Retro Television Reviews: California Dreams 5.14 “The Fashion Man” and 5.15 “The Last Gig”

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 is it.  This is the last gig  This is the end of California Dreams.

But first….

Episode 5.14 “The Fashion Man”

(Dir by Kevin Sullivan, originally aired on December 7th, 1996)

This episode opens with the Dreams performing at Lorena’s loft, except there’s something off.  Everyone looks a year or two younger than they did in the previous episode.  Sam is singing that old “Hey Baby” song that we haven’t heard since season 3.  Sly is hitting on the girls at the Loft, despite the fact that he and Lorena were a couple the last time we saw them.  Later, in the episode, Sam will go crazy over a model named Samson and Tony won’t even raise an eyebrow.  And, of course, all of the Dreams are still going to high school despite the fact that we saw them graduate a few episodes earlier.

Yes, this is yet another case of NBC showing episodes out-of-order.  In this case, The Fashion Man was filmed for the third season but, for whatever reason, it wasn’t aired until the end of the fifth season.  The Fashion Man is silly and a bit derivative of Saved By The Bell and it feels very much like a third season episode.  It would be a totally acceptable third season episode but seeing it at the end of the fifth season only serves to remind viewers of how much better most of the fifth season episodes were from the episodes that were made for earlier seasons.

Anyway, in this episode, Sly and the Dreams get conned by a fake modeling agency.  The rest of the Dreams figure out that it’s all a scheme but Sly is so desperate that he gives the head of the agency five hundred dollars and ends up with a bunch of useless photographs as the only thing to show for the cost.

Poor Sly!  Eventually he does figure things out but only after he spends an additional $250 to cover a fashion show at Sharky’s.  The Dreams sabotage the show.  They say that they’re doing it to help out Sly but I think they mostly just enjoy humiliating the poor dope.  This episode is okay but a bit cartoonish.  Let’s move on to …. THE LAST GIG!

Episode 5.15 “The Last Gig”

(Dir by Patrick Maloney, originally aired on December 14th, 1996)

Wipe away those tears.  The Dreams are playing their last gig.

This is it.  This is the final episode of California Dreams.  Everyone has graduated from high school.  Everyone is making plans for the future.  Many will be going away to college.  But Jake is determined to keep the band together.  And there’s one last gig on the pier to play!

And wouldn’t you know it …. there’s a producer in the audience!  He wants to sign Jake but Jake insists that the producer sign the entire band.  The band, though, tells Jake that they are ready to move on and that this is his dream.  Even though the producer eventually agrees to sign the entire band, the rest of the Dreams turn down the contract so that they can go off to college and start their lives.  With the band’s encouragement, Jake eventually signs.

For the record:

Tiffani went to the University of Hawaii.

Sam moves to England to study physics at Oxford.  She and Tony amicably break up.  They lasted the longest of any couple on this show and it was interesting to watch their relationship develop.

Mark goes to Julliard to study music and specifically states that he will never have time to return to California.  So, I guess he managed to take care of all that community service that he got for nearly killing Tara Reid in the Graduation episode.

Lorena and Sly go to Pacific University together.

And Jake, presumably, goes on to become your grandparent’s favorite rock star.

You know who isn’t mentioned?  Matt Garrison, the founder of the band!  Oh well.  Hopefully, things worked out well for him and Jenny, wherever they are.

Consider just how dismissive I was of this show when I started writing these reviews, I have to say that no one is more surprised than I am about how genuinely touched and moved I was by the final episode.  Both the show and its cast really came into their own during the fifth season and it was hard not to feel a bit emotional as they said their final goodbyes to each other.  The show ended on a mature and realistic note.  Nothing lasts forever, to quote Hang Time‘s Coach Fuller.

Well, that’s it for California Dreams.   Next week, a new show will be reviewed in this slot.  But I’ll never forget surf dudes with attitude….


I’m going to miss this stupid show.

Retro Television Reviews: California Dreams 5.12 “Graduation” and 5.13 “A Band Divided”

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 graduate!

Episode 5.12 “Graduation”

(Dir by Don Barnhart, originally aired on November 22nd, 1996)

Graduation approaches and Mark is freaking out because he’s never had the courage to ask out Sarah (Tara Reid …. yes, that Tara Reid).  When he finally works up the courage to ask her if she might want to go out with him, she says maybe and asks what he has in mind.

“Well, the school’s hosting a clean-and-sober graduation party….” Mark starts.

“I want beer!” Sarah replies.

And you know what?  Mark’s a nice guy but that invitation seriously was kind of dorky.  I don’t even drink and I would have totally rolled my eyes in high school if anyone had invited me to “a clean-and-sober graduation party.”

Sarah’s reaction should have been enough to let Mark know that they wouldn’t make a good couple but poor Mark.  Over the course of three seasons, he has yet to have a real girlfriend.  He’s desperate!  He invites Sarah to the graduation party that he’s decided to throw at Lorena’s loft.  And he’s also decided that there will be beer at the party!  This despite the fact that Mark and the Dreams have just attended a school assembly where Principal Blumford (Earl Boen) warned against the dangers of teenage drinking.  Someone is definitely not mature enough to leave high school yet!

And Mark’s proves that he’s not mature enough by getting drunk at the party, trying to drive to the beach with Sarah, and crashing into a ditch.  Mark gets arrested, loses his license for a year, and — as he explains at graduation — he’ll have to do community service, attends alcohol classes, and pay a fine.  Sarah ends up in the hospital and misses graduation.  Mark explains that she has two broken ribs, a punctured lung, and a concussion.  HOW DEEP WAS THAT DITCH!?  At the ceremony, Principal Blumford announces that “to say I’m disappointed in some of you for what happened last night would be an understatement….”  Dude, everyone knows you’re talking about Mark.  Way to make him feel bad at his own high school graduation!  Sam forgoes giving her valedictorian speech so that Mark can take to the stage and apologize.  Way to make graduation awkward for everyone!

Oh well.  At least graduation works out for everyone else.  Jake and Tiffani make a model castle so that they can pass their history class and avoid summer school.

Anyway, this was a depressing episode but I support any show that tries to keep people from drinking and driving.  Plus, the Dreams finally graduated!  Yay!

Episode 5.13 “A Band Divided”

(Dir by Don Barnhart, originally aired on November 30th, 1996)

Again, yay!  This episode opens with the He’s So Funky song!

Unfortunately, the song is so great that it proves to be too powerful for the band’s amp, which explodes on stage.  It’s going to cost the Dreams a thousand dollars to get a new amp.  Lorena offers to loan them the money, in return for the band making her co-manager with her boyfriend Sly.  Sly is actually okay with the idea.  “A lot of great couple have worked together,” he says, “Sonny and Cher …. Bonnie and Clyde….”

Sly and Lorena’s first task is to convince the head of the School Dance committee to hire the  Dreams to play at the next school dance and….


Once again, when it came to maintaining continuity by showing the episodes in the proper order, NBC just didn’t care.

Anyway, to the surprise of no one, Lorena and Sly struggle to figure out how to work together and soon, the Dreams have absolutely no gigs!  Jake tells them a story about two brothers who both became king and who had to learn how to rule together.  This leads to a lengthy fantasy sequence in which everyone gets to wear Renaissance Faire costumes that cause the studio audience to go crazy with each entrance.  Unfortunately, the story doesn’t do much good because, rather than learning to compromise, Sly and Lorena demand that the Dreams pick only one of them to be the manager.

To me, Lorena is the obvious choice because she has the best hair.  Mark says that he can’t choose because “Sly and Lorena are both our friends.”  Uhmm, Mark …. Sly is also your cousin.  (This is one of those facts that the show often seemed to forget about.)  Tiffani suggests that they let some old surfer dude make the selection.  It’s kind of amazing that the Dreams have stayed together as long as they have because none of them appear to be that smart.

Anyway, the old surfer names Lorena as manager and then says that, since he did her a favor, she should do him a favor and have the Dreams play his party for free.  Lorena says that’s not a fair arrangement and then Sly jumps up and says it’s not a fair arrangement and the old surfer explains that it was all a trick to make them realize how much they loved the band and he rules that they should both be co-managers.  I’m glad that worked out!

This was a silly episode but I enjoyed it.  Sly and Lorena are a fun couple and there was a funny B-plot in which Jake tried to rewire Lorena’s house in order to make the new amp work.  Jay Anthony Franke was always at his best when the show gave him a chance to balance Jake’s innate coolness with Jake’s general incompetence.

Next week, we have the final two episodes!  I’m going to miss the Dreams.

Retro Television Reviews: California Dreams 5.10 “Babewatch” and 5.11 “Love Letters”

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, Sam gets cast on the world’s number one TV show and Lorena and Sly finally get together!

Episode 5.10 “Babewatch”

(Dir by Patrick Maloney, originally aired on November 9th, 1996)

Babewatch has come to Pacific Coast High School!

Babewatch, we’re told, is the world’s most popular television show.  It’s all about attractive people running on the beach and defusing bombs.  Hmmmmm, I wonder what show this is based on.  All of the Dreams are really excited about the prospect of being on the show!  Mark, Sly, and Lorena get lessons from Tiffani on how to be believable as surfers.  Meanwhile, Tony performs “Next Big Thing” (a.k.a. He’s So Funky!) for the Babewatch producers, hoping that they’ll give him a role on the episode.  However, the producers are far more impressed with Sam.  I guess they really liked the way she shouted, “He’s so funky!” during the song.

Tony freaks out over the prospect of Sam having to kiss the star of the show but he needn’t worry.  Sam rejects the TV star’s advances and says that she loves only Tony.  Personally, I’m not sure if she made the right choice.  Tony is a nice guy but he’s just a drummer in a garage band that has an out-of-date sound.  This other guy is the star of Babewatch!

This was a pretty standard episode, one that felt a bit more like a Saved By The Bell story than an episode of California Dreams.  But any episode that features “He’s so funky!” is worth watching and rewatching.

Episode 5.11 “Love Letters”

(Dir by Don Barnhart, originally aired on November 16th, 1996)

Graduation is approaching and the Dreams are thinking about the things that they regret having never done.  (They’re only 17.  Just wait until they hit 30!)

Sam and Tony regret that they didn’t enter a dance marathon.

Mark regrets that he never stood up to the coach that’s always making him run extra laps.

Tiffani regrets being rude to a boy who wouldn’t stop asking her out.

Jake regrets not playing the bagpipes.

Lorena regrets …. nothing.  Good for her!

And Sly regrets never telling Lorena how he feels about her.

So, they all decide to do something about those regrets.  Jake learns to play the bagpipes.  Tiffani apologizes to her former admirer and quickly comes to regret it as he goes out of his way to remind her of why she was rude in the first place.  Sam and Tony dance everywhere and look adorable while doing it.  And Sly starts sending Lorena unsigned love notes.  Lorena falls in love with her secret admirer but Sly worries that she’ll still hate him even if he reveals the truth.

However, when another guy tells Lorena that he’s the one who sent the notes, Sly realizes he has to tell her the truth.  Unfortunately, Lorena doesn’t believe him.  However, when the other guy can’t think of anything impressive to say about Jake’s bagpipe performance, Lorena realizes that Sly was telling the truth.  The episode ends with them sharing their first kiss and the audience going wild.  Yay!

This episode is great, largely because it’s the one where Sly and Lorena finally realize that they belong together.  They may both be greedy and self-centered but they do love one another and care about their friends.  They’re as perfect a match as Sam and Tony.  I have no regrets about loving this episode.

Retro Television Reviews: California Dreams 5.8 “Letters From Woo” and 5.9 “Senior Prom”

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!

It’s prom time at PCHS!  But first….

Episode 5.8 “Letters From Woo”

(Dir by Don Barnhart, originally aired on October 25, 1996)

The band is supposed to practice but Sam says it will have to wait because she’s making a “video letter” for her uncle back in Hong Kong.  She and the members of the Dreams discuss all of the wacky adventures that they’ve had and …. oh, it’s a clip show!

I’ll never forget that time I said, “Let’s move on….”

Episode 5.9 “Senior Prom”

(Dir by Patrick Maloney, originally aired on November 2nd, 1996)

Poor Mark!

Seriously, Mark Winkle was the nicest member of the California Dreams and yet he always seemed to be the one who ended up getting screwed over.  Consider what happens in this episode:

PCHS has prom fever!  Tony & Sam and Jake & Tiffani are running for Prom King and Queen but Mark is more concerned about getting a date with Erica.  He’s had a crush on Erica since forever but he’s too shy to talk to her.  When he finally does work up the courage to ask her, she says yes.  Yay!  But, on the day of the prom, she dumps him and tells him that she’s going to the prom with her ex-boyfriend, Dave.

Unfortunately, his friends can’t be there for him because they’re competing like crazy to be named King and Queen.  Lorena and Sly don’t help matters by making a bet on who is going to win.  Lorena supports Jake and Tiffani because she thinks that they have more class than Sam and Tony.  Sly supports Sam and Tony because he thinks they have more of a populist appeal than Jake and Tiffani.  Mark, poor dateless Mark, is trapped in the middle.

(Myself, I’m just wondering how a biker and a surfer would have less populist appeal than a wealthy exchange student.  For that matter, since when have Jake and Tiffani had any class at all?  One of the reasons why Lorena and Jake broke up was because Jake was way too crude for Lorena’s tastes.)

To make matters even worse, Sly has booked the Dreams to play a prom at a junior high on the same day as the high school prom.  Everyone tells Sly that it’s a terrible idea but then again, everyone could also use the money.  Unfortunately, the gig is a bust because one the amps blows up on stage.  Then, while the Dreams are trying to get back for their own prom, their van breaks down in the middle of nowhere!  As the Dreams try to flag down a ride, word comes over the radio that the PCHS Prom King and Queen are …. ERICA AND HER DATE, DAVE!

The leads to even more fighting until Mark yells at everyone for being selfish and makes them see the errors of their way.  The Dreams, now reunited in love and friendship, have their own prom on the side of the road.  Sly dances with Lorena.  Tony dances with Sam.  Jake dances with Tiff.  And Mark …. well, he gets to play guitar.  Mark may have saved the band but he still has to spend the prom alone.  POOR MARK!

Seriously, there was a lot I liked about this episode.  The cast’s chemistry was on fire.  Everyone looked good in their prom outfits.  But, at the end of the episode, you couldn’t help but feel that Mark really got screwed over.

Next week, Sam is cast on a show called Babewatch!  I wonder what that’s based on….

Retro Television Reviews: California Dreams 5.6 “Reel Teens” and 5.7 “Father Knows Bets”

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, we finally meet Sly’s father!

Episode 5.6 “Reel Teens”

(Dir by Patrick Maloney, originally aired on October 12th, 1996)

Reel Teens, a reality show, follows around Jake and the California Dreams for a week and reports on how they handle stress.  Since this episode is from the 90s, the entire episode is shot in the style of the Real World, with skewed camera angles, colorful title cards, and random use of black-and-white.  Though Jake assures the viewing audience that “Jake Sommers doesn’t do stress,” it turns out that he actually has a lot of stress.  Jake has to fix Tiffani’s car.  He has to write a song by Friday.  He has to turn in his term paper and, for his home economics class, he has to sew a wedding dress.

I enjoyed this episode.  It was actually a pretty clever satire of 90s-style reality television.  Plus. Jake’s wedding dress was actually really nice.  Good for him!

Episode 5.7 “Father Knows Bets”

(Dir by Patrick Maloney, originally aired on October 19th, 1996)

After five seasons, we finally get to meet Sly’s father!  To be honest, I was expecting him to be some sort of greasy, used car salesman type of guy.  I was thinking of maybe the TNBC version of Frank Reynolds from It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia.  Instead, it turns out that he’s a high-powered businessman who had apparently never been a part of Sly’s life.  In fact, his father is so neglectful that all of Sly’s bad and obnoxious behavior suddenly makes perfect sense.

However, in this episode, Sly finally goes too far when he develops a gambling addiction.  Sly wins his first few bets and then he loses big.  And, since Sly made the mistake of putting the band’s equipment up as a collateral, the Dreams lose big too.  Sly sells his car in order to pay back the band but, by this point, Jake has already called Sly’s father and told him what’s going on.  Sly and his father finally have a heart-to-heart talk outside of Sharky’s and you know what?  It’s actually extremely touching.  By the end of this show, Michael Cade had developed into a very good actor and he proves it in this episode.

Meanwhile, all of the school is wondering who will be given the Himalaya Award, which honors the most unique student.  Tony is on the committee and he whispers to everyone that the winner will be Jake.  However, it turns out that the winner is Tony and the rest of the committee lied to him because they knew Tony couldn’t keep a secret.  “I can keep a secret!” Tony says, in front of all the people who he previously told Jake was going to win.

Hey, it made me laugh!

This was a good episode.  if you need proof of just how much better California Dreams was than the other Peter Engel-produced sitcoms of the 90s, compare this episode to the Saved By The Bell episode were Zack Morris talked to his Dad or the City Guys episode where Chris found out his parents were getting divorced.

Coming up next week, a clip show and a senior prom!

Retro Television Reviews: California Dreams 5.4 “Mop n’ Pop” and 5.5 “Diss Honored”

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, Jake’s Dad gets a job and Sam wins an election!

Episode 5.4 “Mop n’ Pop”

(Dir by Patrick Maloney, originally aired on September 28th, 1996)

With graduation approaching and everyone feeling restless, the senior class of PCHS have all gotten caught up in the newest game, Ba-Boominator!  Basically, it’s a game of elimination, where everyone carries a phallic-looking Ba-Boom gun and they shoot silly string at one another.  The goal is to be the last one untouched by the milky, white string that spurts out of the end of the gun.

Needless to say, it’s a rather messy game.  Fortunately, the school has a new janitor who is very understanding and doesn’t have any problem cleaning up after the students.  Unfortunately, that janitor also happens to be Jake’s Dad.  Jake’s Dad was an airplane mechanic but, after getting laid off from his job, he had to take whatever he could find and he ended up as a janitor.  Jake is not particularly happy about it.

His friends are supportive about it, except for Sly who makes one too many janitor jokes and ends up getting punched in the face by Jake.  Sly ends up with a black eyes and Jack’s Dad ends up quitting his job because he realizes how much it embarrasses Jake.  At first, Jake is happy but after Sly yells at Jake and tells him that he should be happy just to have a father who cares about him (which is something Sly does not have), Jake realizes that he’s been a jerk.

This episode was a bit of a change-of-pace, if just because it featured Jake learning a lesson as opposed to teaching one.  It was also another strong fifth season episode, highlighting just how much the cast had grown as actors over the course of the show.

Finally, the Ba-Boominator competition is won by Sam and Tony, who both decide that their love is more important than winning any game.  Awwwwww!

Episode 5.5 “Diss Honored”

(Dir by Patrick Maloney, originally aired on October 5th, 1996)

Samantha has been elected President of the Honors Society!  Everyone’s totally excited, even though Sly says that it’s a stupid office that nobody really cares about.  In this case, I tend to agree with Sly but, apparently, it really is a big deal in the world of California Dreams.  Suddenly, Sam has a lot of extra responsibilities and she can’t spend as much time with Tony.  Tony fears that he’s going to lose her!  To be honest, if their relationship can’t survive Sam holding a ceremonial post for a few months, maybe there are bigger issues at play.

Tony decides that he has to do get into the Honors Society so he cheats on his midterm.  Unfortunately, Sam’s rival and the former president of the Society, Harvey, figures out what Tony did and publicly challenges him to some sort of weird Honors Society duel.  At first, Tony lies but then he comes clean and all of his friends act like a bunch of jerks and shun him.

(Because, seriously, no one in the entire history of the world has ever cheated on a high school midterm, right?)

The main highlight of this episode was Tony being haunted by two spirits, an evil spirit that looked like Sly and a good spirit that looked like Tiff.  It was a bit silly but William James Jones, Michael Cade, and Kelly Packard really threw themselves into their roles.  In particular, this episode probably features Jones’s best work on California Dreams.

And feat not!  Tony comes clean to Sam and everything works out in the end.

Next week: Jake appears on a reality show and we finally meet Sly’s father!

Retro Television Reviews: California Dreams 5.2 “Shaken, Rattled, and Rolled” and 5.3 “Honest Sly”

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 finally experience an earthquake!

Episode 5.2 “Shaken, Rattled, and Rolled”

(Dir by Patrick Maloney, originally aired on September 14th, 1996)

Sly has just discovered that radio executive Joey DeParna’s legendary thick head of hair is actually a wig and he’s blackmailing Joey into giving the Dreams an audition!  The only problem is that, due to a recent earthquake, Tony is suffering from PTSD and can’t even play the drums without having a flashback!  Mark suggests recreating the earthquake so that Tony can conquer his fears but, when the Dreams start shoving Tony’s drum kit back and forth, Tony panics and runs straight into a wall.  It looks like Tony’s going to have to live with his aunt and uncle in Ohio.  Fortunately, right as Tony is getting ready to say goodbye to his friends, another earthquake hits and Tony gets in a doorway.  When he realizes that the second earthquake didn’t kill him, Tony conquers his fears and decides to stay in California.  I don’t know.  I think two earthquakes in one week would be enough to make me leave but then again, I like Ohio.  Actually, we do have earthquakes in Texas but it’s rare that we ever actually notice them.  California, on the other hand, is probably going to plunge into the ocean and float away in another year or two.

I’m a little bit surprised that it took five seasons for a show called California Dreams to feature an earthquake.  I was also surprised that this was apparently Tony’s first earthquake, even though he grew up in California.  The scenes where Tony freaked out and flashed back to the quake were actually a lot better done than you would expect from a Saturday morning kids show.  I could understand Tony’s fear!  That said, the highlight of this episode was not the earthquake but instead a B-plot in which Tiffani got a job at an animal shelter and, while the shelter was closed for a week, all of the Dreams (except for Lorena) got to take care of an animal.  Tony’s beagle was adorable!

Episode 5.3 “Honest Sly”

(Dir by Patrick Maloney, originally aired on September 21, 1996)

Sly has a new job!  He’s working for Gem Diamond (Gary Beach) and selling used cars!  Sharp-eyed viewers will recognize Gem Diamond as being the same guy who sold Zack Morris a cheap class ring on Saved By The Bell.  As such, you can probably guess what type of cars Gem has on his used car lot.  Sly, of course, doesn’t have any problem selling crappy used cars for too much money.  Or, at least, he doesn’t until Sam buys a car and it crashes because the brakes were bad.  Struck with guilt, Sly goes on live TV and reveals that Gem sold Sam a defective car.  Gem gives Sam back her money and is so impressed with Sly’s sneakiness that he offers to go into business with him.  Sly, however, has had it with selling used cars.

Meanwhile, Lorena pretends to be Mark’s girlfriend so that Mark will develop the confidence necessary to ask out another girl.  Being Lorena’s fake boyfriend means doing stuff like shining her boots.  (I need to get a new pair of boots myself.)  The other girl is so impressed that she asks Mark to wash her car and do her French homework.  Seriously, this show’s writers could never decide just how much of a loser Mark actually was.  He was always either dating an Olympian or having an anxiety attack.

Usually, Lorena is the character to whom I most relate on this show but, during this episode, I related to Sam because everyone kept giving her such a hard time about being a bad driver.  Much like me, Sam wasn’t a bad driver as much as she was just someone who found it difficult to focus while the person sitting beside her kept yelling, “LOOK OUT!”

This was a good episode.  Gary Beach was genuinely funny as Gem Diamond.  For continuity watchers, there’s a moment in the episode where Jake mentions the time that Sly got conned by a fake modeling school.  The modeling school episode didn’t actually air until 4 months later.  We’ll get to that episode in another few weeks.

Coming up next week: Jake’s father is hired by the school and Tony cheats on a test!

Retro Television Reviews: California Dreams 4.15 “Dancing Isn’t Everything” and 5.1 “Stand By Your Man”

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 season ends and another begins.

Episode 4.15 “Dancing Isn’t Everything”

(Dir by Don Barnhart, originally aired on April 6th, 1996)

The fourth season of California Dreams comes to a close with one of its best episodes and a personal favorite of mine, Dancing Isn’t Everything.  In fact, I already reviewed this episode a few years ago.

Rewatching it, I was pleased to discover that I still continue to enjoy the episode.  Determined to prove the she’s more than just the band’s groupie, Lorena enters Sharky’s dance contest.  Unfortunately, a series of events conspire against her and she’s forced to dance with the very unrhythmic Sly.  Fortunately, Lorena learns about the importance of friendship and, even more importantly, this episode sets up the foundation for what will become Lorena and Sly’s romance during Season 5.

There are more than a few memorable moments from this episode, from Lorena coldly dismissing all of her potential dance partners to Sly breaking out his spastic dance moves whenever the judges aren’t looking.  My favorite moment is Sly reading the subtitles and discovering what Lorena actually said to him.  (If you watch carefully, you can see Kelly Packard breaking character and laughing in the background.)  This was also the first episode to feature Tony and Sam performing Next Big Thing.  “He’s so funky!”

This episode is California Dreams at its best and it brings the fourth season to worthy close.

Episode 5.1 “Stand By Your Man”

(Dir by Patrick Maloney, originally aired on September 7th, 1996)

The fifth and final season of California Dreams was the best of the show’s history.  It not only gave the show a proper send-off but it also gave all of the members of the cast to show how much they had grown as actors since the show began.  By the end of the fifth and final season of the show, the cast had proven themselves to be the type of tight and talented ensemble that could wring laughs and tears from even the most predictable of situations.

You wouldn’t necessarily know that from watching the first episode of the fifth season, though.  In this episode, Jake needs money to fix his motorcycle and takes a job that requires him to dress up like a pirate for the local seafood restaurant.  When he tires of his friends laughing at his costume, Jake gets another job at a local garage.  The pay is good and Jake does like working on cars and motorcycles.  However, his boss is an attractive woman named Mel.  (I have a sister named Melissa who we call Mel.  Hi, Mely!)  Tiffani gets jealous and, for some reason, she decides that it would be a good idea for her, Sam, and Lorena to put on fake beards and pretend to be old bikers so they can hang out around the garage.  (*Sigh*  Wacky disguises were a staple on these shows and they never cease to be annoying.)  This leads to them knocking over a motorcycle and Jake getting fired.  Jake is furious with Tiffany, not because he lost his job but because she didn’t trust him.  Tiffani apologizes and Jake forgives her.  He then gets his old pirate job back.  Arrrrgh!

Meanwhile, Sly and Tony try to catch Mark doing something stupid so they can win a video contest.  However, it turns out that Mark is actually filming them for the same contest.  Ha ha.

You may be under the impression that this episode was not a favorite of mine and you’re right.  It’s not.  It’s just too silly and cartoonish, particularly when compared to some of the other season 5 episodes.  This is the first episode of the final season and it’s hard not to feel that there should have been a bit more to it than just wacky disguises and a pirate joke.

Oh well!  Things will get better next week, as we move further into the final season of California Dreams.

Retro Television Reviews: California Dreams 4.13 “We’ll Always Have Aspen” and 4.14 “Lorena’s Place”

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 California Dreams are in Aspen!  Wait …. what?

Episode 4.13 “We’ll Always Have Aspen”

(Dir by Miguel Higuera, originally aired on January 6th, 1996)

This episode opens with the California Dreams in Aspen, Colorado, hanging out at the Costa Ski Lodge.  Why are they there?  They’re there because this episode was originally meant to air during season 3, after the episode where the Dreams went to the ski lodge and convinced Lorena’s father not to kick that old crank out of his isolated cabin.  Why did NBC hold off on showing this episode for so long?  I’m not sure but it certainly does lead to some odd continuity errors.  For instance, Tony announces that he’s “hunting ski bunnies.”  Obviously, this was meant to air before Tony and Sam became a couple.  Lorena and Jake are also dating in this episode.

This episode is also one of the rare ones to focus on Mark.  Mark is shocked to discover that his ex-girlfriend, Jenny (Catherine Nagan), is staying at the lodge.  As he explains it, he and Jenny were once totally in love but then Jenny left him so that she could train to be on the U.S. Olympic skiing team.  At first, Mark refuses to speak to Jenny but then Jenny explains that leaving him was the biggest mistake of her life and that she is tired of skiing.  Mark and Jenny spend the day together and Mark realizes that Jenny actually does love skiing too much to give it up.  So, Mark gets dumped again but this time, he was the one who suggested that Jenny should break up with him so I guess he feels better about the only member of the Dream to never have a romantic partner for longer than one episode.

In the B-plot, Lorena’s father leaves Lorena in charge while he goes off to do …. well, I’m not sure why he left.  But him leaving means that Lorena is in charge of the big winter festival.  Why would her father leave Lorena, who is a teenager, in charge of the Lodge’s biggest event?  I’m starting to suspect that he is just not a very good businessman.  Anyway, all of this leads to Jake having to wear a silly costume and Sly taking part in a yodeling contest.  That was kind of funny.

This wasn’t a bad episode and it was nice to see Lorena and Jake back together but …. eh.  The California Dreams belong the beach.  They’re surfers not skiers.

Episode 4.14 “Lorena’s Place”

(Dir by Don Barnhart, originally aired on March 30th, 1996)

The first thing that I noticed about the 14th episode of the fourth season of California Dreams is that it aired over two months after the 13th episode, which itself was an episode that had been filmed for the 3rd season.  I don’t know what exactly was going on behind the scenes at NBC but it appears that the network decided to end season 4 by burning off a few old episodes that, for whatever reason, didn’t air when they were originally supposed to.

(Of course, Saved By The Bell did the same thing.  The episode where Screech is made hall monitor was filmed for the first season but, oddly, didn’t air until after the show’s Graduation episode.)

This episode finds the Dreams back in California.  Eager to date a pretentious douchebag named Alan, Lorena turns her loft into a coffeehouse and hosts a poetry reading.  Lorena also reads Alan a poem that her father wrote for her mother but which Lorena claims that she wrote for Alan.  Alan is so impressed that he memorizes the poem.  Then, after Lorena tells him the truth, he destroys the poem.

Oh no!

Not to worry.  The Dreams hold another coffeehouse reading.  Alan, for some reason, comes to that one as well and recites the poem.  Sam records his words and recreate the poem for Lorena’s parents.  So, not only is the poem saved but Lorena gets a new boyfriend!  But Alan kind of sucks so hopefully, he’ll never show up again.

This episode was very 90s but it was a Lorena episode and, since Lorena is the character to whom I most relate, I enjoyed it.

Next week: Season 4 comes to an end!

Retro Television Reviews: California Dreams 4.11 “Heal the Bay” and 4.12 “Woo-oops”

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, continuity goes to Hell with the California Dreams!

Episode 4.11 “Heal the Bay”

(Dir by Patrick Maloney, originally aired on December 2nd, 1995)

This episode opens with all the Dreams hanging out at Sharky’s, getting ready to head to the beach.  Tiffani blows a conch shell to let all the surfers know that the tide is up.  Mark says that he’s bringing his guitar to the beach so he can practice getting girls.  Jake and Lorena discuss what they’re taking to the beach.  Not surprisingly, Lorena is planning on taking a lot more than Jake while Jake is going to keep things simple….

Wait!  Jake and Lorena are going the beach together?  And they’re flirting?  Didn’t they break up at the start of the season?  Yes, they did!  But NBC was notorious for showing the episodes of their Saturday morning sitcoms out of order.  As a result, shows like California Dreams, Hang Time, City Guys, and One World were notorious for their continuity errors.  Of course, as I watched this episode, it didn’t really matter to me because I like Jake and Lorena as a couple and I think they were way too quick to break up.  Even though the episode wrecked havoc with the show’s continuity, it was still nice to Jake and Lorena flirting again….

However, I was less amused when Tony started to hit on a girl who wasn’t Sam.  I mean, Tony and Sam have been dating forever!  This episode was obviously meant to air way back at the start of the third season, even before Jake and Lorena hooked up in Budget Cuts.  If it hard aired when intended, it would have set the foundation for Jake and Lorena eventually getting together.  And, looking back, Jake and Lorena’s relationship did seem like it kind of came out of nowhere.

As for the rest of this episode, it featured Tony turning into crazed environmentalist after the beach is closed due to pollution.  He gets on everyone’s nerves so the Dreams show him the error of his ways by ruining his date with a girl who is not Sam.  It turns out that the entire date involves doing or wearing or eating something that was harmful for the environment.  Having realized that being an insane environmentalist means never getting laid, Tony apologizes.  Good for him!  The Dreams then perform at a concert to raise money to “heal the bay.”  They do it for free.  Poor Sly.

I liked the episode because insane environmentalists are annoying and Lorena and Jake were a cute couple.  I just wish it had aired when it was supposed to.  Let’s find out if the next episode is any less of a continuity nightmare.

Episode 4.12 “Woo-oops”

(Dir by Patrick Maloney, originally aired on December 30th, 1995)

Samantha’s father entrusts her with a credit card!  Yay!  Samantha spends a thousand dollars in one day!  Oh no!  Now, Sam has to work multiple jobs to raise the money to pay off the card or her father is going to make her return to Hong Kong!

If this sounds familiar, it’s because Saved By The Bell did an episode where Lisa Turtle spent too much with her credit card.  Hang Time also had a credit card episode.  It was a big topic as far as Peter Engel-produced shows were concerned.  In this case, Sam fails to raise all of the money but she does raise roughly half of it so her father agrees to let her stay in the U.S, as long as she keeps working to pay him back.  That’s a good thing, seeing as how the Dreams didn’t really have anyone who could have replaced her in the band.

As far as continuity is concerned, Jake and Tiffani are a couple in this episode.  In fact, there’s a nicely done B-plot where Jake had to find a replacement for a valuable doll that he accidentally destroyed after Tiffani tells him that she’s found a buyer for it.  And, of course, Sam and Tony are a couple, just as they should be.  Everyone learns an important lesson about spending money, i.e., spend as much as you want and then wait for someone to help you pay it all off.  Sounds good to me!

Next week, we return to Lorena’s father’s ski lodge!