Last night, I watched yet another episode of the mid-90s sitcom, California Dreams. That episode was entitled Boyz R Us.
And yes, it was a very special episode.
Why Was I Watching It?
As I’ve explained in my previous California Dreams-related posts, I’ve been watching episodes of this 90s sitcom because all of the episodes of Saved By The Bell: The New Class have been yanked off of YouTube.
This was actually the third time I had watched the Boyz R Us episode. I previously watched it last week with my BFF Evelyn after we saw Tyler Perry’s Temptation. However, the next day was a busy one and I didn’t get a chance to write about it. Therefore, in order to maintain the integrity of this feature, I rewatched Boyz R Us yesterday so that I could honestly say that it was what Lisa Marie watched last night.
What Was It About?
In this episode, we discover that Tony (William James Jones) is from “the hood.” This isn’t surprising since, in the world according to mediocre sitcoms, every single black man on the planet was born in the hood just so he could eventually leave, befriend a bunch of white people, and then be accused of “selling out” in a very special episode.
Tony’s cousin, Darren, drops by for a visit and explains to Tony that “Some changes are going down in the hood.” When an old friend of Tony’s is crippled by gang members, Tony is forced to choose between being a snitch and going to the police or seeking violent revenge on his own.
Meanwhile, the other members of the California Dreams are all broke and get jobs delivering singing telegrams. To be honest, compared to what’s happening in the hood, the problems of a bunch of affluent white teenagers seem rather trivial indeed.
Incidentally, I was born in Oak Cliff, Texas which is the Dallas version of the hood. Just saying…
(Of course, my mom also got us all out of there when I was 14 months old and I wouldn’t know a real gangsta if he came up and stared straight at me but that said, I’m still technically from the hood.)
In some of the other episodes that I’ve seen, William James Jones had a tendency to overact. However, I thought he did a pretty good job in this episode. If he went over-the-top, that was largely because the episode itself — with its heavy combination of melodrama and messaging — didn’t leave him much choice. In this episode, Jones embraced the melodrama and good for him.
Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate and respect the fact that the show was made with the best of intentions. (Though you do have to wonder just how many real-life gang members would have been spending their Saturday morning watching California Dreams…) However, the appeal of this episode really is that it’s so over-the-top and melodramatic.
For 22 minutes, everything with Tony is a drama. Every phone call he gets is bad news and you get the feeling that the other Dreams are starting to dread the prospect of being anywhere near him. And then, at the end of the episode, Tony manages to not only convince Darren not to throw his life away but also rallies the entire community to finally stand up to the gang culture. You can argue that the episode’s resolution isn’t all that realistic (for one thing, nobody seems to have considered that at least one of the two gang members would probably have had a weapon of his own) but that’s part of the appeal.
Also, was it just me or did it seem that the California Dreams were personally arresting the two gangstas at the end of the episode?
What Did Not Work?
Two words: Singing telegram.
The singing telegram subplot would have been weak under normal circumstances but when coupled with all of the melodrama and heavy messaging of the main plot, it looked even weaker. Seriously, do the California Dreams not have parents to borrow money from?
I’m also found myself wondering if their final client specifically told Sly, “I want a group of teenagers dressed like keystone cops to sing to my girlfriend.”
Finally, the show’s writers missed a golden opportunity to have Jake announce, “Jake Summers doesn’t do silent film buffoonery.”
“Oh my God! Just like me!” Moments
“I just want to know what its like to poor!” That sounds like something I’d say while attempting to be cute.
“Two years is a long time to be gone from the hood…”