Love it or Leave it: Sweet Valley High (The TV Show)

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Welcome back! We all have that show. The show that you adore and can quote at the drop of a hat. You love it, but you are the only one. Everyone has one of those shows that just didn’t take off with the masses. We are left with a very limited series that you watch over and over again as they write an analysis on the internet. Probably on a blog.

Ahem…moving on.

This is what this series is about, taking those shows that had a very limited run and deciding if the show deserved better. After all, you may love a show, but after you analyze it, you can understand why it didn’t take off.

What are we looking at this week?

Sweet Valley High (The TV Show)

Background

Sweet Valley High started out as a teen book series.  Francine Pascal had created a teen-oriented soap opera in the 70’s, but no one wanted to produce it. However, her agent ended up seeing the idea to Bantam Books.  Pascal created a “bible” for ghostwriters to write the Sweet Valley High series.  She didn’t have an interest in writing the series because, “…she had no interest in writing them in part because her previous books were for a “sophisticated, educated audience.”The series went on to great success being the first teen title to make the New York Times Bestsellers List.

Francine Pascal’s original plans came together after Sweet Valley High was picked up as a television series.  Sweet Valley High aired from September 5, 1994, to October 14, 1997.  The series was produced by Saban Entertainment. The rights are now held by Disney-ABC Domestic Television.

The series is like the books. It follows sweet and shy Elizabeth Wakefield and her loud and crazy twin Jessica Wakefield. They navigate the typical teen issues with their friends at Sweet Valley High.

Where it Stands in Pop Culture

The series was popular in syndication on Fox stations for three seasons. Then the show moved to UPN for its fourth only to be canceled for low ratings.

Sweet Valley is still popular among 90’s kids who remember the books and series fondly.  Season one of the show was released on DVD by Buena Vista Home Entertainment in 2005.

Did it Deserve Better?

No. Not at all. Let me explain.

I watched this show on Saturdays as a kid.  I was a huge fan of the series and wanted to see my favorites in action.  I remember liking the series as a 9-year-old but as a 29-year-old the series has a different look.

After watching a few episodes on YouTube, I couldn’t believe I loved this series. Let us start with the cosmetic issues. The acting from the some of the cast is terrible.  To be fair, though, the actual twins who play Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield (Brittany and Cynthia Daniel) aren’t bad. That explains why they went on to have minor careers while the rest faded away.  The show’s set feel cheap.  You could tell the show had a shoestring budget.

Now onto the deeper issues. The show is highly rooted in 90s lore which is fine. That is the time it exists in, however; it’s all 90s. Nothing timeless was added into the show, so it ages poorly.  I feel like the show was trying to be the teen version of Melrose Place just without the sex.  You could say a very pale imitation of Beverly Hills 90210.  I also felt like the teenage issues covered in the show were already covered by Saved by the Bell. Saved by the Bell had charm while Sweet Valley High was crude and preached too hard at its audience. It drove me nuts while watching.

I understand the nostalgia factor for the books is what drove this show but as that nostalgia fades all we have is this pale copy of a teen show.  It didn’t deserve better than it got. In fact, it got more than it deserved.

One thing I do like? That theme song is catchy. I miss theme songs.

Check out the show on DVD and episodes on YouTube.

Until next time.

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