The untold truth of Beverly Hills 90210

From 1990 to 2000, the biggest teen soap on the planet was Beverly Hills, 90210. Initially told through the eyes of Minnesota transplants Brandon and Brenda Walsh (Jason Priestley and Shannen Doherty), viewers were riveted by the romantic travails of the students of West Beverly Hills High School and beyond, including Dylan (Luke Perry), Donna (Tori Spelling), Kelly (Jennie Garth), David (Brian Austin Green), Steve (Ian Ziering), and Andrea (Gabrielle Carteris). Here are some behind the scenes stories and scandals that are almost salacious enough to be plot lines on Beverly Hills, 90210.

It was almost called 'Class of Beverly Hills'

The series was created in 1989 by 28-year-old screenwriter Darren Star. Fox asked him to write a series about a high school set in Hollywood. Just over two weeks later, he turned in a pilot script for a show he called Class of Beverly Hills (so almost set in Hollywood then).

Star based the high school on the one he graduated from in 1979, Winston Churchill High School in Potomac, Maryland. Fox executives liked the show, but not the title. It was Fox president Barry Diller who suggested dropping the "Class of" and adding in the zip code.

It first became a hit in the summer

It took the show a while to find its audience, and it didn't find much of one at all in the first season. On the the still very young Fox network, the first season of Beverly Hills, 90210 finished the 1990-91 season ranked #118 of all shows, trounced in its Thursday night time slot by NBC's Cheers.

But Fox executives had a novel idea — instead of going into reruns in the summer of 1991, new, summer-set episodes of Beverly Hills, 90210 were produced and aired. Up against endless reruns on the other channels, the show found a lot of viewers, which stayed with the show into the new fall season. They went on to produced more summer episodes in 1992.

Tori Spelling auditioned for a role under an alias

Tori Spelling desperately wanted to be cast on Beverly Hills, 90210, but she wanted to get a part on her own merits, rather than use nepotism. So, she managed to land an audition (for the role of Andrea) under a fake name, Tori Mitchell (which she says she got from the name of a character in a Heather Locklear made-for-TV movie). She was soon recognized, but wound up with the role of Donna Martin, which she acknowledges probably "had something to do with my dad."

TV executives made Brenda dump Dylan

Teen dream power couple made it extremely official when they did what so many real-life teen couples do and had sex after their prom. It didn't result in disease, pregnancy, guilt, or weirdness… and local Fox affiliates had a real problem with that. Show creator Darren Star said so many stations complained to Fox HQ, that he was forced to write an episode in the next season that showed the teenage characters having regrets about the sexual encounter. On-screen, Brenda dumps Dylan because the sex had made their relationship "too mature."

The real reason why Donna Martin was a virgin for so long

Despite being a soap opera, and with it the need to couple and uncouple as many people as possible, an enduring plot thread was how Donna Martin stayed a virgin for years after all of her friends had all hooked up with each other. The reason was not to present a positive view of abstinence or anything like that. It was because the executive producer of the show was Aaron Spelling, and Donna Martin was played by his daughter, Tori Spelling. He didn't want to see his daughter having sex, even pretend sex. Of course, when Donna finally did copulate with David Silver, it was event television.

Aaron Spelling made a comedy show apologize for making fun of 90210

The show was a huge cultural phenomenon in the '90s, which meant that every sketch comedy show on TV took a swing at making fun of it. When star Jason Priestley hosted Saturday Night Live, the show ran a sketch about the characters having to get a new zip code, while The Ben Stiller Show did a combined parody of 90210 and other Aaron Spelling-produced shows Melrose Place and The Heights to get Melrose Heights 902102402.

The sketch that ran on the short-lived Fox series The Edge went too far because it focused most of its energy on making fun of Spelling's daughter. Julie Brown plays Tori Spelling as Donna Martin and storms around the set, screaming some variations of "I can do whatever I want! This is my Daddy's show!" Aaron Spelling was so offended that he publicly asked the producers of The Edge for an apology.

The crowd wasn't demanding "Donna Martin graduates"

It's one of the most memorable moments in the show: as punishment for getting drunk at the prom, Donna Martin (Tori Spelling) isn't allowed to graduate. The administration relents when the collective student body of West Beverly heroically chants "Donna Martin graduates!"

When the episode was actually shot, however, lots of people in the crowd were really chanting the slightly more vulgar refrain of "Donna Martin masturbates!" It was a prank orchestrated by Jason Priestly, knowing the chanting would be re-dubbed and cleaned up in post-production.

Tori Spelling got Shannen Doherty fired

Shannen Doherty's fights with co-stars and show producers are well known, and led to her exit from the show in 1994. Doherty was actually fired, and the straw that broke the camel's back was the word of the boss's daughter. There was so much drama backstage, including what Spelling described as a fistfight between Doherty and Jennie Garth, that she went straight to her father and asked him to terminate Doherty.

The real reason Andrea got pregnant

When the show was still set in a high school, Andrea Zuckerman was studious, innocent, and relatively chaste. It was a little surprising when, not long after college began, she got pregnant. This plot was created because actress Gabrielle Carteris got pregnant in real life. She'd floated her baby plans to producers, and they asked her to wait, but she didn't want to do that. When the show began she was 29 (she lied about her age so she could play a teenager), and before long she was well into her 30s and ready to start a family.

There were a lot of showmances

What happens when you get a bunch of young, rich, famous, good-looking people and make them hang out on a sunny California TV set all day? They get up on each other is what.

There were reportedly almost as many off-screen couplings on Beverly Hills, 90210 as there were on-screen. Among the more prominent affairs: Tori Spelling said on Tori Spelling: Celebrity Lie Detector that she had a fling with Jason Priestley, dated her TV boyfriend Brian Austin Green, and kissed Luke Perry one time. In addition, Jason Priestley had what he called his first "full-fledged adult relationship" with Christine Elise, the actress who guest-starred on 90210 as Emily Valentine, the party girl who gives Brandon the party drug U4EA. They dated for five years.

Music was a big part of the show

Along with shows like Glee and Miami Vice, Beverly Hills, 90210 is one of the few TV series to ever produce a hit soundtrack album. Released in late 1992, it produced an unprecedented three top-10 hits. "Love Is" by Vanessa Williams and Brian McKnight was featured on the show, as was Shanice's "Saving Forever For You" (the video of which featured 90210 star Brian Austin Green). Jeremy Jordan's "The Right Kind of Love" was played over the credits of multiple episodes.

While the show's early musical tastes leaned to the bubblegum pop of the early '90s, as the show aged it shifted its attention to alternative rock. The Peach Pit hangout became a nightclub called the Peach Pit After Dark and hosted such unlikely bands as weirdo rock gods the Flaming Lips, industrial metal band Powerman 5000, and Kara's Flowers, a little-known rock band who would later find success after changing its name to Maroon 5.

Jamie Walters was fired from the show

After the success of Beverly Hills, 90210, Fox worked with producer Aaron Spelling to get more shows with the same flavor on the air, including the hit Melrose Place and the flop The Heights, about a struggling rock band. The fake band's real song "How Do You Talk to an Angel?" hit number one in real life, with lead vocals by singer and Heights star Jamie Walters.

When that show was canceled after one season, Spelling invited Walters to join the cast of Beverly Hills, 90210 in 1994 as Ray, a love interest for Donna Martin. That plot arc soon turned dark, as Ray became abusive, and at one point he horrifically throws Donna down a flight of stairs. However, it was all part of a plan — the writers wrote an episode where Ray went to rehab, and audiences would learn that Ray had been abused as a child, and was caught up in the cycle. But many viewers were furious, and Spelling Productions received sacks of letters saying that Donna was "stupid" to stay with Ray. Aaron Spelling didn't want Donna, and by extension, his daughter, Tori Spelling, to look stupid, so he demanded that Ray be written out of the show and Walters fired.

Hilary Swank was fired from the show

Beverly Hills, 90210 wasn't exactly prestige television, and yet one of its cast members went on to win two Academy Awards for Best Actress. Toward the end of its ten-season run, an influx of new cast members were brought in to replace all the long-serving cast members that had left, or to divert from the long-serving cast members still on the show that had become tiresome. Among the new blood was Hilary Swank. She signed a contract that locked her down to the show for two years… but then got fired after appearing in just 13 episodes. It all worked out well for Swank, who just two months later, landed the lead role in Boys Don't Cry, for which she won the first of her two Oscars.