Retro Television Reviews: California Dreams 3.16 “The Treasure of PCH” and 3.17 “Tiffani’s Gold”

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!

Season 3 comes to an end!

Episode 3.16 “The Treasure of PCH”

(dir by Patrick Maloney, originally aired on December 31st, 1994)

The Dreams have turned into a reggae band!

At least, that’s the impression that one gets from the opening of The Treasure of PCH, which finds the Dreams performing on a pier at night as a part of the On The Pier Presents festival.  The song’s beat has a reggae feel and it actually sounds pretty nice until the very white Mark starts to sing with what I think is meant to be a slight attempt at a Jamaican accent about how someday “you might need a friend when you least expect it.”  Watching and, in some cases, re-watching these shows, I now realize that, musically, the Dreams actually had a pretty good sound but they were always tripped up by their simplistic lyrics.  “Anytime you need me, I’ll be there….” I mean, if you want to sound like David Hasselhoff, that’s fine but it’s still a bit odd to watch the pier crowd act as if these lyrics couldn’t have been written by a computer program.  In fact, maybe they were.  Was AI around in 1994?

Anyway, the Dreams are totally excited because the Concert on the Pier promoter pays them a thousand dollars.  “We’ve never gotten that much before!” Sam says but actually, I remember them getting paid that much during both the first and the second seasons.  Lorena is worried that the Dreams are getting greedy, which is an easy thing to worry about when you’re already rich and have nice hair.  Jake says that the money won’t change the Dreams.  Lorena and Jake decide to test that idea by convincing the Dreams that there’s a fortune hidden at Sharky’s!

Fortunately, it only takes one forged letter to trick the Dreams.  (As a group, the Dreams appear to have lost several IQ points when Matt Garrison moved away.)  At first, everyone works together but soon, the Dreams are getting paranoid and vindictive.  Lorena was right.  Yay!  Take that, Jake!  However, Jake and Lorena don’t give their plan enough thought and the Dreams — as stupid as they’ve become — still eventually figure out that it doesn’t make any sense that an eccentric oldster would have hidden his fortune at Sharky’s.  So, they turn the tables and convince Jake and Lorena that there’s a bunch of diamonds hidden at …. Sharky’s.  Is there no other place to eat in California?

“DIAMONDS!” Jake yells, in a rare moment of the normally laid back Jay Anthony Franke overacting.

This was a dumb episode but it was also oddly likable.  Sly running around and thinking to himself, “Gotta find the money …. gotta find the money….” made me laugh.  For that matter, so did Tony literally picking up Tiffani when she tried to run off with one of the clues.  The cast had enough chemistry that they were even able to pull off the show’s dumbest jokes.  Of course, the best thing about this episode is that my favorite character, Lorena, was proven to be correct.  Go Lorena!

Episode 3.17 “Tiffani’s Gold”

(dir by, originally aired on January 7th, 1995)

Every Peter Engel-produced sitcom had to have at least one episode where the least likely character got hooked on drugs, had a public meltdown, and then somehow got off drugs with a minimum amount of difficulty.  The most famous of these episode was the infamous episode of Saved By The Bell, where Jessie got hooked on caffeine pills and sang, “I’m so excited!”

When it came time for California Dreams to deal with drug addiction, the end result was Tiffani’s Gold.  In this episode, Tiffani is suddenly a star volleyball player who has a chance to make the national team and bring home a gold medal.  Tiffani, who up until this point has been portrayed as a mellow hippie, is suddenly determined to win and the Dreams want her to win as well. Unfortunately, Tiffani is struggling to keep up with the other girls trying out for the team.  So, she convinces Sly to help her get some …. dramatic music cue …. steroids!

You know what this means.  Tiffani makes the team but she also starts to have mood swings and violent outbursts.  Eventually, she makes a scene at Sharky’s and realizes that she has to stop taking drugs.  What makes this standard anti-drug episode memorable is just how unconvincing Kelly Packard is as a drug addict.  Don’t get me wrong.  She tries really, really hard to capture Tiffani’s anger and moodiness.  In fact, she tries too hard.  Scenes like the one in which Tiffani throws Sly against a locker are meant to be shocking but they actually inspire more laughs than gasps because Kelly Packard doesn’t come across as if she’s ever lost her temper before.  One gets the feeling that she was such a positive person that she didn’t even know how to fake anger.

As for the B-plot, Sly, Tony, and Mark compete to see who is the “bigger stud.”  Despite not being in contest, Jake is declared the winner.  Despite the fact that Jake and Lorena were supposed to be a couple, Jake is seen dating several other girls in this episode and Lorena doesn’t seem to care in the least.  Considering that Sly is wearing the exact same outfit that he wore in the first episode of season 3, I’m going to guess Tiffani’s Gold was filmed and meant to air much earlier in the season but, for whatever reason, it was held back until the very end.

(Incidentally, Christy — who rejects both Tony and Sly before going off with Jake — was played by a young Fergie.)

This rather campy episode was the final one of season 3.  Next week, we start season 4!

3 responses to “Retro Television Reviews: California Dreams 3.16 “The Treasure of PCH” and 3.17 “Tiffani’s Gold”

  1. Pingback: Lisa Marie’s Week In Television: 2/5/23 — 2/11/23 | Through the Shattered Lens

  2. Pingback: Lisa Marie’s Week In Review: 2/6/23 — 2/12/23 | Through the Shattered Lens

  3. Pingback: Retro Television Reviews: California Dreams 4.5 “Fallen Idol” and 4.6 “Defending Sly’s Life” | Through the Shattered Lens

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