Retro Television Review: California Dreams 2.2 “Ciao, Jenny” and 2.3 “Wooing Woo”

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, one member of the Dreams escapes and a new one shows up!

Do surf dudes still have attitude and feel mellow in Italy?  Let’s find out.

California Dreams 2.2 “Ciao, Jenny”

(Directed by Don Barnhart, originally aired on September 18th, 1993)

This episode opens with Tiffani announcing that she is now working as a candy striper at the hospital!  Hey, wait a minute.  Didn’t Lisa do the same thing on Saved By The Bell?  Wasn’t there later an entire episode of One World about this?  Did Peter Engel just have an entire closet full of candy striper uniforms that he handed out to the casts of his various show?

Of course, the whole candy striper thing is only the B-plot.  The A-plot features Jenny auditioning for a place at a music school in Europe.  Jake, who is now everyone’s best friend, has decided that he’s in love with Jenny and he doesn’t want her going to California.  He even writes a song about how much he loves Jenny.  Matt helps him out with the song, which seems kind of weird since Jenny is his younger sister.  “It’s in the key of A, off-tempo,” Matt announces, “follow me for the changes!” I love musician talk.

Anyway, the song leads to some kissing but it doesn’t make Jenny stay so Sly suggests that maybe they should hypnotize Jenny so that she blows her final audition.  Jake thinks that is a super idea.  Perhaps he remembers the time that Zach brainwashed the entire school with subliminal messages on Saved By The Bell.  (“Zach, Zach, Zach….”)  Somehow, Sly learns how to hypnotize people and, just as improbably, Jenny gets hypnotized.  Eventually, though, Jake realizes this was a stupid idea and confesses what he did.  Jenny is so touched that she decides to turn down the chance to go to Italy.  Realizing that he can’t be responsible for her missing out on this opportunity, Jake breaks up with Jenny.  Jenny eventually forgives Jake for being a jerk and then leaves for Italy.

Uh-oh, the Dreams just lost one of their three lead singers!  What are they going to do now?

California Dreams 2.3 “Wooing Woo”

(Directed by Don Barnhart, originally aired on September 25th, 1993)

Jenny’s gone and the Garrisons promptly offer up her old room to a Samantha Woo (Jennie Kwan), an exchange student from Hong Kong.  Mr. Garrison says that everyone should keep in mind that Sam will probably be quiet and shy.  Instead, Sam turns out to be talkative and fashionable.  Meanwhile, the Dreams are searching for a new singer and …. oh my God!  Sam can sing!  In fact, when she auditions for the Dreams, she sounds like she’s lip-synching to something that was actually recorded in a studio as opposed to being performed in a musty garage.

Of course, no sooner has Sam joined the band than Jake, Tony, Sly, and even Matt start competing to see who can be the first kiss her.  It turns out that Sam is too clever for all of them but then again, who wasn’t?  When Sam finds out what they were planning, she threatens to leave America unless the boys agree to do something that will help them understand what it feels like to be “treated like a piece of meat.”  It all leads to Jake, Tony, Sly, and Matt putting on dresses and getting hit on by football players.  “Woooooo!” the audience says.  And so, Sam joins the California Dreams.  She would remain a member longer than the siblings who started the band and she and Tony would eventually become the longest-running couple on the show.

As for those two episodes, they both represent the extent to which California Dreams rebranded itself as a musical version of Saved By The Bell.  That said, both Jennie Kwan and Jay Anthony Franke brought some needed energy to the show.

Next week, Matt destroys Jake’s bike and Sly moves in with the Garrisons!

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