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 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!

Retro Television Review: California Dreams 1.11 “They Shoot Videos, Don’t They?” and 1.12 “The Time”

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 story of California’s blandest garage band continues.  Last week was all about Tiffani getting mad at her mom and surfing.  What will this week be about?

Let’s just lie here in the sun until these dreams are done.  Actually, how do those lyrics go?  I don’t really feel like relistening to theme song to find out.

Episode 1.11 “They Shoot Videos, Don’t They?”

(Directed by Don Barnhart, originally aired on November 21st, 1992)

Remember Randi-Jo?  Randi-Jo was Matt’s girlfriend.  She was incredibly boring but so was Matt.  On the show, Randi-Jo appeared in the pilot and then she appeared in the 3rd episode and then she vanished and the viewers even saw Matt dating (or at least trying to date) other women.

In episode 11, Randi-Jo suddenly shows up again!  She and Matt are so in love that she gets upset when Matt is supposed to be kissed by a girl in a music video that the Dreams is filming for a music video contest.  Randi-Jo ends up dumping Matt’s boring ass and Matt gets all mopey and writes a depressing song.  The Dreams then go on to film a music video that looks like every student film ever made.  Check out that dark lighting!  Check out that emotional close-up!  It looks like every bad indie film to ever come out of Austin.

This episode might have been better if Matt and Randi-Jo weren’t such boring characters and if maybe Matt was a little bit less whiny.  (“I just need to be alone, okay?”  Shut up, Matt.)  We do get watch the process by which Matt turns heartbreak into a song and it’s not very impressive.  (“Maybe I’m crazy,” Matt sings and I have to admit that I kind of groaned at the realization that Matt Garrison was essentially a 16 year-old version of Michael Bolton.)  To be honest, though, Randi-Jo was being a bit unreasonable.  People kiss in music videos.  Calm down.

Episode 1.12 “The Time”

(Directed by Don Barnhart, originally aired on November 28th, 1992)

The Dreams need a tour bus so that they can get to a show that’s several miles away.  Sly buys an old VW van, one that is covered with 60s era graffiti and bumper stickers about making love and not war.  Jenny freaks out when she finds a Partridge Family cassette in the van.  I don’t blame her.

Jenny has other problems, though.  She’s gotten back together with her jerky ex-boyfriend, Eric.  Eric is charming but self-centered and he doesn’t believe in the Dreams!  Soon, Jenny is blowing off rehearsals and actually having a life separate from hanging out with her brother’s band.  However, Eric soon proves himself to still be a cad and Jenny returns to the band.  Yay, I guess.

This one was okay, if just because every woman has known and dated someone like Eric and it’s good to be reminded that we deserve better.  Plus, Jenny got to star in her own black-and-white music video, which was far superior to the video that Matt starred in with his little break-up song.

These two episodes left me feeling mellow.

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: 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: California Dreams 1.5 “The First Gig” and 1.6 “Friends First”

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 saga of California’s blandest garage band continues.

Is anyone reading this a surf dude with attitude?

Actually, wait a minute.  Didn’t I use the exact same introduction last week?  Eh. It’s the first season of California Dreams, a show that was constructed out of unused story ideas for Saved By The Bell.  A little bit of deja vu is understandable.

Episode 1.5 “The First Gig”

(Directed by Don Barnhart, Originally aired on October 10th, 1992)

Wimpy California dude Matt Garrison has formed a band called the California Dreams.  Matt plays guitar and sings.  Matt’s sister, Jenny, plays keyboards and sings.  Tony Wickes plays drums and works at Sharkey’s, the most popular restaurant on the beach.  Tiffani plays bass and surfs.  Matt’s best friend, Sly, wants to manage the band and he even gets them their first gig!  Sly arranges for them to play Randi-Jo’s birthday party.  Matt totally has a crush on Randi-Jo….

Wait, this doesn’t make any sense.  First gig?  The California Dreams have had plenty of gigs!  They’ve even got a fanbase.  Sly already is the band’s manager.  And Matt’s been dating Randi-Jo since the show began.  What the Hell!?

Well, it turns out that the fifth episode aired of California Dreams was actually the first episode filmed.  The First Gig also served as a pilot for the show but, when the show went into production, the pilot was shown during the middle of the season as opposed to the beginning.  This, of course, led to a mess of continuity errors….

Of course, that’s not a surprise to anyone who has watched any of the shows that Peter Engel produced as a part of TNBC.  Maintaining continuity or, for that matter, any sort of consistency was never a huge concern.  And they got away with it because it was the 90s and its not as if the people watching the show could have jumped on twitter and complained about how it didn’t make any sense.

As for the pilot itself …. eh.  I can understand why this pilot would have led to a show, as the cast was good-looking in a very nonthreatening way.  But good Lord, is the music ever dull!  Fortunately, the music would improve sometime around the start of the third season but, while watching the pilot, I found myself wondering why a group of teenagers would want to start a band to play the type of music that their parents probably listened to on the easy listening station.  Judging from the pilot, the Dreams were the only teenagers in 90s America who had never heard of Nirvana.

Episode 1.6 “Friends First”

(Directed by Don Barnhart, Originally aired on October 17th, 1992)

Continuity continues to go out the window as this episode opens with Sly trying to convince Sharkey to hire the Dreams to play at his restaurant, despite the fact that we’ve already seen the Dreams playing Sharkey’s several times over the past few episodes.

While Sly tries to make money, Matt’s friend from music camp comes to visit and both Jenny and Tiffani fall for him after discovering that he’s lost over 200 pounds since his music camp days.  It leads to a typical TNBC situation in which Jenny and Tiffani learn to not let liking the same boy ruin their friendship.  To be honest, my main reaction to this episode was a strange sense of annoyance with Matt.  Seriously, he was exactly the type of kid who would go to music camp and come back as a huge music snob.  One can just imagine Matt ruthlessly critiquing every other band in the world.  “I didn’t care much for that bridge …. the pitch is not perfect …. here’s where you need to drop the chorus….”  Shut up, Matt.  It’s supposed to be about the feelings and the emotions!