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, Sly breaks hearts and hurts feelings! And maybe he learns a lesson.
Episode 4.7 “Secret Admirer”
(Dir by Don Barnhart, originally aired on November 4th, 1995)
This episode opens in Pacific Coast High’s state-of-the-art computer lab!
After accidentally deleting a love poem that Mark has spent weeks working on, Sly spots a student named Lynn awkwardly asking people to come to her sweet sixteen party. Realizing that Lynn comes from a wealthy family, Sly decides that the Dreams have to play that party! The only problem is that Sly has known Lynn since kindergarten and he’s spent that entire time making fun of her weight. Lynn cannot stand Sly.
Sly, having learned nothing from being put on trial last week, steals one of Mark’s love poems and slips it into Lynn’s locker. “Wow, a secret admirer,” Lynn says. Then Sly pops up and starts trying to flirt with her. At first, Lynn refuses to believe that Sly is being serious but, slowly, he wins her over. And what happens here is kind of interesting. As Sly eventually figures out, it’s not that Lynn believes him as much as she wants to believe him because she has absolutely no self-esteem. Even after Lynn hires the Dreams and pays them $2,000, Sly still feels guilty. He feels so guilty that he gives up the money.
This was not the first Peter Engel-produced show to figure its lead character going out with a someone who weighed a bit more than Tiffani-Amber Thiessen. Saved By The Bell actually used that plot a few times. On Saved By The Bell, Zack got sold in a date auction to a girl who wasn’t his type and the audience screamed in shock. But this episode of California Dreams is different from Saved By The Bell in that it is more on the side of the girl than on the guy pretending to like her. Sly does a terrible thing and, when he realizes it, Michael Cade does such a good job of playing Sly’s guilt that the viewer really does feel like Sly is probably never going to forgive himself.
That’s a good thing. That said, this still isn’t a particularly strong episode. The actress playing Lynn delivers all of her lines in the same flat manner and there’s a rather annoying B-plot about everyone thinking that Mark’s love poem was written for them. (That’s another plot that was used and reused on Saved By The Bell.) Sly learned a lesson about making fun of people but I doubt it will last….
Episode 4.8 “Old”
(Dir by Don Barnhart, originally aired on November 11th, 1995)
Sly makes fun of a bunch old people and then has a dream where he’s old and all the members of the band make fun of him! He then wakes up and visits an old man in the hospital. So, basically, Sly learned the same lesson that he should have learned in the last episode and in the episode before that. Some people just don’t ever learn!
That said, by the time this episode aired, Michael Cade had really grown as an actor and he’s convincing as both an old man and an obnoxious teenager.
Next week, in another story borrowed from Saved By The Bell, Tony gets an operation! The fun never ends when you’re surrounded by surf dudes with attitude and feeling mellow.
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