Last night, my sister Erin (a.k.a. Dazzling Erin) and I watched a very special episode of California Dreams, “Harley and the Marlboro Man.”
Why Were We Watching It?
If you follow me on twitter, then you may have noticed something last night. Whether it was just that I was having a long day or the fact that I’ve been somewhat manic since December, I was a neurotic mess. It all started when I tried to change my profile pic on twitter and I discovered that apparently, twitter has changed the way that they do profile pics and, as a result, this really great picture of me had to be cropped and then it ended up looking totally tiny on screen and this led to me trying 30 different profile pics in just 15 minutes and none of them looked good in tiny twitter form and I was just getting so frustrated and … well, you get the idea.
Fortunately, my wonderful sister knew how to calm me down. She suggested that I distract myself from obsessing over my profile pic by watching something either on TV or online. And what better to watch than an episode of a mediocre 90s sitcom!? Unfortunately, as much as I tried, I couldn’t find any episodes of Saved By The Bell: The New Class to watch.
So, I watched yet another episode of California Dreams instead. And since it was her idea, I forced Erin to watch it with me!
What Was It About?
Lead guitarist, motorcycle enthusiast, and leather fetishist Jake (Jay Anthony Franke) is entering a motorcycle contest and his Uncle Frank shows up to help him out. Frank, it turns out, taught Jake everything Jake knows about being cool but — gasp! — Frank smokes!
And soon, Jake is smoking too.
This episode is part of a proud television tradition. Every show that’s aimed towards younger viewers has to have at least one episode where one of the characte’s takes up smoking and ends up getting ostracized as a result. This episode of California Dreams is almost a prototypical anti-smoking episode — i.e., the character is inspired to smoke by an older role model, all of his friends are shocked and scandalized to discover that he would even think of smoking, a lot of statistics are awkwardly stuffed into the script (“Did you know that 89% smokers started smoking between the ages of 15 and 27?”), and the older role model is eventually punished with lung cancer. This episode of California Dreams hits all of the expected notes and it does so far more efficiently than Saved By The Bell: The New Class did.
To be honest, Jake is a pretty silly character with his heavy leather jackets and his perpetual scowl but, in this episode, Jay Anthony Franke gives a fairly good performance.
Up until things got serious with Uncle Frank, this episode had a lot of camp appeal. There was something oddly endearing about how scandalized everyone was over the fact that Jake was smoking. I also found it interesting that it only took 6 or 7 cigarettes for Jake to turn into an addict. Seriously, even I — with my asthma and everything else — smoked more than 7 cigarettes back in high school. And I never found myself madly pacing back and forth while craving my next fix.
On a personal note, this episode calmed me down and I’m thankful for that!
What Did Not Work?
Hey, it was California Dreams. Even the stuff that don’t work are a major part of the show’s appeal.
“Oh my God! Just like me!” Moments
I have severe asthma and it was even worse when I was little. As a result, my mom was always very protective of me and my poor, little lungs. If anyone lit a cigarette anywhere near me, mom would always tell them to put it out because, “My daughter can not breathe.” She also told me that I shouldn’t ever be around people who were smoking and, most importantly, I should never smoke myself.
Of course, that worked when I was little but then, as I grew up and I went through my whole rebellious phase, I found myself fascinated with both cigarettes and the people who smoked them. Don’t get me wrong — I thought smoking cigarettes was a dangerous habit and I was too obsessed with dancing and too paranoid about my asthma to ever do anything more than take an occasional defiant puff but, at the same time, I still loved to watch certain people smoke and, whenever I dated a smoker, I always loved the way they tasted whenever I kissed them.
So, for once, I found that I could not relate to the character of Lorena in this episode of California Dreams.
Strange things calm me down.
First incongruity comes quickly at just 1:35 into the episode when Tiffani laments:
“Win, win, win, win, win! That’s what’s wrong with the world today, all anybody cares about is winning!”
That might seem appropriate if Tiffani were a red-beret-wearing, Communist Manifesto-toting socialist with an image of Che Guevara stretch over her perky ta-tas. But that fact is that Tiffani plays on the school volleyball team, even going so far as to take steroids in order to make the cut (see “Tiffani’s Gold”) and is part of the show’s eponymous “music” group (note the inverted commas) that competes in the annual Battle of the Bands. Tiffani’s whole life is about competition.
Lisa Marie Bowman Lookalike at 2:28: “Wow, it’s amazing, he even looks like you!”
Possibly all she could say to disguise her disappointment that “cool” Uncle Frank is just some stocky looking 50 year old guy with an aggressively receding hairline who is about as “cool” as your sixth grade teacher trying to boogie like Travolta at the end-of-year dance.
Andrew Dice Clay reached for the phone to call his lawyers at 2:33.
Cafe employee at 4:13: “Sorry, Jake, you can’t smoke in here”.
This is followed by Jake extinguishing the cigarette in as ashtray.
In a non-smoking restaurant.
Make of that what you will.
Lisa Marie Bowman Lookalike at 4:35:
“That’s terrible, Sly, you gave into peer pressure.”
Are you kidding me? These kids are the biggest bunch of peer pressure types in the entire school. Look at their trendy designer labels, their perfect hair and slender bodies. These kids has stepped right from the pages of “Seventeen” magazine (I mean the teen fashion bible, not those really thick Dutch porno books). These young whippersnappers have no right to accuse anybody of giving in to “peer pressure”.
The Lisa Marie Bowman Lookalike looks absolutely gorgeous in her grey coveralls at 5:30!
You know, if the Lisa Marie Bowman lookalike wants to get Jake to stop smoking, all she has to do is withhold sex from him. That’ll work, for sure.
Somebody please explain what is happening with that t-shirt worn by Tony at 9:21. It looks like a Teletubbies t-shirt.
Not much else to be said about this episode, it all turns pretty grim in the second half. But Tiffani, being the good little Red that she is, should’ve split the money found on the beack with everybody else in the Party…erm, I mean band. That’s what a real socialist would do.
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