origin tale: The producers tell me that soon after mild-mannered John Corben begins his “Daily Planet” gig, “his fate takes a horrific twist that will change his destiny forever.” Hmm, would that be Prof. Emmett Vale’s cue?

Are Gossip Girl‘s Serena and Nate going to hook up anytime soon? — Jennifer
MICKEY: Methinks someone — cough, Jennifer, cough — is getting a bit stalkery with this question. At least initially, the answer is (still) no, as Serena and Nate will both be getting BIZ-AY with new love interests in the fall: S. will be courted by a prince among men, while Nate will be busy wooing this lady. (In case you were wondering, JoAnna Garcia will be busy asking herself, “I got canceled for this?”)





Spoiler: Ask Ausiello

17 06 2009

RELEVANT QUESTIONS–DON’T READ IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW!!!

Question: There’s a spoiler floating around that says Chuck is going to bring home a girl in the Gossip Girl season premiere. Does this mean that he cheats on Blair? Or, even worse, that they broke up over the summer? –Fernanda
Ausiello:
While it’s true that Blair catches Chuck, ahem, connecting with a model in the Sept. 14 opener, all is not as it appears.

Question: Any news on Gossip Girl? What’s in store for Serena? –Sara
Ausiello:
She’ll be motherless for the first batch of episodes due to Kelly Rutherford’s maternity leave.

Question: 90210 scoop, please? –Darren
Ausiello:
As you may have heard through the ‘vine, the teens at West Beverly High will be given a hot summer hangout with the C-dub bringing back the Beverly Hills Beach Club. Much like the original — which was a favorite hangout of Kelly and Brenda, as well as the place where both Brandon and Dylan worked — the new beach-side club will feature a bevy of hot new characters. I mean, it’s not really a beach unless there’s some skin to burn, right?

Question: Is Dustin Milligan not returning to 90210 at all next season? –Becky
Ausiello:
Nope. We’ll learn in the Sept. 8 season premiere (via gratuitous exposition) that Ethan decided to stay in Montana with his pa.

Question: There have been rumors that Danneel Harris is returning as Rachel on One Tree Hill in the season 7. Is this true? –Cameron
Ausiello:
The rumors are true. Rachel will be back next season for an arc.

Question: Any idea what actress is slated to play the role of Haley’s sister Quinn on One Tree Hill? –Lila
Ausiello:
According to this highly reputable journalist, relative newcomer Shantel VanSanten has landed the role.

**Note: Dylan NEVER worked at the Beverly Hills Beach Club.








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