Words || Lucy MacCulloch
It’s been ten years since Mitch Flannagan said goodbye to the palm trees of HOLLYWOOD HILLS. Of course, this was back when the characters were closer to high school than a mid-life crisis and before the show had become a guaranteed, shark-jumping cash cow for the network. Instead, the season three finale delivered an unexpectedly daring, surprisingly heart-wrenching episode that allowed Mitch to escape from the clichés of Los Angeles and the ever-encircling expectations forced on him by his family that reached a level the show has never really been able to achieve since. In fact, when I met up with an old high school friend recently, she said she could barely remember anything past season three, despite the fact that I remember lying on the floor in her room arguing over who Ronnie or Charlene should be with. Though she had never found Mitch cute, I have always considered actor Andy Rolin to be one of the few standouts from the original cast, so while his departure from the show was sad, it seemed assured that he would go on to do bigger and better things, like a prototypical Timothee Chalamet – especially with those cheekbones.
So here we are, ten years later, and it’s hard to tell just how much of Hollywood Hills has changed. The plots are still convoluted, the lovers are still star-crossed, and I realised that the set of the coffee shop has not changed since season one, still garnished in neon oranges and blues and those fuzzy bean bags because hey, it was popular in the mid-noughties! So as Mitch steps out of the car, looking older and a little washed out (hey, in fairness that makes two of us), it’s hard to know just how much of his lack of change is intentional. While rumours of an original cast reunion have been floating on the Internet for almost a year now, it was unknown whether Andy Rolin would ultimately return. His IMdB page may have had a few updates, but he’s mostly disappeared from our screens following Mitch’s goodbye, with his return here marking the first time he’s been a lead since – well, Hollywood Hills. He never seems entirely comfortable in his performance, with some clumsy deliveries and relying heavily on old mannerisms, making Mitch look less like an adult and more like an overgrown high schooler. But as it’s only his first episode, it’s hard to tell what the writers are going for. After all, it was always a possibility that Mitch’s life wouldn’t turn out to be quite as triumphant as his original goodbye.
But hey, what do I know? The network reported that Mitch’s return brought in an extra million or so viewers, and my old high school friend said she was quite satisfied with the episode. There’s even talk of an eleventh season, despite my continuously lukewarm reviews, so I guess there must be something here that keeps bringing everybody back. If it smells like nostalgia, it’s probably nostalgia.