Retro Television Reviews: California Dreams 3.12 “Harley and the Marlboro Man” and 3.13 “Rebel Without A Nerve”


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 Jake trying to retain his cool.

Episode 3.12 “Harley and the Marlboro Man”

(Dir by Patrick Maloney, originally aired on December 3rd, 1994)

“You can’t hide your smoking behind tic tacs and old spice!”

Yes, it’s time for another TNBC anti-smoking episode.  In California Dreams, Jake Summers starts to smoke after he see his super cool Uncle Frank lighting a cigarette.  Soon, Jake is totally addicted.  He can’t stop!  It doesn’t matter how many times the members of the band make him look at a picture of a cancerous lung.  It doesn’t matter that Lorena won’t kiss him.  It doesn’t matter that no one wants to be a friend with a smoker.  After smoking for one week, Jake Summers is hopelessly addicted.  He’s got the nicotine monkey on his back!  But then Frank shows up and says, “I’m dying Jake.”

Good Lord, this was heavy-handed.  This is actually the second time that I’ve watched and written about this episode and my reaction to episode pretty much remains the same.  I simply cannot believe that Jake Summers, an aspiring rocker who has spent his entire life hanging out with motorcyclists, never smoked a cigarette until he saw his Uncle Frank light up.  The Dreams themselves acted as if smoking a cigarette was the most scandalous thing in the world.  So, I guess no one smoked weed in 1990s California?  No one did cocaine in 1990s California?  None of the other bands at the Battle of the Bands ducked behind Sharkey’s to have a cigarette?  Seriously, there’s a difference between not liking cigarettes and being unbelievably naïve.  At one point, Tiffani says that nicotine is more addictive than crack cocaine.  I’ve seen several David Simon-produced shows and I just don’t believe that.

Anyway, the Dreams deal with this problem in the same way that they deal with everything.  They throw a benefit concert at Sharkey’s.

Episode 3.13 “Rebel Without A Nerve”

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

Jake Summers is afraid he’s losing his cool!

Not only is there a new kid at school who is talking about Jake behind his back but Jake has twice crashed his motorcycle!  With his confidence shaken, Jake decides that it would be safer to accept Principal Blumford’s offer to join the school safety patrol!  Just as he was in Budget Cuts, Blumford is played Earl Boen.  In this episode, there’s yet another shoutout to Boen’s role in the Terminator films when Boen tells a photographer that some people have mistaken him for Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Anyway, Jake eventually realizes how dorky he looks wearing the safety monitor sash so he decides to challenge the new kid to racing the infamous “Coolman’s Curve,” which is apparently the most dangerous road in California.  The new kid backs down and Jake is once again proclaimed the coolest student at Pacific Coast High.  Yay!

This episode was incredibly silly but, in its way, it worked.  Jake continually crashing his bike made me laugh a little more than it should have.  What made the joke work was that all of the accidents were due to an inconvenient speed dump that had been put in the parking lot by the safety patrol.  Safety Week turned out to be the most dangerous week in California.

The important thing is that Jake did not lose his cool and, as a result, was allowed to continue living his California dream.

Retro Television Reviews: California Dreams 3.10 “Daddy’s Girl” and 3.11 “Family Tree”


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 all about family.

Episode 3.10 “Daddy’s Girl”

(Dir by Patrick Maloney, originally aired on November 19th, 1994)

Tiffani is worried that her father (Rod Arrantis) is lonely being a single man who spends all of his time studying humpback whales.  So, she decides to set him up with Ariel (Kristine Sutherland), who is also a humpback enthusiast.  (Wait, that sounds weird….)  Somewhat distractingly, Ariel is played by the same actress who played Zack Morris’s mother on Saved By The Bell so it’s easy to spend this entire episode wondering if maybe she divorced Derek Morris after Zack graduated from high school and Tiffani and Zack are about to become stepsiblings.

Anyway, things are great at first but then Tiffani gets jealous and tries to break up her father’s relationship by revealing the Ariel has a police record.  Unfortunately, Tiffani doesn’t actually bother to take a look at the record before barging in on her father’s date and it turns out that Ariel only has two unpaid parking tickets.  Today, of course, Ariel would be thrown in prison for the tickets and locked up while the FBI, CIA, and NSA searched her twitter account for any negative remarks about the government’s COVID policies.  However, 1994 was a more libertarian time and everyone on the show understood that parking tickets were no big deal.

After her father ends his relationship to keep Tiffani happy, Tiffani realizes that she was in the wrong.  That means that it’s time to save the relationship by singing a song!

The thing that bothers me about this episode is that Tiffani is a hundred times brattier than Lorena was when they all visited Lorena’s father’s ski resort and yet nobody accuses Tiffani of being spoiled.  That’s a bit of double standard.  That said, there was one funny scene in which a horrified Tony realized that there was nothing that Mr. Smith enjoyed talking about more than humpback whales.  “I’ve got to get back to work,” Tony said.  “I’ll just tell you about them while you work,” Mr. Smith replies (or words to that effect).  It made me laugh.

Episode 3.11 “Family Tree”

(Dir by Patrick Maloney, originally aired on November 26th, 1994)

For history class, the Dreams are investigating their family trees.  Jake reveals that his grandparents were refugees from Eastern Europe.  Sam reveals that her ancestors built the Great Wall of China.  Lorena turns out to be related to both Benito Juarez and Mario Lopez.  Tiffani is forced to research both the Smiths and the Joneses.  Amazingly, it appears the genealogical research is so easy that all you have to do is check out a few books from the library.

Tony is upset to discover that his earliest known ancestor was a slave so he makes up a story about being descended from an emperor.  Everyone is really impressed.  “That’s wonderful, Tony,” the very white teacher announces, “especially since most African-American can’t find anything before the Civil War.”  She said it in such a cheerful and condescending manner that it immediately made me think of the incredibly awkward episode of The Love Boat in which Captain Stubing took it upon himself to explain black history to Isaac.

Eventually, Tony is visited by the ghost of one of his ancestors and he finally decides to be honest about his background.  This episode was well-intentioned and nowhere near as bad as the infamous Running Zack episode of Saved By The Bell.  A bit of the humor was a bit awkward.  For a show that was ground-breaking in the diversity of its cast (at least as far as TNBC shows were concerned), a lot of the humor is still based on stereotypes and the same studio audience that cheered Tony for embracing his identity also laughed whenever Lorena spoke Spanish.  For the most part, though, this episode worked and it gave William James Jones a chance to do something more than just be the goofy comedic relief.

(Incidentally, I love family tree projects.  I’m Irish on my father’s side and Italian/Spanish on my mother’s side.)

Next week, it’s a double dose of Jake as he takes up smoking and considers losing his cool!

Retro Television Reviews: California Dreams 3.8 “The Princess and the Yeti” and 3.9 “Winkle/Wicks World”


Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Saturdays, I will be reviewing California Dreams, which ran on NBC from 1992 to 1996.  The entire show is currently streaming on YouTube!

This week the Dreams go to Colorado and Public Access Television.  To quote Matt Garrison, “Let’s do it!”

Episode 3.8 “The Princess and the Yeti”

(Dir by Patrick Maloney, originally aired on October 29th, 1994)

The Dreams have left California for Colorado!  It’s on temporary, however.  They’ve been hired to play at the ski resort that’s owned by Lorena’s father, Mr. Costas (Abraham Alvarez).  Lorena is looking forward to skiing and showing off her new outfit.  Her father wants her to work the front desk.  “I’m allergic to work,” Lorena says, which leads to everyone saying that Lorena is spoiled.

Which is not true at all!  Listen, Lorena is on vacation.  You don’t work when you’re on vacation.  At no point does Lorena’s father say that he’ll pay for Lorena to work the front desk.  Instead, he just says, “I need you to work the front desk tonight.”  Nah, old man.  It doesn’t work like that.  I, myself, have been called spoiled enough time to know that everyone is being way too hard on Lorena.  Lorena has every right to expect a chance to ski while on a SKI VACATION!

Anyway, Mr. Costas wants to expand his resort but there’s an old man (Sandy Ward) who lives in a cabin and he refuses to move off his property.  If the stubborn old man wasn’t bad enough, there’s also a Yeti running around the forest.  But what if that Yeti is just a man dressed in a costume?  Who would have the motive?  Mr. Costas?  No, he would be costing himself money by doing that.  How about the Old Man?  Other than the Dreams, he’s the only other person in this episode.

After Tony gets scared by the Yeti, he runs into the forest.  The rest of the Dreams follow him and come across the Old Man’s cabin and his yeti costume.  When Mr. Costas finds out, he wants to press charges but the Dreams are like, “He’s just an nice old man!”  Yeah, and you’re a bunch of high school kids from California.  Your opinion really isn’t that important.

The Dreams get mad at Lorena for not telling her father that the Old Man deserves to stay in his cabin.  (Again, I’m not sure how it’s any of their business.)  Miffed, Lorena goes skiing alone and injures her knee.  The Old Man saves her life and Lorena offers to help pay off whatever money the Old Man is costing her father by working the front desk and not taking an allowance for a year.  Mr. Costas agrees and everything works out …. except, of course, Lorena lives in California so how is she going work the front desk of a Colorado resort?

Also, I don’t care how nice the Old Man is.  He still dressed up like a Yeti and did a lot of property damage to Mr. Costas’s business.  Drag his his ass to jail!

This episode mostly serves to remind us that the California Dreams belong in California and on the beach.  It just doesn’t seem right whenever they appear in a different location.  It’s like one of those weird episodes of Saved By The Bell: The New Class where the gang all ended up working at a ranch.  As much of a misfire as this episode was, I did laugh at the scene where Jake had to wear Lorena’s pink snow jacket while searching for Tony.  A few years ago, in the middle of a torrential rain storm, Jeff informed me that he would rather get soaked and risk pneumonia than borrow my hot pink umbrella.  What do men have against the color pink?

Anyway, let’s move on!

Episode 3.9 “Winkle/Wicks World”

(Dir by Patrick Maloney, originally aired on November 12th, 1994)

Tony and Sly get a show on public access TV!  What was the deal with people in Peter Engel-produced shows always ending up on Public Access Television?  Anyway, The Goo-Ga-Moo Guys becomes a big hit, despite being just a lame Wayne’s World rip-off.  (To the show’s credit, Jake refers to show as being a “Wayne’s World rip-off.”)  Unfortunately, this means that Tony no longer has time to play drums and Sly no longer has time to manage the band.  Lorena takes over as manager and teaches the band how to be classy so that they can play an upper class gig that is, for some reason, being held at Sharky’s.

Anyway, fame goes to Tony and Sly’s heads.  In the end, though, they decide that friendship is more important than fame.  *Yawn*  This is a plot that was used and reused by so many Peter Engel-produced shows that, at times, it seems as if the entire Englverse was an autopilot.

Hopefully, next week’s episodes will encourage us to seek good vibrations and feel mellow.

Retro Television Reviews: California Dreams 3.6 “The Long Goodbye” and 3.7 “Trust Me”


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!

Do surf dudes still have attitude in 2023?  I was going to suggest watching California Dreams to find out but, then again, today’s episodes are from 1994 so I guess that wouldn’t really answer the question.

Oh well, onward to the reviews….

Episode 3.6 “The Long Goodbye”

(Dir by Patirck Maloney, originally aired on October 15th, 1994)

In a rare nod to continuity, Nikki Cox returns as Sly’s blind girlfriend, Allison!

Sly is being so nice and considerate to Allison that it leads to Lorena and Sam realizing that Tony and Jake are totally inconsiderate pigs who won’t even hold open a door for them!  Instead of changing their ways, Tony and Jake demand that Sly stop being so romantic.  Sly, however, is devoted to Allison and he even joins the track team so that he can give her a letterman’s jacket and ask her to be his “exclusive” girlfriend.  Allison takes her to Sharky’s to pop the question and attempts to convince her that they’re at a romantic French restaurant by having Tony speak with a French accent.  Tony’s accent is terrible.  Allison sees right through him….

Unfortunately, Allison is moving away!  She’s been accepted at a prep school in Chicago, one that will prepare her to teach blind children.  Sly, as usual, acts like a jerk and all of the Dreams gang up on him for being distant with Allison after learning that she’s leaving but honestly, Sly’s reaction was realistic.  That doesn’t mean that Sly wasn’t wrong for 1) refusing to return Allison’s calls and 2) trying to go on a date on the same night that Allison was having her going-away party but people do stupid things when their heart is broken.  And, just like many people do in real life, Sly eventually saw the error of his ways and he had a rather sweet conversation with Allison at the party.  It’s a shame that Allison left the series as Nikki Cox and Michael Cade had a far more believable chemistry than the show’s main couples.

Speaking of which, this episode featured a rather stupid subplot in which Tony and Jake attempted to be more romantic by pretending to be the lead characters of the romance novel that Tiffany is reading.  Needless to say, this leads to Renaissance costumes and fencing.  It’s pretty dumb (though Jay Anthony Franke and Williams James Jones deserve some credit for the extent to which they threw themselves into it) but it’s also an indication of just how different season 3 of California Dreams was from season 2 of California Dreams.  

All that said, this was definitely one of the better episodes of California Dreams and, again, credit for that goes to Michael Cade and Nikki Cox and their ability to bring some much-needed reality to the show’s musical hijinks.

Episode 3.7 “Trust Me”

(Dir by Patrick Maloney, originally aired on October 22nd, 1994)

Sly has entered the Dreams into a music video contest!  The only problem is that Jake and Mark have yet to finish writing the lyrics for the Dreams’s newest song.  Maybe they should give Matt Garrison a call and ask for his advice.

Not wanting to visit his creepy uncle, Mark spends the weekend at Lorena’s loft.  He and Jake are supposed to be working on the song but Lorena would rather have fun and watch movies!  Jake accuses Lorena of being a distraction.  Jake and Lorena fight and later, after Jake has gone home for the night, Mark kisses Lorena.  Uh-oh!

Mark, it appears, misinterpreted the fight.  It turns out that Lorena and Jake fight all the time and it’s actually a huge part of what they enjoy about their relationship.  Feeling guilty, Mark writes and then sings a song about how he kissed Lorena.  Jake loses it and refuses to perform with Mark.  Fortunately, two bullies show up at Sharky’s and try to give Jake a hard time.  When Mark stands up to the bullies, it leads to a brawl and a renewed friendship.  Yay!

But did the Dreams wins the contest?  We never find out.

As for the episode itself, it provided a showcase for the two newest members of the cast and Diana Uribe and Aaron Jackson both did a really good job.  I could relate to Lorena because I’ve had the same “You’re a distraction” line tossed at me and it definitely hurts.  And Aaron Jackson totally sold the scene where he nervously sang Jake the lyrics about kissing Lorena.  All in all, this was another good episode.

Way to go, Dreams!

Retro Television Reviews: California Dreams 3.4 “Blind Dates” and 3.5 “Yoko, Oh No!”


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 is all about romance and total defiance!

Episode 3.4 “Blind Dates”

(Dir by Patrick Maloney, originally aired on October 1st, 1994)

Oh my God, Sly has been talking to a girl on a brand new thing called the Internet!  When he meets Allison (played, quite well, by Nikki Cox), he is shocked to discover that she’s blind.  Allison brings out Sly’s rarely seen good side and Allison appreciates that Sly is too much of a jackass to treat her differently just because she’s blind.  At first, Sly is worried about taking her to the school dance but then he takes her anyway.  Yay!

Meanwhile, Tony and Sam also get on the internet and both of them think that they’ve found their soul mate.  But it turns out that they’ve just been talking to each other.  By the end of this episode, Tony and Sam have begun their relationship.  This is a huge moment in the history of California Dreams because, in the end, Tony and Sam had most (and maybe the only) stable relationship on the show.

Unfortuntely, as we’ll see next week, things wouldn’t last as long for Sly and Allison, which is a shame because Nikki Cox and Michael Cade had tons of onscreen chemistry and they were a sweet couple.  Oh well.  Such is life.

Episode 3.5 “Yoko, oh no!”

(Dir by Patrick Maloney, originally aired on October 8th, 1994)

It’s time for another Battle of the Bands!

In this episode, we meets the Dreams’s rival band, Total Defiance.  We’re supposed to dislike Total Defiance because they’re constantly making fun of the Dreams and their manager is an obnoxious girl named Rosie who has a crush on Mark Winkle.  The thing is that Total Defiance, which appears to be a rap/heavy metal hybrid band, actually does appear to be a lot better than the Dreams.  From what little of what we’re allowed to hear from them, their sound is a bit more interesting than the California Dreams.  I mean, let’s be honest.  The California Dreams did have a few good songs but, for the most part, Rosie has a point when she says that the Dreams are a generic pop band.  Jake may wear a leather jacket and talk about being a rebel but, even after Matt Garrison leaves the band that he founded, the Dreams still specialized in coming up with mellow, feel-good tunes that really could have been sung by anyone.  Total Defiance was all about taking risks.  They were the true rebels!

They were also all about giving the Dreams a hard time.  When Rosie dismisses Lorena as just being a “groupie,” Lorena tries to prove them wrong by auditioning for the band.  The good thing is that she gets to wear a really pretty dress when she auditions.  The bad thing is that she can’t carry a tune.  (See?  There’s something else that Lorena and I have in common.)  Blinded by love, Jake insists that Lorena be allowed to sing with the band.  However, when Lorena hears the rest of the band talking about how bad her voice is, she fakes laryngitis so they’ll perform without her.  As a result, the Dreams not only win the Battle of the Bands but everyone also learns an important lesson about being honest.  Yay!

I liked this episode because it was a Jake and Lorena episode and those are always my favorites.  They were a cute couple.  That said, Total Defiance should have won the Battle of the Bands and if Tony Manero had been there, he would have handed the trophy to them at the end of the contest.

 

Retro Television Reviews: California Dreams 3.2 “Follow Your Dreams” and 3.3 “Budget Cuts”


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 is all about aptitude tests and radio stations!

Episode 3.2 “Follow Your Dreams”

(Dir by Patrick Maloney, originally aired on September 17th, 1994)

The school guidance counselor (Christopher Hewett) gives everyone an aptitude test.  Mark discovers that he should be a guidance counselor.  Tiffani discovers she should be a vet.  Tony discovers that he should be a musician.  (Way to go, Tony!)  Lorena’s ideal career choice is fashion designer.  The same is true of Sly, largely because he copied off of Lorena’s test.  Jake, meanwhile, is told he should go into arranging flowers.

This comes at a bad time for Jake.  He’s been suffering from writer’s block and, when the test says that he has no artistic skills, he considers giving up music.  Fortunately, he changes his mind.  The Dreams already lost Matt, I doubt they could survive losing Jake.

Meanwhile, Sly briefly becomes Lorena’s boyfriend but that only lasts a day before she discovers that he copied her test.  She humiliates Sly by forcing him to dress up like a caveman for a school presentation.  (Sly actually looks good as a caveman so it doesn’t quite work.)  Fear not.  Sly and Lorena will eventually get a second chance in another season or two.

This was a good episode.  Tony turning into a pretentious beatboxer was especially amusing.

Episode 3.3 “Budget Cuts”

(Dir by Patrick Maloney, originally aired on September 24th, 1994)

What was the deal with Peter Engel-produced shows and school radio stations?

Saved By The Bell had a school radio station that was used to help save the Max.  City Guys had a radio station that became a major part of the show after Chris and Jamal abandoned work on the video yearbook.  Did Hang Time have a school radio station?  It honestly would not shock me if they did.

Anyway, California Dreams also has a school radio station and Sly has been named the general manager.  Of course, all of the Dreams get programs of their own.  Mark becomes a drama critic and upsets Tony by ridiculing his performance as Hamlet.  Sam gets a job running an advice show and tells people to go see Mrs. Doubtfire.  Jake gets a show called “Shut Up and Listen!”  And Lorena does a show about fashion.  (“Combats boots are hot but wearing them with tube socks is not.”)

The radio station is a huge success for everyone but Jake.  As Sly points out, people don’t want to be told to shut up and listen.  When Jake refuses to change his format, Sly fires him.  The audience gasps.  One scene later, Principal Blumford (played by character actor Earl Boen), enters the radio station and announces that the school board has decided to cut funding for the radio station!

I’m sure you can guess what happens next.  Lorena, Tiffani, and Sam want to start a petition to save the station.  Jake ridicules them for not being “real rebels” so Lorena proves him wrong by locking herself in the radio station and broadcasting without authorization.  Jake is so impressed that he not only makes out with Lorena (on the air) but he also attends a school board meeting and successfully argues that the station is important. Jake wears a suit to the meeting.  The audience goes crazy.  The episode ends with him and Lorena declaring their love for each other while everyone else celebrates the fact that the radio station has been saved.

This is actually my second time to review this episode.  The first time I reviewed it, I think I was a little bit dismissive but I better appreciated it this time.  Some of that’s because I’ve been watching One World, a show in which the cast had absolutely no chemistry.  After watching something like One World or some of the lesser episodes of City Guys, it’s easier to see just how well the cast of California Dreams played off of each other.  They’re believable as friends and bandmates and that definitely adds something to the show, regardless of how broad some of the humor may be.

The highlight of this episode?  Lorena calling Jake “fake Fonzi.”  What made it work was that Jake responded by saying, “Heeeey.”  A close second would be Principal Blumford announcing, “I’ll be back,” which was a nice shoutout to Earl Boen’s role in The Terminator franchise.

Next week …. more music!

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….

*Sigh*

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!