Retro Television Reviews: California Dreams 5.12 “Graduation” and 5.13 “A Band Divided”

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, the Dreams graduate!

Episode 5.12 “Graduation”

(Dir by Don Barnhart, originally aired on November 22nd, 1996)

Graduation approaches and Mark is freaking out because he’s never had the courage to ask out Sarah (Tara Reid …. yes, that Tara Reid).  When he finally works up the courage to ask her if she might want to go out with him, she says maybe and asks what he has in mind.

“Well, the school’s hosting a clean-and-sober graduation party….” Mark starts.

“I want beer!” Sarah replies.

And you know what?  Mark’s a nice guy but that invitation seriously was kind of dorky.  I don’t even drink and I would have totally rolled my eyes in high school if anyone had invited me to “a clean-and-sober graduation party.”

Sarah’s reaction should have been enough to let Mark know that they wouldn’t make a good couple but poor Mark.  Over the course of three seasons, he has yet to have a real girlfriend.  He’s desperate!  He invites Sarah to the graduation party that he’s decided to throw at Lorena’s loft.  And he’s also decided that there will be beer at the party!  This despite the fact that Mark and the Dreams have just attended a school assembly where Principal Blumford (Earl Boen) warned against the dangers of teenage drinking.  Someone is definitely not mature enough to leave high school yet!

And Mark’s proves that he’s not mature enough by getting drunk at the party, trying to drive to the beach with Sarah, and crashing into a ditch.  Mark gets arrested, loses his license for a year, and — as he explains at graduation — he’ll have to do community service, attends alcohol classes, and pay a fine.  Sarah ends up in the hospital and misses graduation.  Mark explains that she has two broken ribs, a punctured lung, and a concussion.  HOW DEEP WAS THAT DITCH!?  At the ceremony, Principal Blumford announces that “to say I’m disappointed in some of you for what happened last night would be an understatement….”  Dude, everyone knows you’re talking about Mark.  Way to make him feel bad at his own high school graduation!  Sam forgoes giving her valedictorian speech so that Mark can take to the stage and apologize.  Way to make graduation awkward for everyone!

Oh well.  At least graduation works out for everyone else.  Jake and Tiffani make a model castle so that they can pass their history class and avoid summer school.

Anyway, this was a depressing episode but I support any show that tries to keep people from drinking and driving.  Plus, the Dreams finally graduated!  Yay!

Episode 5.13 “A Band Divided”

(Dir by Don Barnhart, originally aired on November 30th, 1996)

Again, yay!  This episode opens with the He’s So Funky song!

Unfortunately, the song is so great that it proves to be too powerful for the band’s amp, which explodes on stage.  It’s going to cost the Dreams a thousand dollars to get a new amp.  Lorena offers to loan them the money, in return for the band making her co-manager with her boyfriend Sly.  Sly is actually okay with the idea.  “A lot of great couple have worked together,” he says, “Sonny and Cher …. Bonnie and Clyde….”

Sly and Lorena’s first task is to convince the head of the School Dance committee to hire the  Dreams to play at the next school dance and….


Once again, when it came to maintaining continuity by showing the episodes in the proper order, NBC just didn’t care.

Anyway, to the surprise of no one, Lorena and Sly struggle to figure out how to work together and soon, the Dreams have absolutely no gigs!  Jake tells them a story about two brothers who both became king and who had to learn how to rule together.  This leads to a lengthy fantasy sequence in which everyone gets to wear Renaissance Faire costumes that cause the studio audience to go crazy with each entrance.  Unfortunately, the story doesn’t do much good because, rather than learning to compromise, Sly and Lorena demand that the Dreams pick only one of them to be the manager.

To me, Lorena is the obvious choice because she has the best hair.  Mark says that he can’t choose because “Sly and Lorena are both our friends.”  Uhmm, Mark …. Sly is also your cousin.  (This is one of those facts that the show often seemed to forget about.)  Tiffani suggests that they let some old surfer dude make the selection.  It’s kind of amazing that the Dreams have stayed together as long as they have because none of them appear to be that smart.

Anyway, the old surfer names Lorena as manager and then says that, since he did her a favor, she should do him a favor and have the Dreams play his party for free.  Lorena says that’s not a fair arrangement and then Sly jumps up and says it’s not a fair arrangement and the old surfer explains that it was all a trick to make them realize how much they loved the band and he rules that they should both be co-managers.  I’m glad that worked out!

This was a silly episode but I enjoyed it.  Sly and Lorena are a fun couple and there was a funny B-plot in which Jake tried to rewire Lorena’s house in order to make the new amp work.  Jay Anthony Franke was always at his best when the show gave him a chance to balance Jake’s innate coolness with Jake’s general incompetence.

Next week, we have the final two episodes!  I’m going to miss the Dreams.

One response to “Retro Television Reviews: California Dreams 5.12 “Graduation” and 5.13 “A Band Divided”

  1. Pingback: Lisa Marie’s Week In Review: 5/15/23 — 5/21/23 | Through the Shattered Lens

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