Last night, cable’s newest success story, ABC Family’s The Secret Life of the American Teenager, ended the first half of its inaugural season with boffo numbers. Attracting more than 4.5 million viewers — 3 million of them in the attractive 12-34 demo — it not only beat its own ratings record, but easily bested The CW’s new 90210 spin off, which fell 30% from its debut to 3.3 million viewers overall.
Interesting fact: Jason Priestley, who rose to fame playing Brandon Walsh on 90210‘s original series, directed yesterday’s Secret Life of the American Teenager finale. The actor-director was kind enough to call me today from Alberta, Canada where he’s currently filming a movie — which is, by the way, the reason he’s been sporting that crazy beard (see below) as of late — so we could discuss.
Closer gets. It’s spectacular. The show has done what every
network hopes their new shows will do, which is to grow consistently
week after week. The audience gets bigger and bigger and that’s an
indication of good word of mouth. It’s really been a great place to go
When asked what the secret to American Teenager‘s success is, Jason mentioned all the network schedules saturated with reality television: "I think people are looking for shows to entertain them and there’s just so much
reality on right now. You can watch Deal
or No Deal five nights a week. If I was 18 or 19-years-old, I’d
be bored to tears by Deal or No Deal. And I think that American
Teenager is offering people a welcome change."
So why did 90210 lose viewers last night, while Secret Life grew? "You know, you can understand why [the network and studio] made the decision to try and
resurrect the  franchise," JP said. "But just bringing back the title of what was
once a successful show doesn’t guarantee the success of the new series. The new 90210 is going to have
to stand on its own merit. And that’s the way it is with any TV show that’s just starting out."
But don’t mistake the above comment as a dig on the spin off’s quality. Jason told me he has yet to see the show, because he was on an airplane when the pilot aired and had to work last night. He has not spoken to his former 90210 co-stars Jennie Garth or Shannen Doherty (who are currently reprising their roles) since the new series premiered, but did say that he sent Jennie a good luck text and email last Tuesday.
Still, he is familiar with the "Kelly/missing baby daddy" storyline, and laughed when I brought it up. But that doesn’t mean Brandon has anything to do with the situation. In fact, Jason solidified my assertion that Dylan, not boyscout Brandon, is the dude responsible for Kelly’s kid, saying The CW only approached him to play a small, inconsequential cameo role in the pilot — a role he respectfully declined.
So how about directing? For now, 90210 is S.O.L. as far as any quality time with Jason Priestley is concerned: "They did talk to me about [directing], but at this point, I’m
booked until 2009. It could be fun to go over
and shoot one, but I’m pretty busy," he explained.
Priestley is expected back on the Secret Life of the American Teenager set next month to direct three more episodes, and p.s., he tells me he’ll be clean-shaven by then: "I’ve taken a lot of heat in the media for this awful, ugly beard. My God, I’ve had to hear about it on The Soup, on Best Week Ever. They
all think I grew it for fun! Come on guys, I would never grow something
like this for fun, it’s horrible!" Ha!