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Series / American Dreams

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Top row: J.J., Jack, Beth, Helen, Henry, and Sam; Middle row: Roxanne, Meg, and Will; Bottom: Patty

A Family Drama series which ran on NBC from 2002 to 2005 before getting cancelled due to low ratings. Regrettably, it was Cut Short in the middle of a Story Arc. The first of its three seasons was released on DVD in 2004.

Set in Philadelphia during The '60s, the series follows the Catholic Pryor family. Major characters included:

The show is perhaps best remembered for its Stunt Casting gimmick of using the American Bandstand portion of the show to have a 2000s celebrity singer dress up like a 1960s celebrity singer and sing their Signature Song. Throughout the series, they had Brandy singing "Heard It Through The Grapevine" as Gladys Knight, Charlotte Martin singing "Downtown" as Petula Clark, Fefe Dobson singing "River Deep - Mountain High" as Tina Turner, Hilary Duff singing "Leader of the Pack" as Mary Weiss, and Kelly Clarkson as Brenda Lee twice singing "Rock Around The Christmas Tree" and "Sweet Nuthin's". And those are just some of the ones that are easy to find on YouTube — towards the end, they did this pretty much Once per Episode.

Not to be confused with the film American Dreamz or the comic-book series of the same name.

This series provides examples of:

  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: At least Meg does, as evidenced by her relationship with Chris Pierce in the third season.
  • American Title
  • Anachronism Stew: While vaguely advancing from 1963 to 1966 over its three seasons, the show tended to mix-and-match elements from different points in the decade. The biggest part of this may have been the acts themselves: getting appearance dates ludicrously wrong, or even putting acts on Bandstand that never appeared on the show.
  • The Artifact:
    • The American Bandstand portions. Oddly, they had a ready excuse to drop them - Bandstand moved from Philly to L.A. in the mid-60s. Instead, Meg moves to L.A. during the last season. However, given that one of the executive producers was Mr. American Bandstand himself, Dick Clark, losing that part of the show was never going to happen.
    • Giving us the Once per Episode ritual of seeing a '60s hit performed on Bandstand, either in Stock Footage or by the '00s-singer-of-the-week-playing-the-'60s-singer-of-the-week. Throughout this, we get cutaway shots of Meg and Roxanne in the audience, where they can easily hold a conversation over the music. Funnily enough, no one else in the audience ever tries to hold a conversation. Optional are accompanying scenes with the other main characters elsewhere, possibly with the musical-act-of-the-week playing on a TV in the background. A scene of this description nearly always — if not always — took place shortly after the opening credits.
  • Betty and Veronica: Meg and Roxanne follow this trope so well Luke actually Lampshades it in an early episode.
  • Catholic School Girls Rule: Averted as basically all teenage females on the show were Catholic schoolgirls by default.
  • Cut Short: The series was cancelled on a cliffhanger at the end of its third season.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Being set in the early sixties, the show plays with this trope extensively. While it contains a certain amount of nostalgia, there were pains taken to give characters realistic attitudes in regards to things like race, sexuality and war. There was also a fair amount of care taken to avoid Strawmen (although there were some arguable examples) and people's attitudes and actions were often conflicting. Pete Pryor was shown to be casually racist in his dealings as a cop but also seemed to genuinely respect Henry, his brother's black friend. Jack Pryor might have somewhat archaic views on women but allows his wife to work and offers to help his daughter attend college despite his initial misgivings. Even borderline Marty Stu JJ objects to his sister's budding inter-racial relationship.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Of the "non-joke, non-sexual" variety. A show that begins with a shocking national tragedy, and eventually sees the characters become in involved in a controversial war. It debuted while September 11, 2001 was still a fresh memory and aired during the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
  • Draft Dodging: Helen uses her travel agent job to help at least one boy escape to Canada and it was also implied she helped others. Had the show continued, she would have been arrested for her trouble. The show also had dealt previously with Nathan a Nation of Islam follower choosing to serve jail time rather than violate his pacifist beliefs.
  • Family Drama: Arguably half the reason the show failed was because NBC insisting it was a Teen Drama.
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Meg is the Pretty Sister and Patty is the Smart Sister.
  • Grammar Correction Gag: Patty's response to going on American Bandstand and seeing The Rolling Stones perform "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction"? Correcting their song's grammar... on air.
  • Happily Married: Jack and Helen.
  • Market-Based Title: In Australia, the first season aired as Our Generation (it later reverted to the original title).
  • Naïve Everygirl: Meg Pryor, though some might argue she became a complete idiot in the third season.
  • Nothing but Hits: Of course.
  • Previously on…: Running Sundays from 8-9 PM, it would run a mid-episode recap, presumably for people just changing over from The Simpsons.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: Meg's uncle Pete is a cop, and bronze-colored Philadelphia police cars feature prominently. Real Philly cop cars in the early/mid '60s were red but the producers apparently felt this would look too much like fire department cars.
  • Retraux: The show's '60s-styled theme song "Generation", sung by Emerson Hart.
  • School Uniforms are the New Black: Everyone occasionally, Will especially.
  • The Spock: Patty Pryor.
  • Spock Speak: Patty constantly talks in a monotone.
  • Stock Footage: Oh, the show loved this trope. One expects they made Jack run a TV store just so they could show as much vintage TV footage as possible. Not to mention the opening title sequence was full of it.
  • Shotgun Wedding: It's revealed in one episode that Jack and Helen got married because she was pregnant.
  • Toxic Friend Influence: Roxanne sometimes borders on this in her friendship with Meg. Occasionally subverted — although she was normally the "good girl", Meg was quite capable of doing dumb and/or rebellious things all on her own.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: An epilogue set in 1969 — three years after the last season — was filmed after the show was canceled. NBC didn't feel like airing it. It was finally shown in public to attendees at a reunion panel for the series (featuring much of the cast and crew) at the ATX Television Festival on June 9, 2013. The crowd was also shown the ultimately unsuccessful sizzle reel series creator Jonathan Prince had put together to try and get NBC to pick up the series for a fourth season.
  • Young Future Famous People: We see an audition from a teenage, unknown Linda Ronstadt.


Video Example(s):


"American Dreams" Intro

The show opens with a song about the 1960s generation and some archive footage.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (1 votes)

Example of:

Main / The60s

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