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Series / California Dreams

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Top: Seasons 1 and 2 cast. Bottom: Seasons 3-5 cast

Part of NBC's TNBC programming block in the 90's, California Dreams was another Peter Engel "sitcom for teens" much like his most popular creation Saved by the Bell. Starting out as a fairly formulaic sitcom for the first season, it eventually became more like Engel's previous hit with the focus shifting to the teens and their lives.

This series provide examples of:

  • Abhorrent Admirer:
    • What Sly Winkle was to Jenny.
    • Mark picked one up in one episode in a grungy rival band manager. Of course she and Sly make a bet, but Sly weasels out of promising her a date with Mark.
  • Achievements in Ignorance: In one episode, Sly and Tony get a television gig through sheer dumb luck. Their TV show, "Goo-Goo Ga-Moo Guys", which was initially nothing more than a school project for television class, actually got picked up and was aired by television executives in spite of having no coherent premise at all. But after fighting in front of the cameras, it got cancelled.
  • All-Cheering All the Time: One episode had three cheerleaders bid on a dating auction this way. As a Running Gag, they reappear a few more times in the episode; cheering whenever they speak to or interact with anybody.
  • Alpha Couple: Two, actually: Jake and Tiffany and Tony and Sam.
  • Appeal to Familial Wisdom: The premise of the song "Mama Said".
  • Bad Job, Worse Uniform: The uniform Jake wears at the start of the episode "Stand By Your Man" for his job at a seafood restaurant involves a pirate uniform complete with parrot. This is the job Jake returns to after taking a job at a motorcycle shop results in his being Mistaken for Cheating.
  • Battle of the Bands: At least once a season. Never a doubt that the Dreams win every time.
  • Beta Couple: Sly and Lorena, since they got together in the last few episodes of the series after a season beforehand of Unresolved Sexual Tension and his unrequited crush on her.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Tiffani who can be threatening enough to impress Jake.
  • Big Eater: Jake
  • Big Brother Mentor: Matt
  • Bilingual Bonus: Mainly with Lorena periodically speaking Spanish, and less often Sam periodically speaking Chinese.
  • Broken Pedestal: In one episode, Jake gets a chance to meet his singing idol, whose career was in trouble. The two apparently get close and they even collaborate on a song, which ends up rejuvenating said career. How does the idol repay Jake? By claiming it as his own. Even after Jake goes to his press conference in denial that his idol would do that, he flat-out tells him that he did and there was nothing he could do. Knowing he is right and being the bigger man, Jake leaves the conference, leaving him with his reclaimed glory.
  • California University: Where Sly and Lorena end up attending.
  • Catchphrase: Sly's "Ba-boom!" is this.
    Jake: "Jake Sommers doesn't do X."
    Sly: "I'm not X, It's just that Y."
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome:
    • In real life, whenever the cast reunites (such as on the DVD or on Jimmy Fallon), the actors who played Mark and Lorena are never shown or even mentioned. Even though they appeared in more episodes than the actors who played Matt and Jenny.
    • In the first season, Matt and Jenny's younger brother, Dennis, appears as a regular. However, he is never seen or mentioned again after the first season, even Jenny's sendoff episode.
  • Citizenship Marriage: A variation occurs in the Season 4 episode "My Valentine" when Tony proposes to Sam because he's scared of losing her once they graduated and Sam had to go back to Hong Kong. The others eventually talk them out of it.
  • Compressed Vice:
    • Tiffani's one-episode steroid addiction... Wait, does this sound familiar? If you guessed it, yep: Jessie Spano of Saved by the Bell also had a one-episode (and an infamous one, at that) drug addiction - caffeine pills, to be exact. Both characters were under so much pressure to succeed that they took quite some desperate measures; and later in the episode, they would have a major meltdown. The differences being that for the former it was sports-related, while for the latter it was academic-related... and the addiction was quite G-rated in comparison. Not to mention, Kelly Packard's (Tiffani) acting here wasn't nearly as over-the-top and hammy as Elizabeth Berkley's, ironically.
    • Mark has one too, namely in the episode, "The Graduation", which saw him driving while drunk after having a few too many drinks during a pre-graduation party at Lorena's where he tried to impress a girl named Sarah. Consequently, he gets into an accident in which Sarah gets hospitalized for. Cue in My God, What Have I Done?!
    • Jake becomes a smoker, fights addiction, and quits in the course of one episode.
  • Credit Card Plot: The primary plot of the episode "Woo-ops" deals with Sam, who risks being sent home to Hong Kong by her father when she gets too many excessive purchases from the credit card her father gives her with the explicit instruction that it's reserved for emergency uses only, needing to look for ways to raise money to pay her father back, with assistance from her peers.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Each band member has flashes of this, but the most prolific in that department are Jenny and Jake.
  • Death Glare: Jake tends to do this to someone who annoys him enough, with Sly and Mark being his most frequent targets.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Lorena, who became less snooty and pretentious and more compassionate and loving especially to Sly as time went on.
  • Demoted to Extra: Before being Put on a Bus (see below) the Garrison family, except for Matt and Jenny, had this happen to them between the first and second seasons.
  • Disabled Hottie: One Girl of the Week. Very Special Episode topic was the focal character's discomfort with his date's disability, and getting over it. Saved by the Bell had a similar episode but with a different angle.
  • Distinction Without a Difference: A running joke with Sly, who tends to insist he didn't do whatever he was just accused of or isn't whatever he was accused of being - he just did/is the exact definition of that word.
  • Downer Ending: The anti-smoking episode "Harley and The Marlboro Man" had a double-whammy. It ends with Jake finding out that his uncle is dying of lung cancer. When the episode ends, a title card appears informing the audience that 24 people died from smoking in the amount of time it took to watch the episode.
  • Dream Sequence: Quite a few, usually done for laughs like Mark imagining Jake's reaction to his quickly kissing Lorena.
    • Tony has one of the beach in environmental trouble which drives him to go overboard trying to "fix" things.
    • More dramatically, after hiding he's descended from slaves, Tony dreams of meeting his ancestor, who chides him on how he should be proud, not ashamed, of how far the family has come.
    • The series finale has Jake offered a record contract but reluctant to take it as he wants the entire band to make it. He dreams of ten years in the future, everyone else has moved on to highly successful lives but Jake (still dressed the same, just older and fatter) has wasted his life trying to "get our big break." It makes Jake realize the rest of the gang have different paths in life and accepts the deal.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty:
    • A cooking class teacher acts like this. In a later episode, she becomes the vice principal.
    • Tiffani was this too in one episode where she was made student principal for a week. And how...
  • Drop-In Character: Sly could be this at times during the early seasons (when the series was focused primarily on the Garrison family).
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Originally the show was half family sitcom and half teen sitcom. There were only four members in the band and most episodes would feature a music video of the band. Every attempt to set the show apart from Saved by the Bell was eventually fazed out after a couple of seasons.
  • Edgy Backwards Chair-Sitting: Jake did it sometimes.
  • Embarrassing Middle Name: Sly's name is Sylvester Leslie Winkle.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Sly may be snobbish and money-grubbing, but as shown in the Season 1 episode "Guess Who's Coming To Brunch" he is as outraged by racism as are his friends.
  • Famous Ancestor: In "Family Tree", Lorena discovers that she is descended from Benito Juárez, who served as President of Mexico from 1858 to 1872, after researching her family tree for a school project. None of her classmates are impressed as they have no idea who Juárez is.
  • The Fellowship Has Ended: The Grand Finale, where Jake is the only one of the lot to stay behind when everyone else goes their own way. When he is offered a recording deal, he does, too.
  • Five(ish) Man Band
    • The Hero and Team Dad: Matt
    • The Lancer: Jenny and Jake
    • The Heart: Tiffani
    • The Big Guy: Tony
    • The Smart One: Sam
    • The Sixth Ranger: Mark
      • Jake and Sam do technically count as this since they were newcomers earlier in Season 2. But since Mark is a latecomer, this seems more fitting for him. Lorena, too, could count as this when she made her debut, along with Mark, at the start of season 3, but she is not a member of the band. Moreover, this has more to do with how Mark joined the gang — thus, he fits the description well if you think about it (and if you watched the first episode of season 3) because he is a Wild Card example. Or rather, a milder version of the Wild Card trope, to say the least. Specifically, he did start of as a bit of a loner who was very shy; and at first, he was very reluctant to join the band because their longtime manager was Sly, whom he had not forgiven (at least not until the end of the episode) for ruining his piano recital when they were small kids.
    • The Team Benefactor: Sly and Lorena. They provide resources for the band, and Sly is their manager.
  • Flanderization: Mark was originally introduced as a clean cut Richie Cunningham-type (much like Matt). However, as time went on, his naiveté was flanderized to the point that he became a something of an airhead.
  • Friendship Song: Season 4 has a pair of examples such as "To the End" and "Stand Together".
  • Fun with Acronyms: Sly and Lorena ended up going to Pacific University, or P.U.
  • Fun with Subtitles: On the episode "Dancing Isn't Everything," Maria tells Sly, "Ah, yo no te besaria ni con los labios de mi perro.", with subtitles reading "I wouldn't kiss you with my dog's lips," although she tells him it means, "We'll kiss after we win. It'll be sweeter in victory." Later on the episode, Sly asks her about the sentence, with the subtitles coming up again, and she says, "I meant every word of it," and points to the subtitles, with Sly reading them and saying, "'I wouldn't kiss you with my...' Oh man."
  • Gasshole: Tiffani is seen belching loudly on several occasions.
  • Good Angel, Bad Angel: In the episode, "Diss-Honoured", Tony struggles with his conscience because he cheated on a trigonometry test just so he can join Sam in the Honour Society since he was afraid of losing her after she was made the president of the club; he becomes even more paranoid of losing her when an extremely jealous member of the club, who covets Sam's presidential role, threatens to expose him in an effort to oust Sam. His shoulder angel, as it appeared in his own mind, was Tiffani. His shoulder devil (again from his personal POV), and get this, was none other than Slyyeeaahh, because NO ONE totally saw THAT one coming...
  • Headphones Equal Isolation: During the episode "The Graduation", Principal Blumford takes up the role of the disc jockey at the Sharkey's. When Lorena compliments Blumford's taste in music as being "up to date", Blumford responds that he listens to his preferred songs of choice (e.g. Y.M.C.A.) in his headphone instead of whatever he plays for the students.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Sly and Tony.
  • High-School Dance: The Junior Prom episode as the season 2 finale, and the Senior Prom episode close to the end of season 5.
  • Historical Character's Fictional Relative: In "Family Tree", Lorena mentions that she is related to Saved by the Bell star Mario Lopez.
  • Hollywood Tone-Deaf: Lorena. The ep where she attempts to join the band (and only kept on thanks to Jake) is called "Yoko Oh No!"
  • Homage: Jake's daydream has him playing a bongo drum to Lorena, while Tony and Sam (as his married landlords) listen at a close distance, and the sequence is called "I Love Lorena". Now why does this seem familiar?
  • Hypocrite: In second season episode "You Can't Buy Love", Sly calls Julie a 'superficial snob'...
  • Hypocritical Humor: Sam tends to be the focus of this trope, often calling other band members out for the same things she's doing.
  • Large Ham: Sly, of course. Tony also has his moments.
  • Limited Social Circle
  • Lovable Rogue: That would have to be Sly. Most of the time, he's known for being slimy, obnoxious, and money-hungry; but, he has his moments where we can actually sympathize with him and where he has shown that he actually does care about his friends more than he lets on. Also, when he begins a relationship with Lorena, he actually becomes less obnoxious and, surprisingly, a little more charming than before.
  • Love Redeems: Subverted with Sly and Lorena: neither was evil of course, but both of them became much nicer after they fell in love with each other. While he was much more affectionate and humble, she stopped being a spoiled and vain brat and both were considerably less obsessed with money and status.
  • Maligned Mixed Marriage: Not even a marriage, but a relationship in the first season episode "Guess Who's Coming To Brunch" between Black man Tony and White woman Kimberly upsets her father.
  • Mistaken for Cheating: Jake gets hit with this at least twice; with both instancesnote  involving jobs he had to take on (one involving a gift for the 2-month anniversary of when Jake and Tiffani first began dating; the other involved paying for insurance for Jake's motorcycle). In both cases, the name of the person turns out to be Jake's boss; who happens to have a Gender-Blender Namenote  and the reason for Tiffani's mistaken belief is due to overhearing a completely different conversation.
  • Model Scam: The episode "The Fashion Man" features this very prominently, with all the characters tricked to varying degrees, but most of all Sly.
  • Motor Mouth: Sam starts out as this to combat her own insecurity toward life in a foreign land. She drops it eventually.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Every guy on California Dreams counted as this, but Sly was the arguably strongest example (especially whenever he was shirtless.)
  • Official Couple: Jake and Tiffani (being the most popular pairing in the show), Sam and Tony, and Sly and Lorena. The first 2 pairs listed are examples of inter-band dating. And just before getting back together and giving their relationship a second go, Jake and Tiffani were exes working together for a while.
  • Once More, with Volume!: This happens when Jake reacts in shock to his father telling him that he's the new school janitor early in the episode "Mop N' Pop".
    Jake: What?
    Mark: [loudly] HE SAID HE'S THE NEW JANITOR!
    Jake: [stares at Mark with an annoyed Death Glare] I heard him.
  • Parental Neglect: Sly virtually has no relationship with his father, who spends much more time in the office than he does with his son. Not only that, but his father literally ignores him and makes no effort. But then... we see the episode, "Father Knows Bets".
  • The Prom Plot: One episode has couples Jake and Tiffani and Tony and Samantha vying for the race of prom king and queen.
  • Put on a Bus: The entire Garrison family, though not all at the same time.
  • Recap Episode: Two, actually.
    • Season 4 episode 9, "Defending Sly's Life". A dream-sequence (or was it?) episode where the gang puts Sly on trial for being the most selfish and greedy person in the world. Tony was his defense lawyer, Tiffani was the prosecutor, Jake was the judge, Sam was the court-recording monitor, and Mark and Lorena were the bailiffs; and the gang were also the witnesses. The episode uses a series of flashbacks of previous episodes and seasons (including the ones with the Garrisons).
    • And in season 5 episode 8, we had "Letters from Woo" which had the gang talking in front of the camera about their memories together as friends so that Sam can send a video to her uncle in China.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Tiffani and Jenny, respectively.
  • Retool: The first two seasons were centered on the Garrison family, who moved from Iowa to California, and the show was more of a family sitcom similar to Full House and Family Matters. Both NBC and viewers hated this format, so they started phasing it out during the second season, and by the third season, the show transitioned into more of a teen sitcom similar to Saved by the Bell, with a focus on celebrating the diversity of California.
  • Revolving Door Band: The only original members left in the California Dreams, until the end, were Tiffani Smith and Tony Wicks as the band saw a gradual change throughout 5 seasons. Sly does not count because he is the band manager — even though, yes, the character did remain on the show for all seasons since the beginning.
    • It started with Jake Sommers joining the band in Season 2 episode 1. Then, in the 3rd episode of Season 2, Jenny would leave for Italy and gets replaced by Sam Woo in the next episode. And by the time the 3rd Season began, Matt had left and he gets replaced by Mark Winkle (Sly's cousin). So, in other words, this is the ever-evolving lineup of the show's band:
      • Original lineup: Matt (guitar/keyboards), Jenny (keyboards), Tiffani (bass), Tony (drums/percussion)
      • Second lineup: Matt, Jenny, Tiffani, Tony, Jake (guitar)
      • Third lineup: Matt, Tiffani, Tony, Jake, Sam (keyboards)
      • Fourth and final lineup: Tiffani, Tony, Jake, Sam, Mark (keyboards/piano/guitar)
    • And though he was not the only one singing in the band, Matt was the Face Of The Band for a while. That gradually changed starting Season 2.
    • Of course, the revolving door of band members came as a result of a Revolving Door Casting which, again, was gradual and not drastic.
  • Right Behind Me: Tiffani once talks loudly of Matt's most recent break-up to Jenny, unaware of Matt being right behind her and Jenny's more subtle hints until Jenny makes a more obvious one. By the time Tiffani realizes, it's already too late and Jenny isn't happy about Tiffany's obliviousness: "What did you think I was doing — scratch my neck?"
  • Romantic False Lead: Namely the pairing of Jake and Jenny, Jake and Lorena, and the pairing of Sly and Allison (who is blind).
  • Sensitive Guy and Jerkass: Cousins Mark and Sly, respectively. It was even lampshaded by their principal in the episode, "Principal Tiffani", when he referred to them as "Winkle-Good and Winkle-Bad" on the PA system, while calling them and some of the gang down to the office. And episodes before that, the gang was actually quite surprised to see the differences between the two cousins when they first met Mark because earlier, before meeting him, they had hilariously nightmarish images running through their heads of who he might be since Sly recommended him as a replacement for Matt AND mentioned that he was his cousin.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: The B-plot of "Operation Tony" involves Lorena trying to get hooked up with a handsome male doctor she sees at the hospital Tiffani volunteers. She volunteers in the hospital and dedicates to her duties so much that said doctor notices her... only to find out at the end of the episode, to her chagrin, that he's opposed to dating any girl from work. She quits her post, but by then he has already left, leaving her back at square one.
  • Shout-Out: The Season 3 episode "Winkle Wicks' World" feature two that double as Parental Bonus (and possibly Grandparental Bonus). First, the teacher in the cast members' television class is named Mr. Berle note  The other is that the name of the woman who hires the Dreams for a gig where they basically play elevator music is named Mrs. DuMontnote 
  • Sibling Team: Before being put on a bus, Matt and Jenny Garrison were this in the band.
  • Stock Sitcom Grand Finale: "The Last Gig" has Jake realizing the rest of the band have different dreams so accepts a solo music contract. The band then get together for one last performance before going their separate ways.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Mark (Aaron Jackson) is this to Matt (Brent Gore) after the latter left the show.
  • Take a Third Option: A guy Jenny and Tiffany both fall for simultaneously has two concert tickets and offers one of the girls to go with him, causing the jealousy-driven tension between the two girls to intensify. In the end, a decision is made: The girls take the tickets and go with each other instead, leaving the guy wondering what just happened.
  • Talk Show Appearance: One episode has the members of The Dreams making their own talk shows for public access television as a part of a school project. The most popular of the shows are Sly and Tony's show, The Goo-Goo-Ga-Moo Guys, a Wayne's World-inspired series. While they gain a larger audience and potential to go even further, their combined egos destroys the show and momentarily wrecks their friendship.
  • The Patient Has Left the Building: Tony in "Operation Tony". After injuring his shoulder at Sharkey's, Tony faced surgery to repair it and fear got the better of him, causing him to split. After being found hiding out at Lorena's place, he is ultimately convinced to go back by Sly (who accidentally caused his injury):
    Sly: "Tony, don't be an idiot. You have to have that surgery."
    Tony: "Hey, you watch who you're calling an idiot, alright, 'cause I could sue you."
    Sly: "I know and I don't care. I'd rather be sued by you and lose all my money than have my best friend end up crippled for the rest of his life.
  • Third-Person Person: Lorena has a habit of doing this on occasion.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: The gang's relationship with Sly.
  • Vocal Tag Team
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Sly was this when he was making rather mean-spirited and unnecessary jokes about Jake's father, who had to take job as a garbage man to support his family. Also, in another episode, when Mark goes around pulling jerkassery practical jokes on everyone, including Tony, who become the butt of them. Very Out of Character moments for both cousins.
  • A Wild Rapper Appears!: Tony fills this role on occasion in songs such as "One World" and "I'm There".
  • Wild Teen Party: Considering that the show eventually became a teen-oriented sitcom, this was bound to happen. And so it did — more than once.