The Pilot of Beverly Hills, 90210 Has a SEPTA Bus In It
The pilot of Beverly Hills, 90210 aired on October 4th of 1990. It opened with twins Brandon and Brenda Walsh adjusting to life in Beverly Hills. The opening montage also introduced freshman David Silver, popular girl Kelly Taylor, her ex-boyfriend, Steve Sanders—and one character, Andrea Zuckerman, who arrived at West Beverly High on the bus.
Specifically, a SEPTA bus. It may say WEST BEVERLY HILLS TRANSIT, but that color scheme and ‘S’ logo are unmistakeable.
It’s just over seven minutes into “Class of Beverly Hills,” the two-part pilot, when Andrea Zuckerman hops off a SEPTA bus. She takes it home later in the episode. The opening scene was filmed at Torrance High School in Torrance, California—the location of many TV and film shoots.
The bus in question is a 1974 Flxible New Look, according to SEPTA public information manager Heather Redfern. SEPTA purchased 834 of these buses between 1971 and 1976. Since the Beverly Hills, 90210 pilot aired in the fall of 1990, Redfern believes it was taken out of service not long before the pilot was filmed. These buses were retired in 1989, so it’s likely this was one of the last Flxible New Look buses in service in Philadelphia.
“When a bus is retired, SEPTA can sell it,” Redfern writes in an email. “In most cases, the bus is not running and major parts have been removed, so the bus will be sold to a scrap dealer. The bus is towed from SEPTA property and sold for scrap value.” Buses still in working condition are sometimes donated for a nominal $1 sale price to neighboring municipalities for use as emergency vehicles.
It’s unclear how the SEPTA’s 1974 Flxible New Look made it into the 90210 pilot. SEPTA hasn’t sold any buses to prop companies since 2005, and Redfern says there’s an “outside chance” the 90210 bus was sold to a prop company as well — but, then again, maybe not. “We have sold retired buses that were still running to private individuals, rather than sell them to a scrap dealer,” Redfern says. “It could be that this bus was owned by an individual who loaned it to a production company for the filming.”
No one associated with the original 90210 I contacted could clear up the mystery, so this is where the trail ends. The bus actually figures into the pilot’s plot, however. Andrea was the poor—well, poorer—student attending West Beverly among the rich teenagers. (She was only the 30-year-old attending high school by the virtue of casting.) When Brandon follows her home one evening, he learns she actually lives outside the district. He promises to keep her secret—much like the secret of the SEPTA’s WEST BEVERLY HILLS HIGH bus line.