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, California Dreams is Saved By The Bell!
Episode 4.9 “Operation Tony”
(Dir by Don Barnhart, originally aired on November 18th, 1995)
Tony needs to have shoulder surgery and he’s so worried about dying that he not only practices laying very still but he also requires Sam to practice mourning. The night before the operation, he has a dream where he sees his own funeral and, upon waking up, he tries to sneak out of the hospital and …. wait a minute. This seems familiar. The exact same thing happened to Zack Morris on Saved By The Bell!
Yes, this episode is pretty much a remake of Operation Zach. The California Dreams version works a bit better than the SBTB version because Tony is a more sympathetic figure than Zach Morris and, unlike Zach, Tony didn’t have the power to stop time whenever he felt like it so Tony has no way to magically put off the operation. Plus, this episode has a B-plot where Lorena volunteers as a candy striper in an attempt to catch the attention of a handsome doctor. Unfortunately, the doctor explains that he doesn’t date people with whom he works. (I would hope that he also doesn’t date teenagers.) It was a predictable storyline but I still always like episodes that focus, even if just partially, on Lorena because Lorena is who I was always relate to whenever I watch this show.
Anyway, this was a good episode, even it was a familiar one. Let’s move on.
Episode 4.10 “Community Service”
(Dir by Don Barnhart, originally aired on November 25th, 1995)
In this episode, the members of the California Dreams do community service!
Now, I know that I always complain whenever this happens on City Guys but that’s because City Guys usually features Ms. Noble ordering her students to do stuff during their free time. On California Dreams, everyone actually volunteered of their own free will. It is true that Tiffani guilted them into volunteering but still, there’s a big difference between Tiffani looking sad and Ms. Noble telling all of her students what they’re going to give up their weekend just because she says so.
Sam volunteers for the blood drive. Jake volunteers for Meals on Wheels and eats all the food himself. (In 1995, this was played for laughs. You can only imagine how it would be portrayed today.) Mark helps to clean the beach and ends up smelling like a toxic waste dump. Lorena gives some things to the Goodwill. And Tiffani and Sly end up working at the Teen Help Line. Tiffani tries to sincerely help people while Sly orders pizza and hits on all the female counselors.
Uh-oh! The school is cutting its budget and the Teen Line is going to be closed down! Sly comes up with an idea! Maybe the Dreams can play a benefit concert. I mean, it worked on Saved By The Bell …. TWICE! Sly organizes the concert and basks in everyone’s attention, even though Tiffani is upset that Sly is doing the right thing for the wrong reason. (Calm down, Tiffani.) Fortunately, during the concert, a teen calls in and says he wants to run away from home. Because Sly is the only person in the office, he’s forced to help the caller and he discovers that joy of doing the right thing for the right reasons! Yay! Of course, I imagine this lesson will be forgotten by the next episode. We’ll find out next week!
As a general rule, the best episodes of California Dreams are the ones in which Sly is let loose to be his sleazy but ultimately good-hearted self. Though the story was familiar, Michael Cade did a good job playing the two sides of Sly. Plus, the Dreams performed that “To the End” song, which has a really rocking guitar solo.
Next week, Tiffani tries to heal the bay! Hopefully, she’ll have better luck at it than Mark did during this episode.