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.