Retro Television Review: California Dreams 1.9 “Mother and Child Reunion” and 1.10 “Romancing The Tube”

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!

Last week, California Dreams dealt with both racism and misogyny.  It was two heavy episodes, featuring important lessons about the problems of the world.  Would the trend continue?  Let us find out!

Surf dudes with attitude, feeling mellow, let’s get on with it….

Episode 1.9 “Mother and Child Reunion”

(Directed by Don Barnhart, originally aired on November 7th, 1992)

It’s been over a month since the Dreams last had a gig.  Maybe they should break up!  Matt thinks that they just need to practice more.  (Of course, being a music camp kid, he would say that, wouldn’t he?)  Sly thinks that the band need to change its image and be less beach-y.  Considering what was going on in music in the early to mid-90s, Sly probably has a point.  Anyway, Sly goes out and buys a smoke machine so that the Dreams can use it to change their middlebrow image.  Maybe they just need a new lead singer.  WHERE’S JAKE!?

Now, the smoke machine and the edgy image stuff is actually kind of cute but the majority of the show revolves around Tiffani and her mom.  It turns out that Tiffani’s mom essentially abandoned her when Tiffani was only six.  For ten years, Tiffani’s mom worked as a dancer in New York.  Now, she’s back in California.  At first, everyone is shocked by the fact that Tiffani doesn’t seem to be angry at her mom but it turns out that Tiffani is angry and that anger finally comes out at Tiffani’s 16th birthday party when her mom suggests that Tiffany come live with her for a year.

By the standards of California Dreams’s first season, this wasn’t a bad episode.  Kelly Packard did a good job of portraying Tiffani’s anger.  Plus, this episode did have one good joke, in which Sly tried to rename the band The California Nightmares in an attempt to change their image.  They should have stuck with the new name.

Episode 1.10 “Romancing The Tube” 

(Directed by Don Barnhart, originally aired on November 14th, 1992)

This was a weird episode.  I’ve seen plenty of episodes of California Dreams but somehow, I never knew that Sly and Tiffani were a couple for an episode.  Apparently, Tiffany and Sly fell for each other while Tiffany was teaching Sly how to surf.  It all led to a “Surf Soul Swapping” ceremony, which was overseen by Peter Tork of the Monkees.  However, at the last minute, Tiffani realized that she was just using Sly as a rebound to help her get over her ex.  And Sly never really wanted to be in a committed relationship to begin with.  So, they broke up and I guess it all worked out in the end.

Meanwhile, Matt, Jenny, and Tony were supposed to paint a room in the Garrison House in return for Mrs. Garrison paying them $300 so they could get a new lighting system.  But then they got bored and abandoned the job.  Fortunately, the new lighting system turned out to be a bust so they tricked Mrs. Garrison into taking it off their hands.  No one learned a thing, which was probably about as realistic as California Dreams ever got.

Weird episode.

Retro Television Review: One World 1.9 “Two Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” and 1.10 “Ben’s Brother”

Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a new feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Fridays, I will be reviewing One World, which ran on NBC from 1998 to 2001.  The entire show is currently streaming on Tubi!

The Cast of One World

This week, Ben discovers he has a brother and Sui and Jane discover that they have no choice but to live together, regardless of how little they have in common.  It’s all a part of living in …. one world!

Episode 1.9 “Two Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”

(Directed by Chuck Vinson, originally aired on November 14th, 1998)

“You’re not a better parent than our Dad,” Neal says at one point in this episode, “When we kids aren’t in jail, we’re pretty great.”

And he’s got a point.  The Blake children are a good group of people but they certainly do seem to spend a lot of time in jail.

When they’re not in jail, they’re getting visited by social workers who are trying to figure out why they’re still free.  In this episode, a social worker suggests that Jane and Sui see a therapist to determine why they’re incapable of getting along.  Jane thinks that Sui is spoiled.  Sui thinks that Jane is unstable and destructive.  It turns out that they’re both right!  But it also turns out that, underneath their hostility, they secretly care about each other and neither wants to see the other kicked out of the house.

Meanwhile, Mr. Blake is challenged to a bowling game by another coach and Ben tries to convince Marci to include him in a calendar of sexy Miamians.  It’s all a bit disjointed, to be honest.  This is another one of those episodes that seems to have been randomly pieced together with footage that was found on the editing room floor.  Still, I’ll give the episode some credit for its title.

Episode 1.10 “Ben’s Brother”

(Directed by Chuck Vinson, originally aired on November 21st, 1998)

“I just can’t believe I’ve got an identical twin brother!” Ben declares, shortly after meeting Bryan (Denny Kirkwood).

It’s true.  Even though Ben didn’t know it, he had a twin brother who was adopted by another family.  When Bryan learned of Ben’s existence, he came out to Miami to find him.  When they happen to run into each at The Warehouse (a.k.a., Miami’s Hottest Under-21 Club), they’re both overjoyed.  Bryan is even happier when he meets Jane.  It turns out that Bryan likes bad girls and, as was casually mentioned a few episodes ago, Jane is kind of in love with Ben.  Since Ben is dating Alex, why not just go out with someone who shares his face and his DNA?  Besides, the audience keeps going, “Woooo!” whenever Bryan and Jane talk to each other.

Unfortunately, it turns out that Bryan has a gambling addiction.  Bizarrely enough, City Guys also did a show about being addicted to gambling and I’m pretty sure that Hang Time eventually did an episode about gambling as well.  Was teenage gambling a huge problem in the 90s?  Because of the fact that they both look exactly alike, Ben discovers that Bryan is in trouble with some dangerous people but Jane refuses to break up with him because she’s a rebel.  Go, Jane, go!

In the show’s B-plot, Neal and Sui went on a game show.  Sui got mad at Neal for insisting on answering all of the questions himself.  Unfortunately, for the final question, Neal gets asked the name of the “pop singer who wore a cone bra on her Blonde Ambition tour.”  Somehow, Neal doesn’t know that it was Madonna.  Sui tries to answer the question but spends too much time talking and doesn’t beat the buzzer.  Oh well.  At least Sui gets to wear a really cute pair of boots on the game show.

So, in short, Jane is now dating a gambling addict, Ben is dating an alcoholic, and Marci and Sui are the best characters on the show.  What will happen next week?

Retro Television Review: City Guys 1.9 “Future Shock” and 1.10 “Easy Money”

Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Thursdays, I will be reviewing City Guys, which ran on NBC from 1997 to 2001.  The entire show is currently streaming on Tubi!

Believe it or not, there’s a “lost” episode of City Guys.

According to Wikipedia, an episode called “The Movie” aired on November 1st, 1997.  Here’s the plot description: Jamal and Chris decide to make a film using the school’s video camera. Things gets hairy when Ms. Noble wants to see their progress on the yearbook video.  

Sound like fun, right?  Unfortunately, it appears that “The Movie” was not included in City Guys‘s syndication package and, as a result, it’s also not available to stream on Tubi or anywhere else online.  So, we’ll just have to accept that “The Movie” is lost to us.  That said, it is nice to see that the show apparently attempted to return to the video yearbook storyline.  For something that was supposed to be a big, year-long project, it certainly doesn’t appear that Chris and Jamal spent much time working on it.

For instance, in the two episodes that are reviewed below, they both manage to develop a gambling addiction and Jamal faces his own mortality.  But no one says a damn thing about the video yearbook.

Anyway, roll with the city guys!

City Guys 1.9 “Future Shock”

(Directed by Frank Bonner, originally aired on November 8th, 1997)

“Meet Charlie Gresham,” Ms. Noble tells Jamal after he runs into Charlie (Corey Parker) in Noble’s office, “your class president.”

But wait a minute?  Didn’t they elect a new class president in the previous episode?  As you may remember, Cassidy, Dawn, and El-Train were all running for the office.  Who the Hell is this Charlie Gresham guy?  I’ve already pointed out that, even in its first season, City Guys struggled with continuity but this has got to be one of the show’s most glaring examples of just not keeping track of stuff.  Did no one involved in the production care?  I mean, even Saved By The Bell managed to remember that Jessie was class president.

Charlie is a lovable and charismatic class clown who is also a straight A student.  He’s even got a scholarship to Harvard!  He and Jamal meet and become best friends the same day!  But then, the next morning, Ms. Noble announces that Charlie has been killed by a drunk driver.  Bye, Charlie!

Jamal is so upset over the death of someone who he’s known for less than 24 hours that he decides that there’s no point of studying to do well on his PSATs.  Character actor Clyde Kusatsu shows up as the therapist who is brought in to help everyone come to the terms with the death of a universally loved classmate whom none of them had ever mentioned before.  Kusatsu is always good.

Actually, the entire cast does a good job in this one.  It perhaps would have been more powerful if Charlie had actually been seen (or even referred to) prior to this episode but, given the show’s lack of concern with continuity, I wouldn’t be surprised if Charlie turns up alive in a future episode.  That said, Ms. Noble asking Jamal to deliver the eulogy at Charlie’s memorial service felt a bit weird.  They’d know each other for about 8 hours before Charlie died.  “I don’t know what to say!” Jamal says.  Yeah, I wouldn’t know what to say at a complete stranger’s funeral either.

Anyway, Charlie’s ghost comes back and encourages Jamal to keep on studying.  That was nice of him.  This episode ends with a totally unironic performance of Kumbaya.  That takes guts.

City Guys 1.10 “Easy Money”

(Directed by Frank Bonner, originally aired on November 15th, 1997)

Chris and Jamal start making bets on football games!  They make a ton of money and they’re even able to go out and buy totally happening portable televisions!

Unfortunately, when they try to become bookies themselves (don’t ask), they end up owing $400 to El-Train and his cousin.  Yes, El-Train returns in the episode.  When we last saw him, he was running for class president and determined to turn his life around.  In this episode, he’s back to being the much feared school bully.  He’s so intimidating that Chris and Jamal steal $400 from the school raffle.  These city guys may be smart and streetwise but are they really the neat guys?  I’m having my doubts.

Anyway, everyone confesses in the end and Ms. Noble punishes them by forcing them to clean the school furnace for free.  Unfortunately, Chris and Jamal also had to give back their portable televisions.  What a shame.

The message is don’t gamble but the subtext is that Jamal didn’t learn a damn thing from Charlie Gresham’s death.  Hopefully, next week’s episodes will find him behaving in a way that would have made Charlie proud.

Retro Television Review: The Love Boat 1.4 “Message for Maureen / Gotcha / Acapulco Connection”

Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Wednesdays, I will be reviewing the original Love Boat, which aired on ABC from 1977 to 1986!  The series can be streamed on Paramount Plus!

Welcome aboard, it’s love!

Episode 1.4 “Message for Maureen / Gotcha / Acapulco Connection”

(Directed by Stuart Margolin, Richard Kinon, and Peter Baldwin, originally aired on October 15th, 1977)

Oh no!  It’s a stowaway!  I guess any television show that took place on a cruise ship would have to feature at least one storyline featuring a stowaway.  It’s a bit disconcerting that The Love Boat couldn’t make it for more than four episodes before using the most obvious plotline but then again, the show ended up running for 9 seasons and a movie.  So, apparently, audiences didn’t mind and I have a feeling that there will probably be many more stowaway stories to come.

The stowaway in this episode is April Lopez (played by Charo).  Apparently, April became a recurring character, one who appeared in almost every season.  In this, her first appearance, she sneaks onto the boat in Acapulco.  The captain is not happy when she’s discovered hiding in a laundry hamper but everyone else is charmed by just how loud and talkative she is.  Because there’s no available rooms, April is housed with Doc Bricker until she can be dropped off at the next port.  Of course, Doc falls in love because Doc fell in love with everyone who came into his exam room.  Seriously, Doc was an HR nightmare waiting to happen.

Of course, April is not the only exhausting person to be on the ship.  There’s also Cyril Wolfe (Milton Berle), a nonstop practical joker whose wife (Audra Lindley) is getting sick of dealing with him and really, who can blame her?  Cyril greets a total stranger with a joy buzzer.  He carries around a fake, detachable hand so that he can freak people out.  Cyril can’t even give it a rest during their vacation!  Pretty soon, not only his wife but the crew are pretty sick of him.  (Most of the people watching the show will be sick of him, too.)  Do they conspire to toss Cyril overboard?  They could probably get away with it, seeing as how all of the ship’s nominal authority figures are busy dealing with a stowaway who loves to sing.  Somehow, Cyril survives his trip and he and his wife end up more in love than ever.

Finally, Maureen Mitchell (Brenda Benet) is a former tennis player who is now in a wheelchair.  All she wants is a few days of vacation before she meets with a surgeon who might be able to help her walk again.  Unfortunately, she discovers that an arrogant sportswriter named John (Bill Bixby) is also on the cruise!  At first, she wants nothing to do with him but when John injures his knee and has to use a wheelchair for the rest of the cruise, the two of them fall in love….

Hold on.  You know what just occurred to me?  Last week’s episode featured Robert Reed and Loretta Swit as two people who don’t like each other but just happen to end up on the same cruise.  This episode featured Brenda Benet and Bill Bixby as two people who don’t like each other but just happen to end up on the same cruise …. how long did The Love Boat writers last before they said, “Okay, we’re out of stories.  Let’s start repeating ourselves?”

Anyway, this episode was a mixed bag.  Charo and Milton Berle were not particularly subtle performers and their storylines felt as if they were designed to invite them to indulge in their worst impulses as performers.  But Bill Bixby and Brenda Benet had a lot of chemistry as John and Maureen and their story actually worked as a result.  (Bixby and Benet were married at the time they appeared in this episode.)  Plus, the ship looked lovely.  So did the ocean.  That’s what really matters.

Retro Television Reviews: Fantasy Island 1.3 “The Prince/The Sheriff”

Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Tuesdays, I will be reviewing the original Fantasy Island, which ran on ABC from 1977 to 1996.  The entire show is currently streaming on Tubi!

Welcome to Fantasy Island!  Is everyone smiling?

Episode 1.3 “The Prince/The Sheriff”

(Directed by Phil Bontelli, originally aired on February 11th, 1978)

The third episode of Fantasy Island is about two men searching for a simpler way of life.

Peter D’Antonoli (Dack Rambo) is the prince of the nation of Andoli.  As Mr. Roarke explains it, Peter is on the verge of becoming one of the last true monarchs, someone who not only wears a crown but who sets governmental policy.  Peter has never known what it’s like to be one of the common people and he feels that he should give it a try before he takes power.

Mr. Roarke arranges for Peter to get a job on a fishing boat.  Apparently, there’s a small fishing village located near the Fantasy Island resort.  I’m just three episodes into the original series and I have to admit that I’m already confused about about how Fantasy Island operates.  The pilot and the first two episodes suggested that Fantasy Island was a magical resort that belonged exclusively to Mr. Roarke.  But, with this episode, it is revealed that there is a fishing village near the resort and that the blue collar fisherman resent all of the people who hang out at the resort.  So, is Fantasy Island actually a nation, one that has many different village and an economic class system?  Is Mr. Roarke the president?  Has Fantasy Island been invited to join the United Nations?  And why is the Fantasy Island fishing village full of people who look like they belong in a second remake of The Fog?  Is Fantasy Island near New England?  Is it off the coast of Maine?  Seriously, this is a confusing place.

Anyway, Mr. Roarke arranges for Peter to get a job on a fishing boat, where he befriends a fisherman named Jamie (Ed Begley, Jr.).  Jamie immediately notes that Peter must be new to the fishing industry because his hands don’t have any callouses.  Jamie explains that he’s been a fisherman his entire life.  (So, did Jamie grow up on the island?)  Peter learns about generosity from Jamie and about rejection from Chris Malone (Lisa Hartman).  Peter falls in love with Chris as soon as he meets her but Chris has lived a tough life and she doesn’t want to marry someone who is just a fisherman.  Peter struggles to explain that he’s actually a prince.  Chris doesn’t believe him.  Peter says that there are things more important than money.  It leads to a big argument but fear not!  Things work out for everyone.  Chis becomes a princess.  Peter learns humility.  And Jamie gets a new boat and remains trapped on the island….well, okay.  Things worked out for almost everyone.

Meanwhile, John Burke (Harry Guardino) is a tough New York cop who wants to go back to a time when there weren’t any liberal DA’s letting criminals out of the street.  He wants to be an old west marshal!  Mr. Roarke mentions that “the old west fantasy” is Fantasy Island’s top seller.  He takes Burke to a western town.  Burke asks about the people who live there.  “They’re not robots, like in that movie, are they?”  No, Mr. Burke, it’s not Westworld!  It’s Fantasy Island!

It turns out that the two men who Burke believes murdered his partner had a similar fantasy and they’re living in the town as well!  Marshal Burke sets out for revenge but, with the help of saloon owner Julie (Sheree North), he learns that upholding the law with mercy is more rewarding than seeking blind vengeance.  Burke and Julie leave the island but fear not.  Mr. Roarke is sure that someone else will show up and request the old west fantasy.  It’s their biggest seller, after all.

(So, Fantasy Island really was just like Westworld….)

The prince storyline was silly.  The old west storyline was also silly but Harry Guardino gave a pretty entertaining performance as John Burke.  This episode also featured a visit to the Fantasy Island disco, which I appreciated.  Why go to the old west when you can dance?

Next week …. more fantasies!

Retro Television Review: Hang Time 1.7 “Let’s Get Ready To Rumble” and 1.8 “The Candidate”

Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Mondays, I will be reviewing Hang Time, which ran on NBC from 1995 to 2000.  The entire show is currently streaming on YouTube!

The season continues!

I hate to say it but this terrible theme song is starting to get stuck in my head.  Takin’ my shot …. something something something …. Hang Time …. flying like glockmock …. running with big screen tee ayyy …. Hang Time …. okay, those may not by the exact lyrics but that’s what it sounds like to me.

Episode 1.7 “Let’s Get Ready To Rumble”

(Directed by Howard Murray, originally aired on October 21st, 1995)

Just in case the viewer needed a reminder that this show is from the mid-90s, this episode opens with Sam lustfully comparing her boyfriend, Danny, to Mel Gibson.  Needless to say, Danny looks nothing like Mel Gibson but, at the same time, it also seems like he’s a bit more emotionally stable so I guess it all works out in the end.

This episode was all about relationships.  Mary Beth’s frustration with Chris’s refusal to act like a rich snob led to her being tempted by her childhood friend Charles Landingham (Trey Alexander).  Apparently, Charles used to be overweight but now he’s lost the weight and he wears a sweater over his shoulders and Mary Beth accepts a kiss from him.  Unfortunately, Julie sees Mary Beth kissing Charles and she now has a dilemma.  Should she tell Chris the truth or not?  Considering that Mary Beth and Charles are an adorable couple, a true friend would be encouraging them to get together.

Meanwhile, all the boys head over to Coach Fuller’s house to watch a Mike Tyson fight.  Unfortunately, this means that Danny has to break his regularly scheduled date with Sam.  He claims to be sick and then heads over to Fuller’s house.  However, Sam shows up at the house and it turns out that she’s a fight fan as well!  She gets so into the Tyson fight that she forgets to slap Danny for lying to her in the first place.

Eventually, Mary Beth tells Chris the truth and they have the most peaceful break-up ever.  They agree to be friends, which frees Chris up to date Julie.  It’ll be a relationship based not only on basketball but also the sound of the audience applauding every time one of them gets the ball in the basket.

As I’ve said before, Mary Beth is the only character to whom I can relate on this show because she’s the only character who doesn’t spend all of her time talking about basketball and who shops whenever she gets upset.  This was a good Mary Beth episode and it was the first to really give Megan Parlen a chance to show off her comedic skills.  Still, it’s hard not to be disappointed at how predictably the Chris and Julie relationship is playing out.  It seems obvious that Chris and Julie are going to be a fairly boring couple.  What are they going to do after basketball season ends?

Episode 1.8 “The Candidate”

(Directed by Howard Murray, originally aired on October 28th, 1995)

Mary Beth is running for school president on a platform of doing away with the Future Farmer’s Club and replacing it with the Gold Card Girls Club.  “Membership will be open to anyone, as long as you’re a girl, you have a gold card, and we all like you,” Mary Beth explains.  Having been profoundly moved by reading The Grapes of Wrath for English class, Michael runs against Mary Beth on a platform of saving the Future Farmer’s Club.  (Doesn’t this show take place in Indiana?  Isn’t every student at the school a member of the Future Farmer’s Club by default?)  Danny manages Mary Beth’s campaign.  Sam manages Michael’s campaign.  “I’m running on the issues,” Michael announces.

Oh, get over yourself.  It’s a student council election.  Saved By The Bell, California Dreams, and City Guys all featured the same stupid storyline.  So did Boy Meets World, if I remember correctly.  (“Hold on,” Topagna announced, “we still need to do something about the black mold in the cafeteria!”  Isn’t that the job of the adults?)  Eventually, after all of the usual nonsense that always happens in episodes about student council elections, Michael is elected but declines to accept the office because he’s ashamed of his campaign.  Mary Beth becomes president but promises to be the type of president that “Tom Joad would be proud of.”  Good luck with that.  IT’S JUST THE FREAKING STUDENT COUNCIL, PEOPLE!

While the school picks a new president, Chris and Julie continue their painfully dull courtship and Coach Fuller looks for date to a wedding.  Chris and Julie finally kissed at the end of the episode.  “Woooo,” the audience dutifully responded but even they didn’t sound particularly excited about it.

Anyway, this episode is almost as dumb as suggesting that a high school student is going to be obsessed with John Steinbeck.  To Hell with your grapes of wrath!

Retro Television Review: Long Journey Back (dir by Mal Damski)

Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Sundays, I will be reviewing the made-for-television movies that used to be a primetime mainstay.  Today’s film is 1978’s Long Journey Back.  It  can be viewed on YouTube!

I’m one of those drivers who always gets nervous around train tracks.

Perhaps it’s because I watched too many gory movies while I was learning to drive or maybe I’m just being overly cautious but I always have a fear that I’m going to be the driver whose car ends up getting stuck on the tracks while the train comes barreling down.  The fact that it’s apparently impossible to just stop a train without it rolling forward for at least a mile or two adds to my fear.  You get stuck on those tracks and, at the very least, you’re going to lose your car.  At the worst, you’ll lose your life.  Maybe if you’re lucky, you’ll only lose a limb.  Or maybe …. well, you get the point.  Most people make it a point to slow down whenever they hear the sound of a train coming or to stop and wait for those little barrier things to come down on other side of the tracks.  Myself, I always speed up if I see tracks approaching.  I figure that the quicker I drive over them, the quicker I don’t have to worry about getting hit by a train.

The 1978 film Long Journey Back did not do much to cure me of my fear of train tracks.  Within the first ten minutes of the film, a school bus ended up getting stuck on a set of train tracks and, in a genuinely frightening sequence, smashed into by a train.  Most of the students are killed.  So is the driver.  Celia Casella (Stephanie Zimbalist) survives being in the bus but most of her friends don’t.  Celia loses a leg and, when she eventually awakes from her coma, she can neither speak nor remember the accident.  Celia makes remarkable progress but it’s still difficult for her to adjust her post-accident life.

The film spends as much time with Celia’s parents as it does with Celia.  Her mother, Laura (Cloris Leachman), keeps a journal about Celia’s progress and never gives up faith that her daughter will recover.  However, Laura is sometimes so determined to only focus on moving forward that she overlooks the fact that Celia needs time to mourn not only her former life but also the friends that she lost in the crash.  Meanwhile, Celia’s father, Vic (Mike Connors), is a grim realist who, in a moment of emotional exhaustion, admits that he sometimes wonders if Celia wouldn’t have been better off dying in the crash.  Vic is someone who keeps everyone grounded in reality but who sometimes forget that Celia needs to have hope for the future.  Celia is not the only member of the family who has to learn how to live a new life.  From the minute that train hits that bus, everyone’s old life ends and a new one begins.

The film follows Celia’s recovery, her long journey back.  It’s a well-done film, featuring excellent and emotional performances from Zimbalist, Connors, and especially Leachman.  To its credit, the film avoids easy sentiment.  The film celebrates Celia’s strength and her parent’s love while acknowledging that the journey back is not going to be an easy one and it’s possible that Celia might never make it all the way back.  I cried more than a few times while watching Long Journey Back.  It’s a film that earns its tears.

Retro Television Review: California Dreams 1.7 “Guess Who’s Coming To Brunch?” and 1.8 “It’s A Guy Thing”

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 California Dreams confront racism and misogyny!  Let’s see how it goes.

Episode 1.7 “Guess Who’s Coming To Brunch?”

(Directed by Don Barnhart, originally aired on October 24th, 1992)

During a performance of “Rain” (which is the first vaguely good song to be featured on this show), an amp blows out.  It’s going to cost $300 to replace!  Sly suggests that the band take a job writing an advertising jingle but Matt’s all like, “No, man!  It’s about the music!”  Matt, we’ve heard your music.

Fortunately, Tony has a new girlfriend and she comes from rich family!  Her father (played by the same actor who played Zach Morris’s Dad during the Good Morning Miss Bliss incarnation of Saved By The Bell) offers to pay for the amp but he has a condition.  “Stop dating my daughter.”

“Ohhhhhh!” the audience gasps.

Tony’s black and his girlfriend (and her father) are white.  When the girlfriend’s father says that the relationship will never work because “you two are from different worlds,” everyone knows what he means.  This leads to a discussion about race, which was probably quite progressive for 1992 even if it seems rather anodyne by today’s standards.  Tony’s girlfriend explains that her father can’t be prejudiced because he gives money to all the right causes.  Way to call out white liberalism, California Dreams!

Of course, this discussion about race takes place while everyone tries to write a jingle for Uncle Slappy’s Root Beer.  “We can’t lie in the jingle!” Tiffany argues.  Has Tiffani never watched a commercial?  This band deserves to fail for being annoyingly naïve.

The episode ends with the band playing a song called “One World,” which I was disappointed to learn was not the One World theme song.

Episode 1.8 “It’s A Guy Thing”

(Directed by Don Barnhart, originally aired on October 31st, 1992)

In order to force Sly and Tony to confront their own misogyny, Tiffani and Jenny trick them into falling in love with a non-existent French girl named Monique.  Kelly provides the French-accented voice over the phone.  Jenny wears a wig whenever Monique needs to be seen.  It’s kind of a dumb plan but Sly and Tony are both fairly stupid characters.  That said, Sly and Tony do eventually learn that Monique is just Jenny in a wig and somehow, this all leads to a boxing match.

Meanwhile, Mr. Garrison tries to figure out how to fix the family washing machine, in a storyline that I’m pretty sure was eventually reused on an episode of One World.  Speaking of reusing plotlines, the whole fake girlfriend thing was originally used in Saved By The Bell.  Remember when Zach pretended to be a Southern blonde in order to get Screech to do his homework?

This episode features Matt announcing, “Let’s do another tune!,” which is the funniest line in the script.  I’m always amazed at how the Dreams can produce that perfect studio sound while performing in their garage.

The Dreams dealt with some pretty serious issues this week!  What will they deal with next week?

Retro Television Review: One World 1.7 “Runaround Sui” and 1.8 “Crushes, Lies, and Zuckerman”

Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a new feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Fridays, I will be reviewing One World, which ran on NBC from 1998 to 2001.  The entire show is currently streaming on Tubi!

The Cast of One World

Last week, One World went to some pretty dark places, what with the Blake children having to work in a hospital and then Ben discovering that his new girlfriend was an alcoholic.  Did things ever get better for the Blakes?  Let’s find out.

Don’t forget …. we’re living in One World….

Episode 1.7 “Runaround Sui”

(Directed by Chuck Vinson, originally aired on October 24th, 1998)

There was a lot going on in the Blake House in this episode, almost as if the show mashed three separate scripts together at the last minute.

First off, Marci got her driver’s license but Sui wasn’t there to support her because Sui had a new boyfriend, the totally hot Riley (Riley Smith).  Unfortunately, Marci got mad because Sui started acting like Riley was more important than her own sister.  To be honest, as the youngest of four sisters, I could relate to this storyline.  Sometimes, I was Sui and sometimes, I was Marci.  And sometimes, I was the one instigating trouble for fun, just like Jane.  Eventually, Sui and Riley broke up and the two sisters made up.  Yay!

Meanwhile, Jane was upset because she felt that Ben was changing his entire personality to impress Alex’s rich parents.  Jane may have had a point but then again, Ben never had much of a personality to begin with so who knows?  Jane eventually confessed to “liking” Ben but, as we established last week, that’s too bad.  Ben has a girlfriend now and they go to AA meetings together.

Finally, Neal attempted to learn how to ride a bike.  His family was totally supportive but only after they totally made fun of him.

This was a bit of a disjointed episode but at least Sui and Marci, the two characters to whom I most relate, got to take center stage for once.

Episode 1.8 “Crushes, Lies, and Zuckerman”

(Directed by Chuck Vinson, originally aired on October 31st, 1998)

Neal has been having so much trouble getting a date that he’s decided that he doesn’t care about dating anymore.  Sui decides to test Neal’s resolve by setting him up with her friend, Kate (Tasha Taylor).  Neal really likes Kate, especially after he discovers that she likes movies as much as he does.  Unfortunately, Kate doesn’t like “gangbangers” and Neal is a former gang member!  At first, Neal lies about his past but then Sui accidentally mentions that Neal has changed a lot since he was “growing up on the streets and being in a gang.”  Neal gets made at Sui.  Sui responds, “Sometimes I think you have the IQ of rayon, which is not one of the smarter fabrics.”  It’s a good line, admit it.

Meanwhile, Marci deals with an annoying waitress who wants to be her best friend and Jane discovers that, rather than date anyone other than Ben, she’d much rather hang out with Cray and watch Scream while eating candy.  Cray decides that he’s in love with Jane, which is hella awkward for everyone involved.

Fortunately, things works out for everyone.  Neal gets back together with Kate.  Cray realizes that he’s too young for Jane.  Jane agrees to marry Cray in five years if they’re both single …. wait, what?

Watching this episode, it occurred to me that one problem with One World was that the characters were always talking about how they used to be criminals but, for the most part, all of them came across as being the type of people who wouldn’t even run the risk of jaywalking.  These were the least edgy delinquents ever.

No one died or revealed an addiction in these episodes so I guess things are looking up for the Blake family.  We’ll see if it continues next week.

Retro Television Review: City Guys 1.7 “Red Ferrari” and 1.8 “Rock the Vote”

Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Thursdays, I will be reviewing City Guys, which ran on NBC from 1997 to 2001.  The entire show is currently streaming on Tubi!

Last week, I reviewed two episode of City Guys that actually weren’t that bad.  Let’s see if that trend continued!  But first….

How smart and streetwise are these neat guys?  Let’s find out!

Episode 1.7 “Red Ferrari”

(Directed by Frank Bonner, originally aired on October 18th, 1997)

Two weeks ago, I mentioned that TNBC was notorious for showing the episodes of their shows out-of-order and that certainly seems to be the case with City Guys.

In Red Ferrari, Chris and Jamal are once again antagonistic acquaintances, as opposed to the best friends that were just one episode ago.  Chris is once again angry with his parents, despite coming to a new understanding with his father in the previous episode.  El-Train is again the school bully, despite trying to turn over a new leaf two episodes ago.  As well, Jamal drops by Chris’s apartment for what appears to be the first time, despite the fact that we already saw him spending several days there during the second episode.  Obviously, one doesn’t necessarily watch a show like this with the expectation of a great deal of effort being made to maintain some sort of continuity.  But seriously, the City Boys timeline is messy enough to be distracting.

Anyway, this episode finds both Chris and Jamal in a whiny mood.  Jamal is whiny because he’s poor and no one wants to go on a second date with him.  Chris is whiny because he’s rich and his parents have apparently  forgotten about his birthday.  With his parents going out of town, Chris decides to get revenge by throwing a huge party and (shades of Ferris Bueller) driving his father’s prized red Ferrari.

Can you guess what happens?  If you said that it was the same thing that happened on Saved By The Bell when Zach drove a car that he shouldn’t have been driving, you’re right!  The car gets side-swiped.  Chris and Jamal have to figure out how to get the car fix before Chris’s parents come home.  Of course, Chris’s parents come home early anyway.  They didn’t forget his birthday.  They just wanted to surprise him!  And it turns out that the Ferrari is Chris’s birthday present!

Anyway, Chris and Jamal confess what happened.  Chris’s parents get into an argument over whether Mr. Anderson could stand to lose a few pounds.  (He looks pretty good for a guy in his 40s.)  Jamal asks Chris if his parents are always like that.  “They’re on good behavior because of my birthday,” Chris says and the episode ends, leaving us to consider the Hell of Chris Anderson’s everyday life.

Ugh.  That’s kind of depressing.  I’m not sure anything was learned from this episode so let’s move on.

Episode 1.8 “Rock the Vote”

(Directed by Frank Bonner, originally aired on October 25th, 1997)

Ugh.  It’s a student council election episode!

Yes, every TNBC show — from Saved By The Bell to this one — had a handful of shows that revolved around an absurdly powerful student  council.  In City Guys, Dawn and Cassidy are running for student council present.  Jamal manages Dawn’s campaign.  Chis manages Cassidy’s campaign.  Dawn is too focused on the issues.  Cassidy is too focused on fluff.  School bully El-Train is so offended by their shallow campaigns that he runs for student body president, using the fact that he’s been in high school for nearly six years as the basis of his campaign.  This episode ends on a weird note, in that we don’t actually learn who won the election.  So, hey …. thanks for watching!

As usual Steven Daniel transcended the material as El-Train but, otherwise, this episode was ruined by the fact that it was about a student council election and no one in their right mind should take any of that crap seriously.  The only show that correct portrayed the student council were the early seasons of Degrassi, in which the council mostly planned dances and got caught up in pretty drama that no one else cared about.

Well, these two episodes of City Guys were pretty disappointing.  Hopefully, next week will be better for the neat guys!