What Lisa and Evelyn Watched Last Night #89: California Dreams 3.11 “Family Trees” (dir by Patrick Maloney)

Last night, my BFF Evelyn and I watched yet another old episode of California Dreams.

Why Were We Watching It?

As I’ve explained before, my sister Megan got me hooked on this silly old show called California Dreams last Christmas.  For whatever reason, I continue to find myself oddly intrigued by this mediocre 90s sitcom.  While I was on my vacation last week, it occurred to me that it had been a while since I last shared and reviewed an episode of California Dreams on this site so I resolved that, as soon as I got back, one of the first things I would do would be to remedy that situation.

As for how Ms. Evelyn ended up watching it with me — well, Evelyn’s a very good friend.

What Was It About?

It’s time for another wacky class assignment!  Since the members of the California Dreams all have the exact same class schedule, that means that they all get the same assignment: to research their family trees.

All the Dreams discover that they come from distinguished backgrounds, except for Tony who opens up one book to one random page and, after spending less than a minute reading, announces: “My ancestors were slaves!”

So, Tony claims to be descended from royalty and, because everyone at Pacific Coast High School is an idiot, they’re soon carrying him around on their shoulders and talking about setting up a royal harem.

Things are looking pretty good for Tony but then, as often happens on this show, a ghost visits him during the night and sets him straight.

What Worked?

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m usually pretty lenient when it comes to judging old episodes of California Dreams.  After all, it was made back in the 90s and, especially when compared to something like Saved By The Bell: The New Class, the members of the cast did the best that they could with the material they were given.

But seriously, of all the episodes that I’ve viewed on YouTube so far, Family Trees is without a doubt the worst.  Good intentions aside, absolutely nothing worked in this episode.

Strangely enough, however, the fact that it is so truly bad makes this episode oddly fascinating.  The fact that nothing works is what makes this episode watchable.

What Did Not Work?

Where to begin?

Okay, first off — I understand that this show was probably written with the best of intentions but are we to seriously believe that, before getting this particular class assignment, Tony apparently had no idea about the history of slavery in the United States?

Secondly, who could have guessed that all you had to do to research your family history was check out a book from the library and then open it up to a random page?

Third, Tony getting visited by the ghost of an ancestor reminded me of the fact that, just a few episodes later, Sam would be visited by the ghost of an ancestor!  One gets the idea that the show’s writers were perhaps running out of ideas.

Fourth, what is the deal with the lack of classrooms at the high school?  I swear, every class that they take seems to be located in that same tiny classroom.

Fifth, the Dreams did not perform during this episode.  Couldn’t they have written a special “Be Yourself” song in order to make Tony feel better about himself?  It seems selfish not to.

However, this episode’s biggest problem was pointed out by Evelyn when she said, “Why is everyone at that school so easily impressed?”  And, seriously, she is so totally right.

Let’s say that one day, Arleigh informed me that he was descended from royalty.  Would that cause me to treat him any differently?  Well, of course, it would!  I mean, who isn’t impressed by royalty?  (Myself, I consider Pippa Middleton to be my royal role model.)  However, eventually, I would stop calling him “your highness” and begging him to say stuff like, “I declare him to be an outlawwwwwwwwwww!” and things would get back to normal here at the Shattered Lens.  However, the students at PCHS are so impressed by Tony’s claim to be descended from a king that they immediately form some sort of odd cult of personality.

And why, if they’re so impressed by Tony’s claim to royal lineage, are they not impressed by the fact that Lorena is legitimately descended from power?

Seriously, that school sucks.

“OMG!  Just like me!” Moments

As usual, I related so much to Lorena that I’m tempted to think that my cousin might be Mario Lopez.

(As far as my family tree is concerned, I am of Irish-Italian-Spanish-German ancestry, with a bit of French mixed in there as well.  If I was in that class, they’d have to set aside an entire week for me to give my full report.)

Lessons Learned

Surf dudes with attitude are kinda groovy.  Especially when they’re feeling mellow…


One response to “What Lisa and Evelyn Watched Last Night #89: California Dreams 3.11 “Family Trees” (dir by Patrick Maloney)

  1. Y’know, the same thing was done on “Saved by the Bell”, with Screech revealing that he’s Italian, which I found to be complete bullshit. It’s a well-known, scientifically-proven fact that Italian men are noted to be one or more of the following: (a) incredibly handsome, (b) really tough and/or athletic, (c) great actors, (d) handy in the kitchen, or (e) in the Mafia.

    I think we can rule out the first three in the case of anybody remotely resembling Dustin Diamond. He released a chess video rather than a cookbook, which might make him Russian (or a no-good Commie bastard), but certainly not Italian. And the only time you’ll find Screech around the Mafia is when a guy named Vito has the little pinhead dangling by the ankles off the side of the Brooklyn Bridge, due to unpaid gambling debts. Thus I state that beyond a shadow of a doubt, Screech could never be Italian.

    Many years earlier, there was a great episode of “Diff’rent Strokes” where it turns out that one of Mr. Drummond’s ancestors was in the blackslaving business. Actually, a lot of ideas for “California Dreams” can be found (done much better, I must say) in “Diff’rent Strokes”.

    1.02: That Lisa Marie Bowman impersonator needs to lessons on how to sit like a lady. I notice that lack of appropriate feminine deportment is a major problem for the women on this show.

    1.11: Notice how confused he looks having to read a part of script that wasn’t scribbled on the back of a lunch napkin between snorts of cocaine. Well, I guess the writers of this show can get away with ripping off poetry from the Middle Ages, since it’s out of copyright.

    1:26: “Watch, and obsoive?” Since when did Sly become hard-boiled?

    1:47: Throwing that paperball with Eli Manning-like accuracy is probably the only competent thing that any of the “Dreams” does.

    2.00: Huh-huh, huh-huh…she said “oral”…huh-huh, huh-huh.

    2.09: What’s that sign say? Something about “getting head”?

    2.11: She said “hard”…huh-huh, huh-huh.

    2.41: Note how the American flag has been strategically positioned just behind the teacher, this being clearly symbolic that she is a paragon of American values and an authority figure, whose control over the class shall not be upset by…oh, I’m sorry, I forgot that this is “California Dreams”, not a piece of cinematic art with any reasonable modicum of thought poured into it.

    2.46: White school teacher blushes at Tony’s outburst of mock anger, because it reminds her of tone that the black man used on the white woman in the black-on-blonde porno she was watching the previous evening (except they acted better than the “Dreams”). You better believe the only reason why Whitey School Teacher lets Tony get away with this shit is because she wants to carry his beautiful brown baby (good heavens, I apologise).

    3.08: The Lisa Marie Bowman impersonator normally speaks perfect Californese, so why does she suddenly start babbling like an illegal Mexican housemade?

    3.42: I guess the library was all out of Alex Haley.

    3.55: This is just like my “Claude Rains is sitting there” joke that I often use at the Astor Theatre! And if I ever need to defend another empty seat, Kevin Bacon becomes my go-to guy.

    (By the way, pause the video at 3.55 and you get a great look at Blowjob Features looking all blow-jobby).

    5.12: Tony: “What will I do, where will I go?”

    Jake: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn”.

    (A “Gone with the Wind” reference would’ve tied in perfectly with Tony’s family history, too).

    6.09: You know, I must say, that joke about Mario Lopez would still work in 2013. You couldn’t say the same thing about a Dustin Diamond joke (pardon the tautology).

    6.19: Hey, maybe he’s related to that guy in “The Butler”!

    6.45: Wait a minute, that Smith girl is stuck for information about her ancestors, but that Woo girl can trace her relative back to the time of Christ? “Woo” is NOT exactly an uncommon name! “Canadian logic”.

    7.01: I’m really not impressed by chopsticks, myself.

    7.08: I swear someone wrote that in there so that Blowjob Features could show off that big blow-jobby mouth.

    7.13: Steroid Freak: “Eh, Tony, you must feel pretty lucky to be going out with Sam”.

    Tony: “No shit, I’m a black man, she’s Asian, use your imagination”.

    7.45: Well, if it worked for Alex Haley…

    7.52: Jake’s one step ahead of everyone.

    8.15: Wait a minute, neither one of these bozos is related to me.


    9.21: If schools really had teachers like that, male absentee rates would fall to zero. No wonder nobody fucks around in her class. Except Tony, because he knows the teacher has jungle fever, so he can do what he likes.

    10.00: Waaaait a minute, back the fuck up there, this dame is Chinese, and SHE dares to say derisive things about Jake’s halushki? Sam Woo, the Chinese woman whose people are responsible for some of the flat-out foulest smelling garbage ever to appear inside the confines of a plastic take-away tray? I’m as culturally sensitive as anybody, but geez louise, it’s no fun walking through Box Hill, even at three o’clock in the morning, whole suburb reeks like one giant slaughterhouse. Somebody eats a dim sim on the train, you need to evacuate the carriage. Honestly, I’m not fucking kidding, Chinese people, contrary to popular belief, eat just as horribly as 99 percent of the rest of the world, except they insist upon eating stuff that is guaranteed to leave a stench with you a week after dispelling it from your alimentary canal and into the toilet bowl. Fuck you, Sam Woo, fuck you and your whole fucking family tree.

    10.05: You know, I can see a few seconds ahead…is Tony gonna show up dressed like a member of X-Clan?

    10.08: What did I tell ya?

    10.30: Stability, prosperity, cultural brilliance…all qualities so sorely lacking in “California Dreams”!

    11.53: They still talk about Alex Haley

    12.25: What a slut.

    12.43: He’ll have something else in his blood with such sexually irresponsible behaviour

    13.57: Jake is such a racist!

    14.13: Steroid Freak: “I can’t believed you lied to us about being the descendent of a king”

    Tony: “Hey, it worked for Alex Haley!”


    14.23: Sly: “What does that mean?”

    Lisa Marie Bowman’s Stunt Double: “Showing off with a second language”.

    14.45: I’d like to whack the guy who wrote this crap.

    15.22: “Foregrill”?

    17.11: Nothing more humiliating than being descended from slaves? Not true–you could be a member of “California Dreams”!

    18.20: Heavens to Betsy, did she get tired of ironing her clothes and simply spraypaint them on? Maybe she needs to buy bigger threads, considering all that Decadurabolin she’s been injecting into her buttocks. By the way, I bet she was shattered she wasn’t related to Tom Jones.

    19.21: You mean they’re not descended from the Mafia?

    19.59: Teacher catches them just in time before they can go into her office and stumble upon all that black-on-blonde porn and spent dildos on her desk.

    20.13: Pretty cool shirt, sorta like what Charlie Brown would wear if he were trying to get in touch with his non-existant African heritage. I still like the dashiki better, though.

    As for the “Dreams” not performing a song in this episode, this would have been the perfect opportunity for Tony to ditch the band, go solo and release a historically-aware hip-hop tune…it might even have sounded something like this…


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