Upon the success of such early 90s fare as Beverly Hills 90210 and Melrose Place, every network went into a feeding frenzy for the next hot ensemble cast drama. Most of these knock-off shows disappeared as quickly as they began. Since Aaron Spelling was enjoying such success with 90210 and Melrose Place, he got a little drunk with prime-time power and developed Models Inc., and The Heights, a show revolving around a fictional band full of earnest Gen Xers.
The members of The Heights didn’t really look like a group of 20 something musicians trying to find their way in the world. Instead, they look like a Mr. Show sketch about a group of 20 something musicians trying to find their way in the world. Seriously, the one guy looks like Kenny G. swapped out his sax for a guitar. Watch the opening credits montage and tell me you can’t see the guy with the chin length hair parodied by a young Bob Odenkirk.
Honestly, I can’t tell you a single plot line from The Heights. Back then, I found the show utterly unwatchable and it’s not like it took all that much to entertain me. I mean, I deemed episodes of Herman’s Head to be appointment viewing. At 13 years old, I didn’t have the world’s most refined palate when it came to the entertainment I consumed. The fact that this show couldn’t keep me from flipping the remote control that was permanently grafted into my hand said a lot.
Since this was an ensemble show about young 90s Gen Xers trying to figure out their lives and make shitty elevator music, it’s safe to say there was a plotline where a character with a liberal arts degree felt slightly demeaned by taking a Starbucks type barista job in order to pay the bills… until the band MAKES IT. Also, no 90s young adult ensemble drama was complete without a storyline involving HIV. So, it’s safe to say that one episode involved a tense scene where a cast member was filmed pensively waiting in the lobby of a clinic before receiving the test results that gave him or her a clean bill of health. There was probably a lot of crying and hugging. Also, someone wore a pair of baggy overalls with one strap undone.
Besides giving us 12 utterly forgettable episodes of television, the pre-fabricated band mainly leaves this Number 1 hit behind as its legacy.
Once you get over all of the unacceptable faces the drummer makes throughout the performance, there are a few things that need to be addressed. First of all, a bunch of people that look like Pearl Jam roadies were playing songs that should be buried deep on a Richard Marx album. Secondly, it’s downright offensive that it took that many people (7!) to make music that mediocre. Even though most of the actors probably weren’t playing their instruments, the premise is still ridiculous. Lastly, in the era of grunge, we were being sold on a rock band that used a saxophone.
In the show’s promo pictures, the guy with the chin length bob can be seen wearing a Hüsker Dü shirt. Would any self-respecting Hüsker Dü fan have anything to do with songs that sound like this?
If things had gone to plan, The Heights would have become a modern version of The Monkees. Unfortunately, despite releasing a full albums worth of songs that were played on the show, “How Do You Talk To An Angel” was the only hit.
After the demise of the show, Aaron Spelling seemed really invested in making star and off-screen singer-songwriter Jamie Walters happen. Naturally, Spelling moved Walters over to 90210, where he played Donna’s love interest. Walters fit the 90210aesthetic well considering that he looked like what would happen if Luke Perry reproduced with a puppy, minus a few chromosomes. Unfortunately, his time on the show was something of a guilded cage preventing him from focusing on writing songs that are the aural equivalent of a cold cup of chamomile tea. When Walters decided to leave the show so that he could bore the shit out of people with his guitar, the writers of 90210 wrote him out of the show by morphing his character into an angry and violent boyfriend who threw Donna down the stairs. According to some Where Are They Now? type show I watched on cable a billion years ago, his audience couldn’t discern fact from fiction, and angry fans came to shows brandishing signs demanding that he stop beating Donna. Maybe he should have ridden on the 90210 gravy train for as long as humanly possible. Maybe he should have written songs that appealed to people that can separate a human being from the made-up character he plays on TV. Who can really say where it all went wrong?
I guess the lesson we can all learn from that is Aaron Spelling giveth with one hand and taketh away with the other.