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Real Eyes Realise Scandalize Mascara
90210 and the lost American art of product placement.
Welcome to Hyperfixate! This is a newsletter that consumes a lot more than it churns out. Sign up here. Support Ari and this newsletter here.
In a bizarre but not entirely unexpected turn of events, I’m going to write an accompanying newsletter to the podcast I host. This podcast, A Drip Town Lemory Mane, is a project I started at the end of 2019 and is still going because I only release a couple episodes a year (out of my own busyness and arguably laziness as well).
Doing a podcast is hard work and huge props to all of you out there with a podcast that turns out episodes consistently. I respect you deeply and am mad jealous. Please teach me time management skills.
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A little bit about this episode of ADTLM, we’ve just covered the reboot of Beverly Hills, 90210 (which is a spin-off to Melrose Place), 2008’s 90210. Boy, that was a lot of numbers! What is this, The Accountant starring Ben Affleck? No!
I was joined by friend-of-the-newsletter and my absolute fave, the lovely Charlotte Earney, to dive into the nitty-gritty of this incredibly soapy AnnaLynne McCord vehicle and a time capsule of late noughties telly. We have such a grand ole time on it. We talked about everything from the fashion at the time, couples that made no sense, to what the show would be like if it were on today.
One particular talking point I could not stop thinking about (in line with the oeuvre of this newsletter) was a scene from Season 5 where Naomi (AnnaLynne McCord, pre-Putin video) is getting ready at her vanity and Annie (Shenae Grimes) tells her that she’s really pretty. Annie asks Naomi what she’s using, and Naomi says:
“Oh, it’s the Rimmel Scandalize Mascara. From London.”
Naomi proceeds to allow Annie to try the mascara using the same wand. Naomi then segues into the rest o the scene saying “speaking of scandals…” and I sat there both thrilled and aghast that I witness the last of the great product placements on American television.
Sure, Do Revenge had those insane Glossier set pieces that made a loyalist such as myself drool, but late-noughties teen dramas on The CW was where it was at for product placement. It’s no George Costanza and Gor-Tex or George Costanza and Bosco, but Rimmel’s Scandalize Mascara was one of 90210’s finest, shining, contractually obligated ode to late capitalism. It’s no Don Draper with a blank board, but it was a Serve that even Pete Campbell would have probably tried to take credit for.
Throughout the last couple of seasons, the show also cut a deal with Microsoft to push the Microsoft Surface; a tablet-slash-laptop that never really went anywhere. Annie even gifts it to one of her boyfriends as a Christmas present before she suggests the idea of a long-distance relationship.
I think the last time I really saw great product placement on TV was on Community (as many things on this newsletter come back to), in the episode with the KFC space simulator and Chang (Ken Jeong) promotes a new sandwich as a bit, or in the episode where the guy that played Subway comes back as a guerilla Honda marketer. There were lots of sandwiches on Community, and it was bizarre (and still very funny) to see companies be so game to do something like that. 30 Rock had a lot of furnishing with consideration from Apple. I love when shows have enough in the budget to actually ask for licensing. But that’s different from the kind of shit they were pulling on 90210.
What I love most about the Scandalize Mascara bit was not only how brazen it was, but also how they really tried to pass it off as ‘organic’. This was just two teenage girls talking! They were just having a regular conversation about their lives as one of them gets ready for the day. A Get Ready With Me video without the ring lights and the subscribers! And the audience is already meant to covet Naomi’s life anyway–a trust fund girlboss that rented a massive mansion for her and her friends to live in, already talking about marrying some rich d-bag with an even bigger inheritance than hers! How’s that for nepo baby discourse?
Charlotte and I get into this in the episode as well, but they had a lot of musicians guest-star on the show to promote their new music. They had Snoop Dogg reluctantly do Gin and Juice when Dixon (Tristan Wilds) awkwardly sings the song in front of Snoop. They had Carly Rae Jepsen go on before yet another moment Adrianna sabotages her music career. They even had pre-Taika Waititi Rita Ora! Doing God knows what!
If you’d like to step into some territory and head down to that insane little California postcode, listen to the episode below!
Let me know if you’ve ever seen 90120 and remember any other weird things about it. I’d love to hear from you!
I couldn’t think up a better title. But after I edited that podcast episode, I went down a YouTube spiral that started with AnnaLynne McCord’s Putin video. I somehow stumbled upon a Zoom reunion the cast did during the pandemic. Out of all the Zoom reunions, I can’t believe I missed that one!
What did we learn from this Zoom reunion? I discovered that they’re all still very good-looking people. Shocker. McCord came in character, complete with a classic Naomi Clark floppy hat. Jessica Stroup (who I’ve recently discovered is on Iron Fist? Maybe I do need to watch that show) is perhaps the most beautiful woman on the planet. She and Lauren Cohan should play sisters in something. And it also hit me watching that reunion how young they all were when they started the show, and how difficult it must have been to navigate all that media attention stumbling through their early adulthood years.
This Zoom reunion was posted on Shenae Grimes’ YouTube account, which I thoroughly dug into for a few hours as well. Grimes vlogs fairly frequently (although she’s taking quite the break as of recently) and she has cast members like McCord and Matt Lanter (yes, Anakin Skywalker’s Matt Lanter) on to talk about their time on the show. McCord and Grimes also have a podcast together, again, to no one’s surprise. They apparently had beef for the five years the show ran and publicly address it on the podcast.
Secretly, my favourite genre of YouTube is people who were on TV when I was growing up doing YouTube. I live for Christy Carlson Romano’s cooking show or hiking story times. I sometimes check up on Adrianne Bailon through her channel from time to time as well. To me, it’s the clearest record we have from of the shift from traditional television to whatever the internet is now. It’s fascinating to behold. I’m also super nosy and I love seeing what rich people are up to, especially if they got rich in the noughties from being on telly.
That’s all for today!
All my love,