Shout! Factory // 1992 // 690 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Cynthia Boris (Retired) // March 31st, 2009
Your Favorite California Teen Band Rocks On!
What do you get if you mix The Partridge Family with Saved by the Bell? You get horrendous hairdos, hideous outfits, and a musical number at the end of every episode -- in other words, you get California Dreams, the Saturday morning sitcom aimed at the coveted tween crowd of the early 1990's.
Life's a beach for Matt Garrison (Brent Gore). This high school student is getting by with the help of his friends, his family, and his band, California Dreams. His sister Jenny (Heidi Lenhart, Beverly Hills, 90210) plays keyboard, her friend Tiffani (Kelly Packard, Baywatch) handles the bass, while Fresh Prince wannabe Tony (William James Jones, USA High) wails on the drums.
But if a band wants to make it big in this business, they need a good manager. Unfortunately, California Dreams only has Sly (Michael Cade), a pandering screw-ball with dreams of being a Hollywood agent.
In the second season, sister Jenny hits the road and is replaced by exchange student Samantha Woo (Jennie Kwan, The Last Airbender) and Jake Sommers (Jay Anthony Franke) joins the band as a second guitarist.
Each week the gang is faced with a typical teen problem, which they handle with a great deal of humor, hijinks, and of course, a song!
Surf dudes with attitudes (Kinda groovy)...
California Dreams opens with sherbet-colored graphics depicting fun and sun on a California beach. Take a good look, because that's about the only time you'll see the beach in this teenage sitcom. Most of the time, the kids of the show hang out at Sharkey's, a burger joint that we can assume is near the beach since people walk in wearing bathing suits and carrying surfboards.
Sharkey's is the place where Matt and his friends meet to hash out their latest high school crisis, and it's also where they take the stage to sing about friendship and non-sexual love. Imagine The Archies channeling Duran Duran. Actually, that sums up not only the music but the show itself.
First, California Dreams is your typical teen sitcom like Saved by the Bell and even The Brady Bunch. The plot twists are all ones you've seen before. The band gets a big gig that coincides with the family vacation. The teens pretend they're something they are not in order to impress a love interest. Boy gets a secret job in order to buy his girl a great gift but she thinks he's cheating on her. There are a few attempts to deliver a serious message with storylines about prejudice, drugs, and being a responsible adult but mostly, this show is all about the fluff.
Which brings me to the humor. I suppose it's no worse than what you currently see on Nickelodeon and Disney shows such as The Suite Life of Zack and Cody and I Carly. There's plenty of eye-rolling, pulling faces, the obvious word-play jokes and physical humor with an aggressive laugh track that will let you know if you missed something that was supposed to be funny. But, I could live with all of that if it weren't for look.
What the heck were we thinking allowing boys to dress like that? Pink check baggy pants, brightly colored vest, shirts with the sleeves cut off, lime green, purple! This has to be the worst era for fashion ever. And don't get me started on the haircuts. To be fair, the girls' clothes are pretty awful too, but on them, it doesn't look quite so bad.
Part of the reason the clothes are so offending is because Shout Factory did such a good job putting this set together. The video is sharp and clear as is the audio, so you'll hear every word of those pop tunes they sing on the show whether you want to or not! Shout Factory also does a very nice job of incorporating the vivid colors of the show into the box art and the navigation screens.
This set contains 31 half-hour episodes, which make up both the first and second season. It also includes a video jukebox feature, which allows you to watch only the musical numbers from each episode. The only other special feature is a 15-minute cast reunion between Brent Gore, Kelly Packard, Michael Cade and Jennie Kwan. If you're a fan of the show, you'll enjoy this look back at what went into the making of the series. It's interesting to note that all four of the actors look pretty much the same except now they all dress much better.
If you can get past the clothes and the hair, and the dumb jokes, California Dreams is a cute, light sitcom that is safe to watch with kids of all ages. And let's face it, there aren't many shows you can say that about.
If you're a fan of this show from the initial run, it's worth buying for the nostalgic buzz. The episodes are clean and clear and it has that Shout Factory attention to detail that I always appreciate. If you're a parent of a tween girl, this is a show you can enjoy together, once she gets over laughing at the way boys dressed in the early '90s.
This court finds California Dreams: Seasons 1 & 2 guilty.
Review content copyright © 2009 Cynthia Boris; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 690 Minutes
Release Year: 1992
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Cast Reunion
* Video Jukebox
* California Dreams Fan Site
* Clip: Cast Reunion
* Clip: Family Breakfast
* Clip: Boys in Drag