Retro Television Reviews: California Dreams 2.18 “Indecent Promposal” and 3.1 “The Unforgiven”

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!

Finally, it’s time for season 3 and the Lorena Years!  But, first, we’ve got one final season 2 episode to get out of the way….

Episode 2.18 “Indecent Promposal”

(Dir by Miguel Higeura, originally aired on February 5th, 1994)

Both the 2nd season and the school year are coming to an end!  That means that it’s time for prom!

Tiffani can’t wait to go to the prom.  Jake thinks the prom is stupid.  When Glenn, one of Tiffani’s patients from her days as a candystriper, offers to take Tiffani to the prom as a friend and to arrange for the Dreams to have a permanent summer gig, Tiffani reluctantly agrees.  Jake, however, can’t shake the feeling that Glenn is going to try to make a move on Tiffani, which is just what Glenn does.  Glenn kisses Tiffani.  Tiffany rejects Glenn.  However, Jake (who has decide to come to the prom afterall), witnesses the kiss and he gets so upset that he and Tiffani break up.  This would be a big emotional moment if there had been any consistency, during season 2, as to when Tiffani and Jake were actually dating.  Since the episodes were shown out of order, Tiffani and Jake would be a couple one week and then single the next.  As a result, it never really seemed like Jake and Tiffani were together in the first place.

The prom didn’t work out.  That’s too bad.  Fortunately, season 3 is right around the corner!

Episode 3.1 “The Unforgiven”

(Dir by Patrick Maloney, originally aired on September 10th, 1994)

Finally!  The third season has begun!  And with it, we get a new title sequence:

This is the season that marked the beginning of what most people consider to be classic California Dreams.  Frustrated with his diminished role on the series, Brent Gore declined to return for season 3.  As a result, Matt was written out of the series with the excuse that the Garrisons moved.  The California Dreams soldiered on without him, with Jake now at the center of the band and the show.

When the Garrisons left, foreign exchange student Sam moved in with the Costa family and became best friends with my favorite character on the show, Lorena.  Lorena Costa (played by Diana Uribe) is the character to whom I most relate on this show.  We’re both of Spanish descent.  (My grandmother was born in Spain.)  We’ve both got good hair.  We both love to dance.  We both tend to refer to ourselves in the third person.  Lorena’s the best character ever!

Lorena is willing to allow the Dreams to practice in her loft but the Dreams still have two huge problems.  They don’t have a replacement for Matt.  And they need $500 to get their equipment back from a pawnshop.  Why is their equipment at a pawnshop?  I’m not sure but somehow, it’s Sly’s fault.

Fortunately, Sly has a solution.  His musically gifted cousin, Mark (Aaron Jackson), has moved to California.  Unfortunately, Mark has never forgiven Sly for ruining a performance that he was giving at Carnegie Hall.  Apparently, Mark was playing the William Tell Overture and Sly yelled, “Hi-ho, Silver, away!”  The only way to get Mark to forgive Sly is for Mark to give the performance again without Sly ruining things.  Unfortunately, for reasons that are never exactly clear, Sly once again yells, “Hi-ho, Silver, away!”

Well, I guess that’s it for the Dreams, right?  Unfortunately, Sly has booked the Dreams to play at a party being given by one of Lorena’s friends.  With Mark refusing to join the Dreams, Lorena’s friend’s boyfriend is planning on beating up Sly.  To save his cousin’s life, Mark agrees to forgive Sly, join the Dreams, and play the party with them.  

I have to admit that I’m a little surprised that it took the Dreams that long to find a replacement for Matt.  Considering that the Dreams already had a following at the end of the second season, I would imagine they would have a lot of people wanting to join the band.  Maybe they’re all scared of getting on Jake’s bad side.  Well, no matter.  Things work out in the end!

As for the episode itself, it succeeds in doing what it needed to do.  It introduces the viewers to Lorena and Mark and let’s everyone know what the show’s new direction is going to be.  The humor is overly broad but the cast has genuine chemistry and Michael Cade’s portrayal of Sly attempting to fake sincerity while apologizing is genuinely funny.

I’m looking forward to the rest of season 3!


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!



Retro Television Reviews: California Dreams 2.14 “21 Jake Street” and 2.15 “Can’t Buy Me Love”

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!

I do have to say that, having now watched several episodes of City Guys and One World, I actually appreciate California Dreams a bit more.  It was one of the better shows to be produced by Peter Engel, one of the crown jewels of the Engelverse.

Episode 2.14 “21 Jake Street”

(Originally aired on December 25th, 1993, directed by Don Barnart)

Wow, this episode premiered on Christmas Day?  Really?  How many families put off unwrapping presents so they could watch the latest adventures of the California Dreams?

There’s a new girl at PCH and all the male members of the Dreams want to date her.  However, the only guy that she’s interested in going out with is Jake.  Soon, Jake is dating her and …. WAIT A MINUTE!  Isn’t Jake dating Tiffani!?  Have we not gone through several episodes that have featured Jake dating Tiffani?  Yet now, Jake is dating a new girl and Tiffani isn’t even upset about it.  Once again, it appears that this episode was shown out of its intended order.  NBC was notorious for doing this with their morning sitcoms and, as a result, the continuity of California Dreams, City Guys. Hang Time, One World, and Saved By The Bell was always a mess.  At the time, it’s possible that no one noticed or cared.  Back in 1993, it wasn’t like people could hop on Twitter and demand to know whether Jake and Tiffani were still a couple.  And honestly, there are worse things in the world than sloppy continuity.  It’s just that, when you binge one of these shows, screwed-up continuity jumps out at you in a way that it might not otherwise.

Anyway, the new girl is really interested in Sly’s plan to get fake IDs so that the Dreams can play in a 21-and-over club.  It turns out that she’s an undercover cop and she’s working to break a Fake ID ring!  If you only watched shows that took place in the Engelverse, you would be justified in thinking that fake IDs were the biggest problem in high schools in the 1990s.  Saved By The Bell, Hang Time, City Guys, California Dreams, they all did at least one episode about fake IDs.

The fake ID dealer is arrested.  Sly nearly gets arrested as well but he’s allowed to go free after he promises to never buy a fake ID again.  That’s not really how the legal system works but whatever.  Jake tells the undercover cop to look him up after he graduates from high school.  He says it right in front of Tiffani.  WHAT A JERK!

Meanwhile, Matt and Tony compete in an art competition.  Matt paints an abstract portrait of Sam.  Sam tells Matt that he has no talent.  Tony sculpts a bust of Tiffani and wins first prize after a large chunk of it is broken off.  Yay!  The art stuff was dumb but kind of cute.  The cast had just enough chemistry to pull it off.

Episode 2.15 “Can’t Buy Me Love”

(Originally aired on January 8th, 1994, directed by Don Barnhart)

The high school needs a new scoreboard for the gym so Tiffani decides that the perfect way to raise money would be told hold a slave auction!

Okay, technically, it’s a “servant” auction but the idea is that, once someone buys you, you do whatever they say for an entire week.  And you don’t get paid and you don’t really get any say in what you’re ordered to do and …. well, it’s a slave auction, okay?  Oddly enough, buying people was a frequent theme in the Engelverse.  Saved By The Bell, Hang Time, and City Guys all had episodes that featured date auctions.

Anyway, if that premise wasn’t awkward enough, the show’s only regular black character, Tony, agrees to be sold.  He’s hoping that he’ll be purchased by his crush.  Instead, dumbass Matt scratches his head during the auction and he ends up accidentally buying Tony!  Agck!  At first, Matt refuses to give Tony any orders but, eventually, he does ask Tony to do a few things.  Matt feels so guilty about it that he ends up becoming Tony’s servant.

Meanwhile, Sly buys the most popular girl in the school because he’s convinced that he can brainwash her into loving him.  (Good Lord, what is with this episode?)  However, the girl turns out to hate Sly so much that all of his efforts go nowhere and she ends up telling everyone in the school what a sleazy dork he is.  For some reason, we are now supposed to feel bad for Sly, despite the fact that he is kind of a sleazy dork.

Jake gets purchased by a group of cheerleaders who drive him crazy by being overly peppy.  Tiffani is purchased by Sam, who really enjoys bossing her around.  To be honest, Sam buying Tiffani (at a discount because Tiffani is the last person left to be auctioned off) is a lot funnier than you might expect.  That’s largely because Jennie Kwan had the best comic timing of any of the second season cast members.  As played by Kwan, Sam is an agent of chaos and her cheerfully destructive performance contrasts nicely with Kelly Packard’s much more earnest performance as Tiffani.

This is an episode that probably shouldn’t work but it does.  The entire premise is incredibly problematic but the cast had a strong enough chemistry that they could even gets laughs out of the dumbest of situations.  I already mentioned the comedic team of Jennie Kwan and Kelly Packard but Michael Cade and Jay Anthony Franke also make for a good team in this episode.  Sly and Jake were probably the most cliched characters on the show but Franke and Cade both brought a lot of energy to their performances and they played well off of each other.  As with so many of the second season episodes, you find yourself laughing almost despite yourself.

Next week, hopefully no one will be sold or brainwashed.  It’s supposed to be about the music, people!

Retro Television Reviews: California Dreams 2.13 “Schoolhouse Rock” and 2.14 “Save the Shark”

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!

Surf dudes with attitude, kind of groovy….

Episode 2.13 “Schoolhouse Rock”

(Dir by Miguel Higuera, Originally aired on November 27th, 1993)

Sting is performing in California and it’s the hottest show in town!  Unfortunately, because Sly is an idiot, he spent all of the Dreams’s money before he could buy tickets for the band.  However, Sly has a chance to redeem himself!  Sting’s opening act has had to cancel and Sly decides that the Dreams should audition for the gig….


Would Sting really have such a hard time finding a new opening act that he would be forced to hire a garage band that no one outside of their high school has ever heard of?  According to this episode, he would!  All the band has to do is find a way to get into the office of Sting’s manager.  And what better way to do that than for Tiffani to pretend to be a Swedish massage therapist while Tony and Jake pretend to be window washers and….

No, I’m not lying!  That’s how they get in the office.  Tiffani speaks in a Swedish accent while Tony and Jake slip through an open window.  Sting’s manager is impressed with their moxie and he says he’ll give them an audition.  The only catch is that it has to be at 3:00 pm and the Dreams cannot be a minute late.

Unfortunately, Ms. McBride, the insane home economics teacher, has been promoted to vice principal and she’s an insane disciplinarian.  She’s a former Marine who will not tolerate laughter or a messy locker.  Tiffani and Jake end up in detention!  Can they break out of detention and make the audition?  Will Sly be able to trick to the manager into coming down to the the high school so the band can perform in the gym?  And will the show end with the manager praising the band but saying that Elton John has already agreed to be Sting’s opening act?

Yes, yes, and yes.

This was a dumb episode that basically recycled an old Saved By The Bell plot but, at the same time, it’s also a good example of why California Dreams is so well-remembered after all these years.  Yes, it’s dumb but the cast really gives it their all and they’ve got enough chemistry that they can get a chuckle from even the lamest of jokes.  Ms. McBride is a cartoonish villain but then again, that’s the way most teenagers view their vice principals.  Finally, the song that the Dreams perform at the audition is actually pretty good.  For once, their music has a bit of an edge to it.  The Dreams are rocking instead of just popping!  (Don’t ask me what that means, it just came to me and I liked the sound of it.)  Add in an enjoyably weird subplot about clog dancing and you’ve got an pretty entertaining episode of California Dreams!

Episode 2.14 “Save The Shark”

(Dir by Don Barnhart, Originally aired on December 4th, 1993)

Sharky’s, the band’s favorite hangout, has been sold!  Tony is the new manager!  The Dreams are playing every night!  Matt is dating the new owner’s daughter.  However, the new owner is a land developer who is planning on tearing down Sharky’s and replacing it with condos!

Whatever is the band to do?  How about staging a protest?  Maybe they can occupy Sharky’s!  They can’t tear the place down if the Dreams are inside of it, right?  Well, maybe not.  Tony’s presence doesn’t seem to be stopping that wrecking ball.

Fortunately, Matt figures out that Johnny and the Himalayas, a band that he loves, got their start at Sharky’s and, as result, Sharky’s is declared a historical landmark.  Take that, land developer!  The land developer not only agrees to not tear down Sharky’s but he also allows his daughter to continue to date Matt.  His daughter was a terrible actress so hopefully, this was the only appearance of her character.

The episode ends with the ghost of Johnny Himalaya appearing and congratulating Matt.  Matt is surprised but happy.  Personally, I would be worried about the fact that Sharky’s is haunted!  What have you done, Matt!?

Like the episode that preceded it, Save The Shark was dumb but it was saved by the chemistry of the cast.  It took them a while but, towards the end of the second season, the Dreams ensemble really stared to click.

Next week: Jake hooks up with an undercover cop!

Retro Television Reviews: California Dreams 2.11 “Vote of Confidence” and 2.12 “The Year of the Woo”

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, it’s all about family!

Episode 2.11 “Vote of Confidence”

(Dir by Don Barnhart, originally aired on November 13th, 1993)

Pacific Coast High School is in the midst of campaign fever!  Who will be elected student council president?  Will it be the crazy environmentalist who says that she’s going to transform the cafeteria into a vegetarian paradise?  Or will it be Harvey, a rich kid who announces that his motto is, “I already have money!  Now, I want power!”

Or will it be Jake!?  Yes, Jake is running for president because he’s feeling inadequate when compared to his older brother Kyle.  Kyle is an Olympic hopeful who is currently attending Harvard and who was apparently also the presidents of the PCHS student council when he was in high school.  How come we haven’t heard anything about Kyle before?  Jake’s brother being an Olympic hopeful seems like something that would have been mentioned earlier.

Jake campaigns by riding his motorcycle through the school’s hallways and singing a country song about how “I’m a regular guy who does what he says.”  It’s not a bad song and Jake appears to actually be singing in the scenes in which he performs, as opposed to just lip-syncing.  In other words, this is the episode that establishes that Jake was actually too talented to be a member of a lame band like California Dreams.

Unfortunately, before Jake announced his candidacy, the Dreams agreed to play Harvey’s victory rally.  The Dreams withdraw from Harvey’s rally but — uh oh! — Sly already spend the two hundred dollars!  Harvey agrees to forgive the debt on the condition that Tiffani go on a date with him.  Jake is surprisingly okay with this, considering that he’s been dating Tiffani for a few episodes.  Perhaps this episode was filmed before Jake and Tiffani became a couple and was shown out-of-order.  Once again, NBC just didn’t care.

Anyway, Jake realizes that he ran for President for the wrong reasons and he resigns from office.  Harvey becomes president in his place.  Yay, rich people!

Episode 2.12 “The Year of the Woo”

(Dir by Don Barnhart, originally aired on November 20th, 1993)

The Dreams have a gig in Burbank, for which they’ll get paid $1,000.  But, the van’s transmission is shot!  Fortunately, Sam’s family had just sent her $800 in “lucky money” that she can use to buy a plane ticket to go back to Hong Kong for the Chinese New Year.  Why couldn’t they have just bought her the tickets?

Anyway, the Dreams convince Sam to pay for a new transmission, with the promise that they’ll pay her back with the money they make from the gig. However, it turns out that Gus the Mechanic isn’t good at his job. Not only does the transmission still not work but he refuses to refund the money.  (Huh?)   Now, Sam has no money and cannot return to Hong Kong. The Dreams are the worst people in the world.

With the help of Tiffani, The Dreams win back the $800 in a poker game but it’s too late for Sam to book a flight.  So, they throw a really cheap party at Sharky’s and they fly Sam’s parents out to California.  (Oddly, Sam’s parents speak in English, even when they’re talking to Sam.  It’s a bit odd that they don’t just speak to each other in Chinese, seeing as how that’s presumably how they spent the last 16 years communicating with each other.)  Sam’s excited but, before she can spend any time with her family, she still has to sing a song with the Dreams.  Imagine having to work at your own party.

This episode was not terrible.  One thing that set this show apart from other Peter Engel shows is that the cast actually had chemistry so they’re kind of fun to watch, even when the story itself is pretty stupid.  That said, the main theme of this episode — again — seemed to be the Dreams are only willing to do the right thing as a last resort.  Even though they fly Sam’s parents out to California with their poker money, there’s still no scene in which the Dreams themselves realize that guilting Sam into paying for the van was kind of a jerky thing to do.

Oh well!  At least everything worked out in the end!

Retro Television Reviews: California Dreams 2.8 “High Plains Dreamer” and 2.9 “Bwa Ha Ha Means I Love You”

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, Tony turns out to be a total coward while the Dreams attempt to record their first album.

But first, the opening  credits.  Again, because the post-Jenny opening credits for season two have not been uploaded to YouTube, you have to imagine Jennie Kwan in the place of Heidi Noelle Lenhart.

Episode 2.8 “High Plains Dreamer”

(Directed by Patrick Maloney, originally aired on October 30th, 1993)

Oh Good God.

Like all TNBC shows, California Dreams had its share of bad episodes.  In fact, technically, you could argue that the majority of them were bad.  It’s not like anyone was trying to win an Emmy for a writing or directing a show like Saved By The Bell, Hang Time, or California Dreams.  Still, even the knowledge that we’re not exactly dealing with Friends or Seinfeld here, left me unprepared for the crappiness of High Plans Drifter.

High Plains Drifter is the worst episode of California Dreams that I have seen so far.  At the movies, Tony is threatened by a bully.  Tony reacts by passing out.  Seriously, he doesn’t even get knocked unconscious in a fight or anything like that.  Someone gives him a mean look and he faints!  And then, while he’s passed out, he imagines that he’s a drifter who becomes the sheriff of an old west town.  Matt shows up as the town’s singing cowboy.  Jake is the blacksmith who promised his wife, Tiffani, that he would never pick up a gun.  Sly is the rich ne’er-do-well who owns the town.  Sam runs the town’s dancehall, which is obviously meant to be a brothel.

One gets the feeling that the cast had fun with this episode, because everyone got to wear a costume and speak with an exaggerated Southwestern accent.  But, for the most part, the humor is painfully corny (even by the standards of California Dreams) and the cast’s overly theatrical performances quickly wear out their welcome.

Let’s move on!

Episode 2.9 “Bwa Ha Ha Means I Love You”

(Directed by Patrick Maloney, originally aired on November 6th, 1993)

Jake and Tiffani’s seven-week anniversary is coming up and cash-poor Jake hasn’t even bought her a present yet!  It looks like it’s time for to Jake to set aside both his pride and his leather jacket and take a job at Maniac Music.  Jake puts on a tie and a red vest and soon, he’s the one handing out flyers and saying, “Welcome to — Bwa ha ha! — Maniac Music!”

Unfortunately, only Tony knows that Jake has taken a job.  When the other Dreams — and Tiffani — begin to wonder why Jake appears to be sneaking around, Jake’s fumbling attempts to answer their questions leads to Sam deciding that Jake must be cheating on Tiffani.  And, of course, Tiffani believes it because …. well, who knows?  This is another one of those annoying episodes where a lot of conflict could have been avoided by people just not being stupid.

Meanwhile, the Dreams record their first album!  And hey, it only takes an hour or two!  They perform in Matt’s garage and Sly hits record on the big tape recorder.  They don’t even need a producer or a mixing board or anything else like that.  Sly takes the tape and heads down to Maniac Music.  When he discovers that Jake is working there, Sly convinces him to pressure the store manager into carrying the tape.

The members of the Dreams hear that their album is for sale at Maniac Music so they head down there.  Not only do they discover that Jake has a job at the store but they also discover that all of the tapes are blank!  Sly screwed up the recording but why would the store manager agree to stock the tapes without checking to make sure that there was actually something on them?  Meanwhile, Tiffani is so mad that Jake lied to her that she refuses to speak to him.  Jake angrily quits his job.

Fortunately, all it takes for Jake to get back together with Tiffani is one impassion speech at Sharky’s.  Plus, the Dreams record their performance so I guess they’ll survive the whole blank tape fiasco.  Yay.

This was an incredibly busy episode.  In fact, it was a bit too busy.  Nothing anyone did made sense.  Sly was somehow allowed to remain the manager of the Dreams despite screwing up their big break.  Jake told increasingly elaborate lies to hide from Tiffani the fact that he had a job even though Tiffani has consistently been the only Dream who probably wouldn’t have made fun of him for having to wear a dorky vest.  This was an annoying episode but it was still a hundred times better than the old west episode so it had that going for it.

Seriously, that old west episode was bad!

Retro Television Review: California Dreams 2.6 “Surfboards and Cycles” and 2.7 “A Question of Math”

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, love is in the air as Jake and Tiffani realize that they could make beautiful music together.  Meanwhile, the pressure of exam season threatens the future of the Dreams!

But first, the opening  credits.  Again, because the post-Jenny opening credits for season two have not been uploaded to YouTube, you have to imagine Jennie Kwan in the place of Heidi Noelle Lenhart.

Episode 2.6 “Surfboards and Cycles”

(Directed by Don Barnhart, originally aired on October 16th, 1993)

In a storyline that shows how much the second season of California Dreams owed to every single season of Saved By The Bell, the members of the band have to pick an elective.  Sly and Matt enroll in home economics so they can meet girls and are stunned to discover that their teacher is a hardass former Marine who expects culinary perfection.

Meanwhile, Tiffani and Sam enroll in auto shop so that they can meet boys.  Also enrolled in auto shop is Jake.  Jake is convinced that women don’t belong in auto shop and Tiffani and Sam quickly prove his point by revealing that they know nothing about cars.  (I would also be clueless in auto shop but I will say that my sister Melissa can fix anything on a car.)  That said, Tiffani and Jake still fall in love.  The band panics because Jake and Tiffani seem like such opposites.  So, Sly and Tony go out of their way to plant seeds of doubt in Jake and Tiffani’s mind.  When Jake insists on wearing his leather jacket to the beach, Tiffani dumps his ass.  Yay, Tiffani!

But …. oh no!  Before breaking up, Tiffani and Jake wrote a duet.  Matt wants to make the song a part of the regular Dreams set list but how can he do that if Tiffani and Jake aren’t speaking?  Looks like it’s time to take over Sharky’s and trick Tiffani and Jake into meeting for the most romantic dinner of their lives!  Somehow, it works.  I’m just wondering why Sharky was always willing to let the Dreams shut down his place of business whenever they felt like it.  That doesn’t seem like a good business model.

This episode was pretty derivative and the main message appeared to be that Matt’s a jerk who can’t come up with a song on his own.  But Tiffani and Jake actually were a pretty cute couple and they had a likable chemistry together.  That chemistry pretty much saved this episode.

Episode 2.7 “A Question of Math”

(Directed by Miguel Higuera, originally aired on October 23rd, 1993)

The entire school is freaking out about midterms!  Sam becomes a tutor but her latest student, an arrogant football star (Richard Hillman), pretends to like her just so he can get out of paying her!  Luckily, Sam gets her revenge by tricking him into buying a fake test that has all the wrong answers.  Way to go, Sam!  Ruin that guy’s future!

That most interesting about this episode is that the football star was played by Richard Hillman, who also played Kirsten Dunst’s jerk of a boyfriend in Bring It On.  This was an enjoyable episode, even if I have my doubts about whether or not everyone would go that crazy over a high school midterm.  Maybe it’s just because I’m also watching One World and experiencing first hand what happens when a cast has absolutely no chemistry but I’ve really grown to appreciate the cast of California Dreams.  They all just seem like they sincerely enjoy hanging out together and, for the most part, they’ve got enough comedic timing that they can save even a weak joke.

What does the future hold for the surf dudes with attitude?  We’ll find out next week.

Retro Television Review: California Dreams 2.4 “Sleazy Rider” and 2.5 “The Sly Who Came To Dinner”

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!

With Jenny gone and Samantha as the band’s new lead singer, it was time to once again update the opening credits of California Dreams.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a separate video for just the revised season two credits.  So, imagine the video below with Jennie Kwan instead of Heidi Noelle Lenhart.

Anyway, let’s get on to the surf dude with attitude….

Episode 2.4 “Sleazy Rider”

(Directed by Don Barnhart, originally aired on October 2nd, 1993)

Jake has spent months working on his motorcycle so that he can win the big bike race.  Unfortunately, Jake has to go out of town so he leaves the bike with Matt.  Because Matt is a wimp who is unable to handle even the least bit of responsibility, he is unable to keep Sly from jumping on the bike, starting the bike, running over Tony with the bike, and then crashing the bike.

While Tony recovers in the hospital, he becomes convinced that Tiffani is falling in love with him.  Meanwhile, Sly tries to get everyone to forgive him for nearly killing Tony.  Strangely, no one gets mad at Matt despite the fact that Matt’s only job was to keep Sly from getting on the bike.

It’s a silly episode but I’ll give the show some credit for the title.  At first, I thought the title (a play on Easy Rider) was kind of a dig at Jake and I was like, “What did Jake do?”  But then I realized that Sly was meant to be the sleazy rider and it all made sense.

Episode 2.5 “The Sly Who Came To Dinner”

(Directed by Don Barnhart, originally aired on October 9th, 1993)

This episode opens with the Dreams playing at Sharkey’s and it’s our first chance to see the new line-up of Matt, Tony, Jake, Tiffany, and Sam.  For once, they actually look like a real band and it’s understandable that an audience would actually pay money to see them.  Of course, it helps that we only hear the end of that radio song from season 1 and then Sam’s “Hey Baby” song.  As Matt would put it, those were two of their better “tunes.”

The Dreams may be hot but Sly is not.  Sam says that she feels sorry for Sly as she watches him get slapped by every girl at Sharkey’s.  Matt says that he feels sorry for Sly in the same way that he feels sorry for monkeys at the zoo.  WHAT!?  Sam dedicates a song to Sly so Sly decides that Sam is in love with him.

Meanwhile, Tiffani is getting cards and flowers from a mystery fan.  Has she got a stalker!?  Who cares?  That’s just the B-plot.  In the A-plot, Sly’s family is visiting his grandmother so Sly ends up staying at the Garrison house.  Sly thinks that this will allow him to pursue Sam.  Sam, however, has a big history paper due and she’s not interested.  Sly offers to type up her paper but instead just steals a college term paper that Mr. Garrison is supposed to be grading.  Somehow, that leads to Sam getting a D-.  Apparently, the high school has very high standards when it comes to history reports.

These two episodes are mostly interesting because they’re the first ones to really take real advantage of Sly’s comedic potential and Michael Cade’s talent for physical comedy.   As I watched these two episodes, I realized that the scheme-obsessed Sly basically was Zach Morris if Zach lived in the real world.  On Saved By The Bell, Zach never had to deal with any consequences for his schemes.  On California Dreams, Sly was constantly on the verge of losing his friends and was often running for his life.  Zach ended up as governor of California.  Sly probably lost all of his money in 2008.  Poor Sly.

Will things look up for him next week?  Probably not but we’ll see.

Retro Television Review: California Dreams 2.2 “Ciao, Jenny” and 2.3 “Wooing Woo”

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, one member of the Dreams escapes and a new one shows up!

Do surf dudes still have attitude and feel mellow in Italy?  Let’s find out.

California Dreams 2.2 “Ciao, Jenny”

(Directed by Don Barnhart, originally aired on September 18th, 1993)

This episode opens with Tiffani announcing that she is now working as a candy striper at the hospital!  Hey, wait a minute.  Didn’t Lisa do the same thing on Saved By The Bell?  Wasn’t there later an entire episode of One World about this?  Did Peter Engel just have an entire closet full of candy striper uniforms that he handed out to the casts of his various show?

Of course, the whole candy striper thing is only the B-plot.  The A-plot features Jenny auditioning for a place at a music school in Europe.  Jake, who is now everyone’s best friend, has decided that he’s in love with Jenny and he doesn’t want her going to California.  He even writes a song about how much he loves Jenny.  Matt helps him out with the song, which seems kind of weird since Jenny is his younger sister.  “It’s in the key of A, off-tempo,” Matt announces, “follow me for the changes!” I love musician talk.

Anyway, the song leads to some kissing but it doesn’t make Jenny stay so Sly suggests that maybe they should hypnotize Jenny so that she blows her final audition.  Jake thinks that is a super idea.  Perhaps he remembers the time that Zach brainwashed the entire school with subliminal messages on Saved By The Bell.  (“Zach, Zach, Zach….”)  Somehow, Sly learns how to hypnotize people and, just as improbably, Jenny gets hypnotized.  Eventually, though, Jake realizes this was a stupid idea and confesses what he did.  Jenny is so touched that she decides to turn down the chance to go to Italy.  Realizing that he can’t be responsible for her missing out on this opportunity, Jake breaks up with Jenny.  Jenny eventually forgives Jake for being a jerk and then leaves for Italy.

Uh-oh, the Dreams just lost one of their three lead singers!  What are they going to do now?

California Dreams 2.3 “Wooing Woo”

(Directed by Don Barnhart, originally aired on September 25th, 1993)

Jenny’s gone and the Garrisons promptly offer up her old room to a Samantha Woo (Jennie Kwan), an exchange student from Hong Kong.  Mr. Garrison says that everyone should keep in mind that Sam will probably be quiet and shy.  Instead, Sam turns out to be talkative and fashionable.  Meanwhile, the Dreams are searching for a new singer and …. oh my God!  Sam can sing!  In fact, when she auditions for the Dreams, she sounds like she’s lip-synching to something that was actually recorded in a studio as opposed to being performed in a musty garage.

Of course, no sooner has Sam joined the band than Jake, Tony, Sly, and even Matt start competing to see who can be the first kiss her.  It turns out that Sam is too clever for all of them but then again, who wasn’t?  When Sam finds out what they were planning, she threatens to leave America unless the boys agree to do something that will help them understand what it feels like to be “treated like a piece of meat.”  It all leads to Jake, Tony, Sly, and Matt putting on dresses and getting hit on by football players.  “Woooooo!” the audience says.  And so, Sam joins the California Dreams.  She would remain a member longer than the siblings who started the band and she and Tony would eventually become the longest-running couple on the show.

As for those two episodes, they both represent the extent to which California Dreams rebranded itself as a musical version of Saved By The Bell.  That said, both Jennie Kwan and Jay Anthony Franke brought some needed energy to the show.

Next week, Matt destroys Jake’s bike and Sly moves in with the Garrisons!

Retro Television Reviews: California Dreams 1.13 “Where’s Dennis?” and 2.1 “Jake’s Song”

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, season one comes to an end and season two begins.  And with season two, an important new character is introduced.  With the start of the second season, we also get new opening credits.

But first, let’s get the end of season one out of the way.

Episode 1.13 “Where’s Dennis?”

(Directed by Don Barnhart, originally aired on December 5th, 1992)

With their parents out of town, Matt and Jenny throw a big party at the Garrison house and, naturally, the Dreams perform.  A promoter comes by the party and tells the Dreams that they’re “sick.”  (“That means good,” he adds as the Dreams breathe a sigh of 90s relief.)  However, younger brother Dennis feels that his old siblings are neglecting him and he runs away.  Can Matt and Jenny find Dennis before their parents come home?

Eh, who cares?  The worst episodes of the first season of California Dreams were the ones that focused on the Garrison family.

Episode 2.1 “Jake’s Song”

(Directed by Don Barnhart, originally aired on September 11th, 1993)

In between the end of the first season and the start of the second season of California Dreams, NBC delivered an ultimatum to the show’s producers.  If the show was going to continue, it would need to lose the adults and focus on the band.  It would also need to add some more Saved By The Bell-style hijinks.

As such, the Garrison adults were largely dropped, as was younger brother Dennis.  Whereas the first season didn’t feature a single scene that actually took place in a high school, the new California Dreams would feature clueless teachers, sputtering principles, and the same high school interiors that would later show up in Hang Time.

Most importantly, the first episode of the second season introduced viewers to Jake Summers (played by Jay Anthony Franke).  Jake was a tough guy who rode a motorcycle, wore a leather jacket, and who never lost a fight.  Jake was a rocking rebel with the soul of a poet and he was obviously added to the show to try to give the California Dreams some sort of edge.  Of course, California Dreams was still a TNBC show so “edgy” really just meant that Jake looked like he might have smoked a cigarette at some point in his life.  Jake wore a leather jacket and got a serious look on his face whenever it was time to play guitar but the music was still Disney-level pop.  Jake was the toughest California Dream in the way that Joey Fatone used to be the toughest member of NSYNC.

Jake makes his first appearance in California Dreams when he walks into the high school, wearing a leather jacket and followed by several adoring girls.  “Woooooooooo!” the audience yells, showing that they already know that the new star of the show has arrived.

Anyway, Jake says that he wants to talk to Matt.  Everyone’s terrified that Jake is going to kill Matt but instead, Jake just likes some music that Matt wrote and he wants to offer him some lyrics for the song.  Matt discovers that Jake can play guitar and he invites Jake to join the Dreams.  The rest of the Dreams are like, “Jake’s too tough and scary!”  Can’t they hear how crazy the live audience goes whenever Jake enters a scene?  The Dreams need Jake!  Of course, Jake isn’t even sure that he wants to join the Dreams but then they all play together at Sharkey’s.  Jake becomes a Dream and immediately  start to overshadow the star of the show.  The future is set.

Jake would eventually become a bit of a neutered character, especially after Matt was written out of the show and Jake took over the band.  But, in his first appearance, he actually has enough rebel charisma that it’s easy to understand why the show’s producers decided to build the new California Dreams around him.  His surly attitude actually provided a nice contrast to Matt’s more vanilla style.  In their first episode together, Jay Anthony Franke and Brent Gore brought out the best in each other.

Would Jake and Matt continue to bring out the best in each other?  We’ll find out next week!