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, it’s all about family!
Episode 2.11 “Vote of Confidence”
(Dir by Don Barnhart, originally aired on November 13th, 1993)
Pacific Coast High School is in the midst of campaign fever! Who will be elected student council president? Will it be the crazy environmentalist who says that she’s going to transform the cafeteria into a vegetarian paradise? Or will it be Harvey, a rich kid who announces that his motto is, “I already have money! Now, I want power!”
Or will it be Jake!? Yes, Jake is running for president because he’s feeling inadequate when compared to his older brother Kyle. Kyle is an Olympic hopeful who is currently attending Harvard and who was apparently also the presidents of the PCHS student council when he was in high school. How come we haven’t heard anything about Kyle before? Jake’s brother being an Olympic hopeful seems like something that would have been mentioned earlier.
Jake campaigns by riding his motorcycle through the school’s hallways and singing a country song about how “I’m a regular guy who does what he says.” It’s not a bad song and Jake appears to actually be singing in the scenes in which he performs, as opposed to just lip-syncing. In other words, this is the episode that establishes that Jake was actually too talented to be a member of a lame band like California Dreams.
Unfortunately, before Jake announced his candidacy, the Dreams agreed to play Harvey’s victory rally. The Dreams withdraw from Harvey’s rally but — uh oh! — Sly already spend the two hundred dollars! Harvey agrees to forgive the debt on the condition that Tiffani go on a date with him. Jake is surprisingly okay with this, considering that he’s been dating Tiffani for a few episodes. Perhaps this episode was filmed before Jake and Tiffani became a couple and was shown out-of-order. Once again, NBC just didn’t care.
Anyway, Jake realizes that he ran for President for the wrong reasons and he resigns from office. Harvey becomes president in his place. Yay, rich people!
Episode 2.12 “The Year of the Woo”
(Dir by Don Barnhart, originally aired on November 20th, 1993)
The Dreams have a gig in Burbank, for which they’ll get paid $1,000. But, the van’s transmission is shot! Fortunately, Sam’s family had just sent her $800 in “lucky money” that she can use to buy a plane ticket to go back to Hong Kong for the Chinese New Year. Why couldn’t they have just bought her the tickets?
Anyway, the Dreams convince Sam to pay for a new transmission, with the promise that they’ll pay her back with the money they make from the gig. However, it turns out that Gus the Mechanic isn’t good at his job. Not only does the transmission still not work but he refuses to refund the money. (Huh?) Now, Sam has no money and cannot return to Hong Kong. The Dreams are the worst people in the world.
With the help of Tiffani, The Dreams win back the $800 in a poker game but it’s too late for Sam to book a flight. So, they throw a really cheap party at Sharky’s and they fly Sam’s parents out to California. (Oddly, Sam’s parents speak in English, even when they’re talking to Sam. It’s a bit odd that they don’t just speak to each other in Chinese, seeing as how that’s presumably how they spent the last 16 years communicating with each other.) Sam’s excited but, before she can spend any time with her family, she still has to sing a song with the Dreams. Imagine having to work at your own party.
This episode was not terrible. One thing that set this show apart from other Peter Engel shows is that the cast actually had chemistry so they’re kind of fun to watch, even when the story itself is pretty stupid. That said, the main theme of this episode — again — seemed to be the Dreams are only willing to do the right thing as a last resort. Even though they fly Sam’s parents out to California with their poker money, there’s still no scene in which the Dreams themselves realize that guilting Sam into paying for the van was kind of a jerky thing to do.
Oh well! At least everything worked out in the end!