Retro Television Reviews: California Dreams 2.16 “Rebel Without A Clue” and 2.17 “Dirty Dog Days”

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!

The second season continue as California’s favorite garage band continues to pursue stardom.

Episode 2.16 “Rebel Without A Clue”

(dir by Don Barnhart, originally aired on January 15th, 1994)

When he discovers that he’s running the risk of being sent to summer school, Sly finally gets serious about American History and studies for the big test.  He gets an A but, since he’s never gotten an A before, his teacher accuses him to cheating.  The school disciplinary board also accuses him of cheating, despite the efforts of Jake to defend him.  Sly is suspended and told that he’ll have to make up the class in summer school.  Jake commends Sly for being a rebel and for refusing to ask for a second chance but Sly really doesn’t want to go to summer school.  So, he dresses up like Ben Franklin and, at the school dance, he demands that the history teacher give him an impromptu test.

The teacher agrees with the condition that, if Sly misses just one question, he’ll be expelled.

WHAT!?  Seriously, what type of school is this?  You’re punished for getting an A?  You’re expelled for missing one question?  Is any of this legal?  Couldn’t Sly and his parents take the school to court?  I mean, this is just weird but it doesn’t matter because Sly gets all the questions correct.  He not only gets his A but he also wins Jake’s respect somehow.

Meanwhile, both Tiffani and Sam want to sing the Dreams’s newest song.  Jake votes for Sam (and votes against his girlfriend, though who knows if they’re still dating at this point as it’s been a few episodes since they last showed each other any hint of affection).  Matt votes for Tiffani.  It’s up to Tony to break the tie!  Tony votes for …. both of them.  The song becomes a duet.  That seems like such an obvious solution that it’s kind of amazing that no one thought of it beforehand.

This was a weird episode but Jake and Sly made a good team. Michael Cade (who played Sly) was a good enough actor that he could even make you feel sorry for a character whose catch phrase was “Ba-boom!”  That’s no small accomplishment.

Episode 2.17 “Dirty Dog Days”

(dir by Don Barnhart, originally aired on January 29th, 1994)

This episode opens with Tony and Matt playing basketball in the garage and immediately, I noticed that Tony looked considerably younger and Matt looked a bit shorter than he did in the previous episode. Plus, his hair was quite a bit darker. After Tony tried to pull off a trick shot, Jake came roaring up on his motorcycle. The audience want crazy but I couldn’t help but notice that Jake seems like the old surly Jake from the start of the season as opposed to the more light-hearted version who appeared in the previous episode.

“Where are the girls?” Jake asks, “I want to jam.”

“Tiffani’s waxing her board,” Matt says, “and Jenny’s waxing her legs.”

Jenny?  Jenny’s not on the show anymore, Matt!  She left a long time ago!

As you probably already guessed, this episode was shown out of order.  It was originally meant to be the second episode of the season but NBC decided to air it as the second-to-last.  As a result, Jenny is suddenly back and Sam is nowhere to be seen.  Jake is not dating Tiffani but he is crushing on Jenny.

As for the episode,  Sly’s cousin is dying so Sly steals his radio equipment.  Jake goes on the air, pretending to be a DJ named Midnight Mike.  For some reason, he introduces the Dreams as being the Dirty Dogs, a British band who is visiting California.  (This gives Matt a chance to speak with the worst fake British accent that I’ve ever heard.)  It turns out that the radio still works and soon, everyone is talking about the Dirty Dogs.  Sly decides that they should use the radio to play the Dreams, under the name of the Dirty Dogs.  Everyone loves the music but it doesn’t really do the Dreams any good because no one believes that the Dirty Dogs are actually the Dreams.  Got all that?

Somehow, Kelly and Jenny don’t understand that Jake is Midnight Mike and they decide that the Dirty Dogs must have stolen the Dreams’s music and that Midnight Mike “accidentally put us on as the Dirty Dogs.”  Jake is particularly upset to discover that Jenny has a crush on Midnight Mike but not on him.  This is one of those plots that could have easily been resolved by everyone just being honest and not stupid but then again, there would be no show if that was what everyone did.

Eventually, the FCC shows up.  They want to arrest Midnight Mike for his pirate radio activities!  Stupid government.  

Meanwhile, Sly has announced that the Dirty Dogs will be performing at Sharky’s but instead, it will just be The Dreams performing while wearing dog masks.  Instead of telling Tiffani and Jenny the truth, they tell them that they will be pretending to be the Dirty Dogs because Sly “lied” about knowing the Dirty Dogs so they’ll be performing to get Sly out of trouble and …. okay, I’m getting a headache just trying to explain this stuff.

Eventually, the Dreams perform, the FCC is outsmarted, and Jake tells the truth to Jenny.  Jenny says that Jake may be the one man she’s met who is just as cool as she thought Midnight Mike was.  Yay!  They’re in love …. except, of course, Jenny’s leaving for music school or she’s going back to music school, depending on how you want to deal with all of the weird continuity errors that were created by showing this episode out-of-order.

To my surprise, I actually liked his episode, just because of how totally incoherent the plot was.  It’s one thing to come up with a plot that makes no sense.  It’s another thing to unapologetically embrace making no sense and dare people to stop watching.  It’s hard not to admire that type of confidence.  Once again, Jay Anthony Franke and Michael Cade went out of their way to have as much fun as possible while making no sense.  Plus, the song that the Dreams/Dirty Dogs performed was actually pretty good.  For once, the Dreams rocked out.

Next week, season 2 ends and season 3 begins!



One response to “Retro Television Reviews: California Dreams 2.16 “Rebel Without A Clue” and 2.17 “Dirty Dog Days”

  1. Pingback: Lisa Marie’s Week In Review: 12/5/22 — 12/11/22 | Through the Shattered Lens

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