The new ABC Family comedy “Mystery Girls,” premiering Wednesday at 8:30 p.m., has been tailor-made for a very specific viewer: the “Beverly Hills, 90210” superfan, as it reunites former “90210” stars, and real-life besties, Tori Spelling and Jennie Garth, a.k.a. Donna Martin and Kelly Taylor.
The extremely meta premise: two former TV stars, Holly Hamilton (Spelling) and Charlie Contour (Garth) from a wildly popular 1990s show about female detectives — “Mystery Girls” — reunite.
Holly has become a depressed has-been, lusting for her former fame, poring over an old People magazine with herself on the cover, and watching “Mystery Girls” reruns while she eats ice cream in bed. Charlie has quietly, and seemingly happily, moved on to life as a suburban wife and mother. But when a witness to a murder will give his statement only to his two favorite TV policewomen, the estranged pair are brought into the police station to talk to him. And faster than you can say “Donna Martin graduates!” Holly and Charlie are back in business, except this time they are preposterously solving real-life mysteries.
To help in their fledgling gumshoe business is that witness, “Mystery Girls” devotee Nick Diaz (Miguel Pinzon), a sometimes funny but wildly flamboyant caricature, who signs on as their assistant.
There are certainly a few nostalgic laughs to be had in the pilot.
At one point the bickering pair argue about why their show ended. Charlie claims it’s because Holly wanted to make a film that never materialized. “I didn’t know Shannen Doherty was going to steal that role from me,” says Holly. “Right, like you could’ve played a better Mother Teresa,” retorts Charlie, sharing an inside joke about their former costar. (And I’ll admit to a giggle when Holly has her magazine snatched away and yells, “Let my People go.”)
Spelling, who co-created the show and serves as executive producer with Garth, is clearly having a ball in a scripted format again after years in the reality realm hashing over the painful details of her personal life.
While she gets points for poking fun at her post-“90210” reality TV and Lifetime movie image and hits some good comedic beats, Spelling’s performance is cartoonishly broad. Conversely and necessarily, Garth, who has been more of a Hallmark Channel gal since her days at West Beverly — and has the similarly innocuous Amanda Bynes sitcom “What I Like About You” on her TV CV — underplays to funny effect as the more grounded, and grumpy, partner, snarking on her former costar and friend with a lighter touch.
(Programming note for true “90210”-ers: “Peach Pit” owner Nat — Joe E. Tata — will appear in an upcoming “Mystery Girls” episode.)
Ultimately, the show is a silly, flimsy, and occasionally fun summer diversion for Spelling-Garth fans. Everyone else can pass on solving this “Mystery.”Sarah Rodman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.