Okay. What y’all need to understand about “Commencement,” the “90210” high school graduation two-parter, is that it was really a big deal at the time. I remember trying on prom dresses and in the dressing room the radio commercial came on, and Mrs. Teasley was saying: “Ladies and gentlemen. I now present to you, the graduating class of Nineteen Hundred and Ninety-Three.” And I got goosebumps. I graduated the same year as them and the “Saved by the Bell” class. So I enjoyed the cheese last night thoroughly, but I can’t lie and say that this show wasn’t a very important part of my teenage years. I started out hating it because it was trendy, even bought an ironic Brenda/Dylan pencil case to mock the hype. But somewhere along the line, I succumbed. So this two-parter episode smells like Eternity perfume, and made me cry at least three times last night. But there is still a lot to make fun of, don’t worry. I just am trying to keep it real.
Anyway. The first scene is in the Walsh driveway of all places. Steve Sanders is talking about some plan, and calls Brandon “Brando.” Because she has brown hair, Brenda has the biggest balls and agrees to the plan first, then Dylan agrees, and the rest follow suit and they do that sports thing where they all meet hands and break, shouting, “Yeah!”
Next we have the set up for graduation on the lawn (quad?), and The Gang is playing football even though Brenda is wearing a long dress. And they’re just like, playing in the middle of everyone and I’d be really pissed if I got Marcia Bradyed right before graduation because of these numbnuts.
Hi Gil! Your hair is as lustrous as ever!
Oh yeah, David’s plot about all his finals. Riveting. And seriously, the show would have done much better to not try to get us to believe that freaking David Silver could graduate a year early and just leave him in high school for the next year. David might have been more prepared to own The Peach Pit After Dark. Maybe if he’d gone more slowly in high school he would not have had to forge Donna’s signature on a check to save his ass. In a way, David’s early graduation caused Noah. And that is not okay.
So yeah, David’s tired from all the studying and, I’m assuming, rapping.
And Steve is feeling sorry for himself while wearing a cowboy shirt.
OH NO it’s a Dylan And His Money scene with Jim Walsh! The rule of thumb regarding Dylan/Jim scenes is that if they’re outside Jim’s office, they stand a fighting chance, but if you see them in Jim’s office, go make a sandwich or take a bath. Anyway, Dylan gets a lot of money from his dad, Mr. Hogan. And Dylan’s eyebrows are raised, so you know he is being cocky and not believing Jim’s advice that money changes people. Dylan can’t believe that Jim would doubt the emotional fortitude of the guy who took his daughter’s virginity and stole her away to Mexico, then dumped her for her best friend.
Now we have a chick getting yelled at in the principal’s office because of her outfit, and the skirt is short but the girl is nowhere near the level of today’s high schools’ wardrobes (GET OFF MY LAWN! (QUAD?)), and the girl is played by an AMAZING under-five who with the weirdest inflection ever known to man, yells to Steve that he’s so lucky to be getting out of that school. And they commiserate about how hard it is to be 35 and still stuck in high school.
The thing is, the under-five was being oh-so-subtly ironic, because, IS Steve getting out of that school? Despite his theft of the legacy key in one of the most drawn out, horrific subplots ever in the history of television?
The answer is YES! Because that time that he won $10,000 at the Laker game doing the half-court shot? He donated it to charity! So because he had money, he was not required to obey school rules and will be trying to squeeze a graduation cap over his puffy hair with the rest of his elderly friends. He gets very excited and kisses a random girl in the hallway!
Now there is an Andrea/Brandon scene, and I have neither the time nor the energy.
Finals are over, and David is sleeping at The Peach Pit because we need to wrap up the “David is tired” subplot, skim right over the “Nate as an honorary senior” subplot, and delve into some FLASHBACKS! Holler!
We have Brenda as Laverne the diner waitress, and I never pretended to understand that episode and I’m sure not going to start now.
Present time: Andrea’s boyfriend Jordan is all sad puppy, and implies that Andrea is in love with Brandon still and that’s why she’s wavering about going to Yale. Oh, I guess that’s what Brandon and Andrea’s scene was about before.
Now Brenda gets accepted to the University of Minnesota, so supportive brother as always, Brandon GLARES at her.
David FLASHBACK!! Seeing Kelly naked after her shower! Which he and Kelly laugh about and then they bond over being brother and sister now, and the mix of the two topics of conversation is really unsettling.
Now the Walshes are eating something, and for the life of me, I cannot figure out what. There are just bowls everywhere. It sort of looks like Make Your Own Sundae, but then why are all the bowls still full and why are they eating ice cream on plates with forks and why is there nothing on top of the ice cream? And then it sort of looks like there’s a fondue pot, but then why is there chocolate stuff in the bowls? Who dips chocolate in chocolate fondue? And what the hell is that red Jell-o thing all about?
I have now spent way more time wondering about the Walshes’ kitchen table than I am comfortable with.
Speaking of uncomfortable, now we have a FLASHBACK! to the time when Andrea and Brandon are on the merry-go-round and Andrea says to Brandon, “You see what we’re doing here? Going up and down and up and down and I’m riding this horse? Well it will be the same thing later, only you will be my horse. Happy moving away!”
Now…ugh. Now Brandon and Andrea are discussing her ambivalence towards Yale and she says she wants to stay in California and slum it with The Gang not because she wants to be with her friends, or her boyfriend, or near her grandmother, or Connecticut’s too cold, or she wants to get to know herself beyond her Type A overachieverness, no, none of these. She doesn’t want to go to Yale because it is too expensive.
Kelly/Dylan FLASHBACK!, which to be fair was a pretty hot scene at the time, them in the pool, him lying his ass off that he totally chose Kelly over Brenda because he’s “always wanted (Kelly).” Then in the same breath says that Kelly and Brenda were the ones who issued the stupid ultimatum of making him choose between them. Because when you cheat on your hot girlfriend with her hot best friend and they both fight over you instead of kicking your sorry cheating ass to the curb, and at a certain point they don’t want to share you, it’s totally stupid that you have to choose. Totally. But Kelly showed up, so Kelly it is.
Here’s Iris! I love Iris! And Iris does not approve of Kelly for Dylan. Because she loved Brenda. Because awesome people need to have each other’s backs.
And I can’t quite put my finger on what Dylan’s hair is reminding me of, but definitely a person, place or thing.
At this point, Steve Sanders is back, encapsulating that dark time in fashion: The Early ’90s.
FLASHBACK! of Andrea and Steve trying to exchange an egg and a clerk who is really funny threatening to call the police.
Remember that time that Kelly and Brenda got dressed up like they were going to a fancy ball for their date with guys from Princeton they’d never met, and then “Princeton” turns out to be Princeton School, not University, and their dates are kids? WELL SETH GREEN IS ONE OF THE KIDS!!! So I’m happy, because Seth Green rocks beyond belief and he needs to call me because I want to work on “Robot Chicken.”
Oh, oh! The Parisian brains scene! Stellar! Though Donna deserved a punch in the throat for her cutesy “Come here” finger she gives the waiter when she totally was the one who messed up her own order.
Oh, dear. In what may be the most cringeworthy scene ever in the world, David is dressed like Wayne and Donna is dressed like Garth, even though obviously Kelly should have done that, and they are saying “way” a lot to be – I can barely type this – funny – and it’s – wow. It’s bad.
But SO SO SO worth it, because it is the legendary Senior Breakfast scene!!! Why this scene is so freaking AMAZING is that it is all about The Gang and no one else in the school.
First up, David gives Steve a big legacy key. Ha ha ha – no, come on. ENOUGH with the legacy key! Now, David’s video yearbook. David sure was an ambitious little kid, with his rapping and dancing and DJing and videoing. Then he just sort of became this tool who muttered and glared and wore baggy pants.
Show of hands: how many people would remain in the cafeteria to watch video footage of Kelly waking up and the gang in general just chilling in a cabin? I can tell you that I am not raising my hand.
FLASHBACK!! Dylan saving Brandon’s life after he falls off a cliff.
Oh, excuse me. There are non-The Gang people getting attention, as four football players receive pink tutus, but one of them is that guy who took Brenda to the prom, so it’s okay.
The “Senior Breakfast” continues, and they are showing Kelly and Brenda skydiving, and at this point, I would seriously start throwing food at the television. Or better yet, a hammer.
Now they’re showing the gals doing backup for Emily Valentine singing “Breaking Up is Hard to Do.” Have y’all ever seen that Lifetime movie with Emily Valentine, Grant Show, and Joanna Kerns? Because it is obviously amazing.
At this point, I would exchange my hammer for a chair, because they are showing still pics of Brandon while the main girls and these two random chicks sing this horrid little ditty about how dreamy Brandon is, and again with the creepy brother/sister thing because while I love my brothers, I would not sing a song about how dreamy they are.
Montage! Of all the women Brandon’s been with including that one Latina chick who showed up for one episode so we could all learn an Important Lesson About Race Relations, then disappeared forever. Oh, and hi, Nikki! I loved Nikki. Remember when she and Brandon had sex for the first time and she’s wearing an awesome shirt (RIP spandex bodysuits) and they actually have really good chemistry and the song playing is really good though I don’t remember what it was and either way could not compare to “Love Is” playing when Billy and Amanda had sex the first time on “Melrose Place.” Oh and hahahaah remember David Arquette played Nikki’s ex-boyfriend?
Yeah, Nikki was totally the best girlfriend Brandon ever had except maybe that one time he visited Emily Valentine in San Francisco. However, when asked who was his favorite, he gets all misty water-colored memories about freakin’ Gabrielle Anwar because she ice skated with him. And don’t get me wrong, I loved Gabrielle Anwar in “Wild Horses Can’t Be Broken” as well as that fine cinematic masterpiece “If Looks Could Kill.” But her character on “90210” was no Nikki. And for any show or movie to use “I Had the Time of My Life” unironically is pure blasphemy.
Ah, the David Silver dance. I can do it. The key is to look really surprised the entire time. That said, I miss early ’90s dancing.
FLASHBACK!! To Brenda’s First Time after Spring Fling. Remember how it was such a big deal that she came out and said “have sex” without shame? And remember her uber-early-’90s penguin dress?
Now David is having an existential crisis in the radio booth. I’ll leave it at that.
Kelly outs Dylan on being newly rich(er), and while that’s not cool, he acts like a total dick and bullies her into submission. Have I mentioned that I HATE Dylan and Kelly as a couple? Don’t get me wrong, that Love Triangle + Superman was GREAT TV, but once they were a real couple, they sucked. Partially because Brenda is the most awesome character ever. But Dylan/Kelly was the worst. Dylan was an asshole to Kelly nonstop, except that one time he punched John Sears in the cafeteria.
Anyway, I’m just procrastinating here, because next up is a Jim/Cindy FLASHBACK!! And they are in the hot tub, so already I’m upset. And Jim Walsh, turns out, is actually a bear. But then. THEN! This swinger couple approaches them and they are too creepy for words. The female half of the couple actually goes:
“Oh come on now, Jimbo! I’ve been waiting all weekend to go around the goosey goosey, ducky ducky with you!”
FUCK does that even MEAN.
And then she gets NAKED!!!
Then it’s sad ’cause turns out Brandon was drunk driving, so Brenda has to interrupt her parents’ gross vacation. But there is a pretty nice bonding scene between Jim and Brandon, so I use that to distract me from The Sexuality of the Walsh Parents.
Until Jim ruins everything awesomely, by saying to Carol in present time, “I’ve always been a sucker for happy endings.”
Now Dylan is calling Jim “Jimbo.” People need to stop doing that.
FLASHBACK!! Dylan in the shower, Brenda wearing all my clothes from 1990 right down to the thick floral material stretchy headband, and Dylan showing Brenda his penis and Brenda reacting with approval.
Steve! Threatening to “whoop (Brandon’s) butt!” in HORSE, then cut to a shot of Brenda’s butt! Artistic!
FLASHBACK!! To that time when Julie from “Growing Pains” and a chick in a bra make out with Brandon and Steve, and then steal Steve’s car! And then Steve CRIES and it’s amazing. And we find out that Brandon is a Boy Scout, and now in present time he is making Steve an honorary Boy Scout, which is total bullshit.
FLASHBACK!! To Scott, who is into guns and cowboy hats now, and David is mean to him because people who try to be popular are in my experience the biggest douches on the planet. So then Scott dies and David actually gives a really good speech on the radio that foreshadows The Lovely Bones.
Kelly now is calling Dylan to apologize and because Dylan is a needy tool, he is totally chilling with Brenda behind Kelly’s back and Brenda’s boobs look HUGE and remind me how much I miss turtleneck tank tops.
FLASHBACK!! Dylan and Brenda are fighting very dramatically which I’d make fun of more if I didn’t have those same exact fights in high school, and Dylan looks like a velociraptor and smashes a plant on the ground! Then he grabs Brenda from behind and cries and says he is sorry.
FLASHBACK!! The Dylan/Jim Mexican standoff! And everyone’s clothes are awesome!
Upon further reflection, Dylan’s present-day hair reminds me of a UFO. But that’s not quite it either.
Iris! Who is happy to see Brenda, and who can blame her! And she and Dylan make up. I don’t know if I mentioned before that they were fighting, but they were.
Now we have a Kelly, Jackie, and Erin scene to remind us how good Jennie Garth looks in royal blue, and Erin is STARING off screen and it is really creepy.
Brenda and Brandon are bonding into a FLASHBACK!! As Brenda in the pilot misses Minneapolis and Brandon reassures her. In present time, they have a very nice scene, and I cry.
Graduation Day! Starting with Steve, who can afford to just give away 10K, giving Dylan a hard time about his $800 boots. Although if I were Kelly I would have dumped Dylan right then and there for a) spending $800 on boots-not-for-function, b) just being Dylan in general, and c) for being a diva and buying himself boots and nothing for me. Not to be materialistic, but maybe you could pick up a daisy for your girlfriend on the way back from Thom McAn, Big Guy.
Uh oh, Mr. Hogan is there visiting Dylan at the water fountain, even though he’s dead! Paving the way for Dylan’s future psychic endeavours in the Old West and also Jack from “LOST.”
Ohhhhhh here it is: “I now present to you, the graduating class of Nineteen Hundred and Ninety-Three.” And I cry.
Andrea lost her speech! So she pulls an Ione Skye and gives this really defensive speech about how no one can steal this from them, their moment in time, and I think she’s projecting a little bit, because I don’t see anyone trying to steal this moment from them. But I cry anyway.
And Jackie has dressed up like that Career Barbie from the ’80s with the pink suit.
FLASHBACK!! To remind us again how good Jennie Garth looks in royal blue! And she’s crying to Dylan.
FLASHBACK!! Donna telling David she’s a virgin and will remain so until Season Seven!
FLASHBACK!! To Dylan pretentiously reading Lord Byron because he is That Guy, and you know Kerouac is coming ’round the mountain as we speak!
Now they all get their diplomas, and Kelly’s father shows up, not flaking out for once in his life, and she cries, and guess what? So do I!
FLASHBACK!! Jim talking to Brenda about her always being his little girl no matter how many pregnancy tests Cindy finds in the garbage, and I am seriously getting very emotional right now! I love Shannen Doherty so much. But can I just say how awesome it would be when she quits/gets fired from the new “90210,” if they got Rose McGowan to replace her?
Now in present time, Brandon and Steve are pawing at each other as per usual and Dylan tells Iris that he saw Mr. Hogan, and Iris is like, “Dude, that totally makes sense” and I’m wishing that Iris could be my friend in real life.
Aaron, who used to recap “The Sopranos” on Television without Pity, had a start-to-robe basis by which he judged the episodes. Meaning, how soon did we see Tony in his robe. Well I am now regretting not having done my own robe thing, because there are an astonishing number of them in this episode. Currently, Jim is chilling in a blue robe made of like, velour, and it has a hood. And he doesn’t say “I told you so, bitch!” when Dylan says he’s afraid the money will change him. Personally, I think Dylan could stand a change or two, but I guess he is right. He gives the money back to Jim, but says he wants a monthly check and I am starting to actually gain respect for him until he says he’s gonna go “bum around Europe” and we are right back to square one.
Now it’s the scene on the hill, and I’m REALLY emotional now because it’s all over soon and for all my joking, watching this really made me feel young and innocent for 90 minutes, and I kind of didn’t want it to end just yet.
But it’s the second-to-last scene, as Kelly calls Andrea “nimble” for some reason, and Dylan announces he might not be going to California University with all of them, and for someone who was such a little bitch about Kelly’s outing his windfall, you think he could be a little less of a jerk in announcing this without even talking to Kelly first. Poor Kelly.
And Brenda announces that she’s going to the University of Minnesota.
And Donna is wearing Steve’s cowboy shirt.
And Dylan invites Kelly to Europe and she’s happy, because she is an idiot.
They sleep, and wake up, and I really miss sleeping outdoors with groups of people. Not in a slutty way.
A song plays about how “blood is thicker than water,” and The Gang drives down to look up at their mystery project on the hill, and we now see what they were talking about in the first scene: a sign on the hill like the “Hollywood” sign. It says “WBEV HI ’93.” And The Gang stands together for one last time as a group of friends, and they look up at their work and smile. They have graduated.
And I cry.