Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past! On Saturdays, I will be reviewing California Dreams, which ran on NBC from 1992 to 1996. The entire show is currently streaming on YouTube!
This week, the California Dreams confront racism and misogyny! Let’s see how it goes.
Episode 1.7 “Guess Who’s Coming To Brunch?”
(Directed by Don Barnhart, originally aired on October 24th, 1992)
During a performance of “Rain” (which is the first vaguely good song to be featured on this show), an amp blows out. It’s going to cost $300 to replace! Sly suggests that the band take a job writing an advertising jingle but Matt’s all like, “No, man! It’s about the music!” Matt, we’ve heard your music.
Fortunately, Tony has a new girlfriend and she comes from rich family! Her father (played by the same actor who played Zach Morris’s Dad during the Good Morning Miss Bliss incarnation of Saved By The Bell) offers to pay for the amp but he has a condition. “Stop dating my daughter.”
“Ohhhhhh!” the audience gasps.
Tony’s black and his girlfriend (and her father) are white. When the girlfriend’s father says that the relationship will never work because “you two are from different worlds,” everyone knows what he means. This leads to a discussion about race, which was probably quite progressive for 1992 even if it seems rather anodyne by today’s standards. Tony’s girlfriend explains that her father can’t be prejudiced because he gives money to all the right causes. Way to call out white liberalism, California Dreams!
Of course, this discussion about race takes place while everyone tries to write a jingle for Uncle Slappy’s Root Beer. “We can’t lie in the jingle!” Tiffany argues. Has Tiffani never watched a commercial? This band deserves to fail for being annoyingly naïve.
The episode ends with the band playing a song called “One World,” which I was disappointed to learn was not the One World theme song.
Episode 1.8 “It’s A Guy Thing”
(Directed by Don Barnhart, originally aired on October 31st, 1992)
In order to force Sly and Tony to confront their own misogyny, Tiffani and Jenny trick them into falling in love with a non-existent French girl named Monique. Kelly provides the French-accented voice over the phone. Jenny wears a wig whenever Monique needs to be seen. It’s kind of a dumb plan but Sly and Tony are both fairly stupid characters. That said, Sly and Tony do eventually learn that Monique is just Jenny in a wig and somehow, this all leads to a boxing match.
Meanwhile, Mr. Garrison tries to figure out how to fix the family washing machine, in a storyline that I’m pretty sure was eventually reused on an episode of One World. Speaking of reusing plotlines, the whole fake girlfriend thing was originally used in Saved By The Bell. Remember when Zach pretended to be a Southern blonde in order to get Screech to do his homework?
This episode features Matt announcing, “Let’s do another tune!,” which is the funniest line in the script. I’m always amazed at how the Dreams can produce that perfect studio sound while performing in their garage.
The Dreams dealt with some pretty serious issues this week! What will they deal with next week?