Retro Television Reviews: California Dreams 1.13 “Where’s Dennis?” and 2.1 “Jake’s Song”

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, season one comes to an end and season two begins.  And with season two, an important new character is introduced.  With the start of the second season, we also get new opening credits.

But first, let’s get the end of season one out of the way.

Episode 1.13 “Where’s Dennis?”

(Directed by Don Barnhart, originally aired on December 5th, 1992)

With their parents out of town, Matt and Jenny throw a big party at the Garrison house and, naturally, the Dreams perform.  A promoter comes by the party and tells the Dreams that they’re “sick.”  (“That means good,” he adds as the Dreams breathe a sigh of 90s relief.)  However, younger brother Dennis feels that his old siblings are neglecting him and he runs away.  Can Matt and Jenny find Dennis before their parents come home?

Eh, who cares?  The worst episodes of the first season of California Dreams were the ones that focused on the Garrison family.

Episode 2.1 “Jake’s Song”

(Directed by Don Barnhart, originally aired on September 11th, 1993)

In between the end of the first season and the start of the second season of California Dreams, NBC delivered an ultimatum to the show’s producers.  If the show was going to continue, it would need to lose the adults and focus on the band.  It would also need to add some more Saved By The Bell-style hijinks.

As such, the Garrison adults were largely dropped, as was younger brother Dennis.  Whereas the first season didn’t feature a single scene that actually took place in a high school, the new California Dreams would feature clueless teachers, sputtering principles, and the same high school interiors that would later show up in Hang Time.

Most importantly, the first episode of the second season introduced viewers to Jake Summers (played by Jay Anthony Franke).  Jake was a tough guy who rode a motorcycle, wore a leather jacket, and who never lost a fight.  Jake was a rocking rebel with the soul of a poet and he was obviously added to the show to try to give the California Dreams some sort of edge.  Of course, California Dreams was still a TNBC show so “edgy” really just meant that Jake looked like he might have smoked a cigarette at some point in his life.  Jake wore a leather jacket and got a serious look on his face whenever it was time to play guitar but the music was still Disney-level pop.  Jake was the toughest California Dream in the way that Joey Fatone used to be the toughest member of NSYNC.

Jake makes his first appearance in California Dreams when he walks into the high school, wearing a leather jacket and followed by several adoring girls.  “Woooooooooo!” the audience yells, showing that they already know that the new star of the show has arrived.

Anyway, Jake says that he wants to talk to Matt.  Everyone’s terrified that Jake is going to kill Matt but instead, Jake just likes some music that Matt wrote and he wants to offer him some lyrics for the song.  Matt discovers that Jake can play guitar and he invites Jake to join the Dreams.  The rest of the Dreams are like, “Jake’s too tough and scary!”  Can’t they hear how crazy the live audience goes whenever Jake enters a scene?  The Dreams need Jake!  Of course, Jake isn’t even sure that he wants to join the Dreams but then they all play together at Sharkey’s.  Jake becomes a Dream and immediately  start to overshadow the star of the show.  The future is set.

Jake would eventually become a bit of a neutered character, especially after Matt was written out of the show and Jake took over the band.  But, in his first appearance, he actually has enough rebel charisma that it’s easy to understand why the show’s producers decided to build the new California Dreams around him.  His surly attitude actually provided a nice contrast to Matt’s more vanilla style.  In their first episode together, Jay Anthony Franke and Brent Gore brought out the best in each other.

Would Jake and Matt continue to bring out the best in each other?  We’ll find out next week!

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