Season 4, Episode 7: “Secret Admirer”

We open in computer class, where we learn we have to endure a subplot about Mark once again trying to get rid of his cursed virginity by writing a girl named Molly a love poem. Unfortunately for him, he’s Mark and nothing good will eve happen to him, so Sly comes in and deletes his stupid little poem so he doesn’t have to worry his little head about it.

In walks another girl named Lynn, and we immediately learn that overweight people don’t have feelings as Sly starts making random cracks about her weight. Yeah, they should have aired this episode before last week’s trial so they could execute Sly. Lynn gives Molly an invitation to her sweet sixteen party and randomly starts talking about how her dad is giving her $2,000 to find a great band, and Sly immediately gets the idea to get he to hire the band.

The rest of the band are skeptical, and Tiffani gives us a bit of backstory about how Sly’s been making fun of Lynn for her weight since first grade because he’s just always been a little shit. They say they’d love the gig, but she’s never going to hire them because Sly sucks ass and they wonder why they even hang out with him with Matt long gone. Sly vows, though, that he will be as much of a shit as it takes to get her to hire them.

Of course, this does nothing for our timeline since we know the band are supposed to graduate in a few episodes. So, if Lynn has been one of their classmates since first grade, how is she just turning sixteen? Yeah, none of this makes any sense, as par the course for the Engel-verse.

Oh, and it doesn’t help that the actress playing Lynn can’t act to save her life and it appears she was only cast because she’s overweight. Yeah, she has no other acting credits.

In the hallway, Mark’s written another love poem for Molly, but being that he’s Mark and he sucks, he’s too shy to give it to her since he still has memories of failing as a man in front of Fergie. Sly tells him not to worry and promises to give the poem to Molly while praising Mark for such amazing lines like, “But in a world where love can feel so plastic,/I have found you and you’re fantastic.” Yeah, this is another case of the writers not understanding what makes good poetry, but I hate Mark so I’ll just blame it on him as another excuse to say Mark sucks.

Sly wastes no time getting the poem into Lynn’s hands and pretends to like her, saying he’s changed and not a shithead anymore, begging he to give him a chance. She tells him to fuck off, and the band come up to judge him for being an asshole, but he won’t be dissuaded.

At Sharkey’s, Mark comes in, having written yet another poem for Molly because Sly told him he lost it. If it has as great lines as the previous one, she’s in for a treat. Mark won’t let Sly deliver it, though, and, instead, pays an idiot waiter a nickel to deliver it to the pretty girl over there.

Of course, Lorena walks through the door right as Mark gives the waiter instructions, so he gives it to her. After she bribes him to tell her who her secret admirer is, she feels icky, thinking the writers have decided to repeat the subplot about Mark liking her and unsure how to die quickly enough to avoid it.

Meanwhile, Sly dances on a table to attract Lynn to him, and she finally agrees to a date that night to get him to shut the hell up and quit embarrassing her.

That night, they end up at Sharkey’s because of course they are. She says after dinner, a movie, and dancing she’s almost convinced he really likes her.

And she makes out with him so the audience has an excuse to lose their shit, given that they’ve never been touched themselves. The band looks on as well, and I think they’re just as culpable in this given they know Sly’s being a shit to Lynn but they don’t warn her.

Mark makes a comment about love poems being written for your one true love, freaking Lorena the hell out and making her seriously wonder if the writers are going to ship her with the biggest loser to ever appear on the show.

Now we get into the wacky misunderstandings of the subplot as Lorena passes Jake the poem, asking him to read it and tell her what he thinks because Lorena apparently possesses zero common sense to realize how a comment like that could be taken. Jake now thinks Lorena still likes him, and quickly waves the poem in her face really fast to distract her because that’s not suspicious at all.

The band play a new competition, and Lynn says they’re pretty good, despite that not being their best song ever. He convinces her to hire them for her party…

…and then twirls Sly on the dance floor in the finest tradition of Rhonda Rubestelli.

At school the next day, Tiffani finds the poem and thinks Jake wrote it for her. She tries to show it off to Lorena, but Jake stops her. The teacher thinks he’s passing a note and takes it away.

She immediately forgets she has it apparently as she gives it to Tony along with his graded test, so now Tony thinks the teacher likes him and Sam thinks the teacher’s a hussy, because Tony and Sam are still dating in case you forget due to how often their relationship is featured on this show as of late.

In the hallway, Lorena tells Mark to stop pressuring her to make a decision about poems and shit, while Jake tries to tell Lorena to fuck off so they can keep up this charade a few more minutes.

Meanwhile, Sly comes up and is still convinced Lynn has no feelings because she’s fat and shit, and he’s not going to hurt her.

She comes up with matching shirts and says something that makes me think she’s going to commit suicide if Sly ever breaks up with her. I’m pretty sure Lynn needs an intervention, but still no one else tells her the truth because that would be too convenient to the plot.

The next day, the secret admirer subplot comes to a crashing halt as everyone figures out everyone else has seen the poem, and Mark says that’s stupid because he wrote it for Molly, vainly hoping that someone will one day touch him inappropriately. Thus ends yet another stupid subplot on this show, but not before Tiffani tells Jake he owes her a love poem for making her think a stupid one by Mark was for her.

Sly arrives and says that he’s developing his usual end of the episode conscience the writers usually give him to try and make us feel sympathetic for him. See, he had dinner with Lynn’s family last night and she was so excited. So he now feels bad because he’s realized fat people have feelings and everything! Sly decides he has to tell Lynn the truth, even if it means the band not getting the gig. Of course, Lynn comes up behind them and hears everything, running off as she realizes she’s a pawn for a stupid Peter Engel show.

At the loft, Sly finds Jake having trouble writing Tiffani’s poem because it’s not like he writes lyrics all the time that people claim are amazing, so good a famous musician once plagiarized him!

Lynn comes in and breaks up with Sly, telling him they’re going too fast in a real passive-aggressive way and that she’s cancelling her party. She gives Sly the check anyway, and runs out. Sly tells Jake he feel like shit despite the fact he broke up with Lynn and got the money. Jake tells him he should listen to the writing some bad writers are about to put in his mouth and they will guide the way.

At Sharkey’s, Sly apologizes to Lynn for being shit, but Lynn says she blames herself for listening to the bad writing that said he liked her. Sly gives her the check back to prove he’s sincere…

…and brings in all the regulars and extras to throw Lynn a party. On top of that, the band’s still going to play, at Sly’s expense.

Jake’s lost Tiffani’s poem, having asked the stupid waiter to deliver it.

Mark finally asks Molly out, but finds out he’s been cock blocked by the idiot waiter delivering Jake’s poem to Molly, thus ending any chance today would be the day a girl would touch him.

And our episode ends with Sly and Lynn dancing, because apparently three minutes of making up makes all the shittiness of the last twenty minutes okay. You know, I’d be able to believe the moral about overweight people if Peter Engel hadn’t frequently made them the butt of jokes on Saved by the Bell. Really, this is almost as hypocritical as The New Class episode about sexual assault that played sexual assault up for laughs.

Almost.

Songs
“Do Something”
Jake, Mark, Sam, Tiffani, and Tony singing

The way I would describe this song is a very poor man’s version of Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” with a more reggae beat to it. It’s one of those inspirational songs about living up to your potential and shit that I’m sure was inspired by the theme of the episode about fat people being human beings and all. It’s okay, but these type of songs really don’t appeal to me unless they’re done by someone with a good command of their talents, like Michael Jackson, and our band is definitely not that polished.

One thing I will comment on is the fact everyone sings here. Now I would normally be all for Tony and Tiffani getting time to sing, but it serves no purpose here and is, instead, distracting how they change vocalists every few words. I’ve heard of bands making multi-vocalists work: Three Dog Night, 311, and Linkin Park are examples. It doesn’t work here, and further drags down a song I wasn’t terribly interested in to begin with.

“Way We Are”
Mark and Sam singing

The return of an old season two song with Mark replacing Matt on vocals. You might remember this as the acoustic song Matt and Sam sung for Jake and Tiffani after the band was shitty and broke them up. Well, it’s back to provide a sappy ending for this episode, and, no longer acoustic, it sounds like most of their songs. What can I say: a sappy ending to a sappy episode.

Season 4, Episode 6: “Defending Sly’s Life”

We open in a courtroom, with Tony and Tiffani walking in as opposing council.

Jake’s a judge, Sam’s a court reporter, and Lorena and Mark are bailiffs. So who’s the criminal you may ask?

Why, it’s Sly, of course, because who else on this show would have done something that merited being locked away from society? I don’t know. The setup is weak on this episode, I’m still looking for some indication this is a stupid student court episode, or maybe a dream episode since we find out Sly’s charged with being the sleaziest guy on Earth. I couldn’t agree more, but I’m not so sure that’s an actual crime he can be charged with, which is continuing to make me wonder if this entire damned episode is a dream.

So, yeah, Tiffani’s the prosecutor while Tony is the defense attorney, and I’m pretty sure the prosecutor making out with the judge in the courtroom is grounds for a mistrial.

Tiffani calls Lorena to the stand and starts asking her questions about Sly being a jackass. And then we find out what this entire episode is actually about: a cheap framing device for a clip show episode. I have to give it to the producers: at least they held off for four seasons until they actually had enough material for a decent clip show. And the clips they show actually include season one and two episodes so Matt and Jenny are suddenly in existence again. I hate clip show episodes on principal, but at least they aren’t doing like The New Class and having clip shows focusing on a season or less.

After the first set of clips, Tony and Sly realize their case is in trouble.

So Tony calls Mark and Sam to testify, who promptly also remember that Sly is a giant asshole.

This even leads Mark to attempt to kill Sly himself for making him look like a fucking idiot back in the family tree episode. Yes, Mark, kill, kill! That way you can go away afterwards as well!

Tony finally calls himself to the stand, and he remembers that he and Sly were best friends or some shit for an episode.

Tony’s clips make him want to kill Sly as well, and Tony randomly switches over to the prosecution’s side, which I’m pretty sure is grounds for mistrial, but what do I expect out of an episode that’s likely a dream.

So three quarters of the way into the episode, it’s Sly’s turn, and he suddenly starts remembering all the times the writers have tried really hard to make him look like a sympathetic character. For some reason, he even asks Sam about Allison, and I’m not sure why since she didn’t have any more to do with Allison than any other character. Maybe they just didn’t have Jennie Kwan in enough episodes.

Sly gets down on his knees and begs for mercy, and Jake decides the emotionally manipulative clips are enough for him to decide that maybe Sly isn’t the sleaziest person on Earth after all, and he proceeds to go find Chris Brown and prosecute him instead.

And our episode ends with all of our characters gathered around Sly congratulating him on a really stupid clip show episode. Seriously. SERIOUSLY. THAT’S IT?!?! This episode cold not have been more insulting if it tried! I just spent twenty minutes of my life trying to figure out if this was a dream or what, and they’re just going to leave it at that and not explain what any of this was about? Well, in that case, it’s now head cannon that this was an ecstasy hallucination after Sly finally realized what a horrible human being he is! I swear, let’s not ever mention this stupid excuse for an episode again!

I guess it goes without saying there’s no song this episode. That would actually give me something to review other than a really stupid framing device.

Season 4, Episode 5: “Fallen Idol”

We open at Sharkey’s, where Sam’s Uncle Teetee has sent her some fortune cookies from China because, this week, the Engel-verse is not going to bother researching the actual origins of fortune cookies and are going to assume they’re really from China when most agree they were brought over by Japanese immigrants from a nineteenth century tradition in Kyoto. But Japanese, Chinese, it’s all the same, right? In any case, all the band except Tiffani take fortune cookies, and Uncle Teetee’s fortunes are supposed to be stupidly accurate because that’s the cliche we’re going for this week, but Tony’s is empty…

…meaning he’s going to have bad luck most of the episode, starting with a pot on his head. And so we have a really dumb subplot.

Jake’s fortune, to meet his inspiration, almost immediately comes true since they need to get the main plot going, when Zane Walker, one of the greatest rock guitarists ever who inspired Jake to start playing, comes walking in, and Jake makes a fool out of himself by saying his name a lot and making Zane walk out thinking he’s just met an idiot. We get some exposition about how Zane hasn’t had a hit song in years, how he’s in town trying to write a new song, and, if the band could get Zane to hear them, he might be able to help them make it big. Guess what the main plot is this week?

We cut to Zane talking to his manager on the phone about his latest suck-ass song as the manager declares Zane sucks at life.

Sly comes in doing a really racist interpretation of an Indian guru, because casual racism was what this episode was missing thus far. Also, I guess celebrity addresses must have been really easy to get prior to the internet.

He’s soon joined by the rest of the band, but Zane’s not a complete moron, and recognizes Jake as the mumbler from Sharkey’s. He says they didn’t need to spout casual racism to get his attention and agrees to listen to their demo, but Tony’s bad luck makes it spontaneously fall to pieces, so he agrees to go listen to them practice.

At Lorena’s loft, the band serenade Zane with an old unfavorite, and I find it ironic this is the song they picked to highlight given what we’ll soon see the episode is about. Zane finds their song impressive and invites them to a super-duper celebrity party and shit.

We soon find ourselves there, and, I swear, if Johnny Dakota pops out and starts smoking marijuana, I’m done.

Sam’s fortune, to be embarrassed in front of stature, comes true when Tiffani tells her she has spinach in her teeth, and Sly finds some random money lying around, fulfilling his fortune that he would find his one true love, because I’m so glad they’re keeping that C-plot alive.

Meanwhile, Zane toasts the band and makes a really big deal out of them, which seems strange considering what’s to come.

He asks them to sing a song for his manager, and so Jake and Mark sing an acoustic song that may just be the worst song ever on this show. More in a minute. The audience loves it, too, which leads me to believe the producers were holding guns to their heads to get them to cheer.

Zane thinks it’s super-dee-wonderful and just needs a little work first, so he tells Jake to give it some work and then bring it by for him to see.

Lorena’s fortune, that someone from her past would hurt her, comes true when she drops a bust of her grandmother she made as a kid falls on her foot. Tony starts laughing and Mark joins in that other people suck more than him this week, but Sam tells Mark not to get too high and mighty as he still sucks ass. Also, apparently, if you mock bad luck, you’ll get it according to Sam. I haven’t mentioned it up to this point, but Sam keeps using “bú xìng,” the Chinese word for bad luck, which might impress me more that the writers actually researched something if all this weren’t because of stupid American preconceptions about the Chinese.

Jake comes in, having reworked the song (apparently a week went by in between scenes), and the band decide to go by to show the song to Zane.

They arrive to find a cleaning lady who tells them that Zane moved out despite the fact all his stuff is still there and there’s apparently still electricity connected to the apartment since a radio is playing. They puzzle over why Zane’s suddenly left…

…when a tone deaf version of the song Jake played for Zane comes on, leading them to conclude that either this is a Chipmunks remix, or Zane is actually a piece of shit.

Back at Sharkey’s, Jake refuses to believe Zane would rip them off, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding. Mark pulls a quarter out of his mouth because his fortune was to have really good luck, but Tony’s not having good luck as he gets electrocuted trying to fix a sign and lands in some thorn bushes.

Mark laughs hysterically that people in this episode suck worse than him, while Tiffani and Lorena continue assuring him he still sucks. Also, he might get bad luck or some shit.

Jake returns, having made a single phone call that somehow let him know Zane is planning a press conference, and Jake suggests the band crash it, sure that Zane will give them credit there.

At the conference, Mark brings a camera, hoping to get Tony having bad luck on tape so he can send it in to an Engel-verse rip-off of America’s Funniest Home Videos. However, Tony doesn’t trip over some microphone wires as Mark hopes, and, instead, a waiter randomly holding two cakes nearly trips.

When Mark chuckles at the waiter’s misfortune, the guy, named, no joke, “Headcheese,” smashes the cakes into Mark’s head to remind him he will always suck more than anyone else on this show.

With Mark firmly in control of the bad luck for life, Tony rejoices that this stupid subplot is finally over.

Zane comes in and tells Jake the obvious: being talented doesn’t make him a good person, and to fuck off for being so naive.

Zane goes on stage and continues taking credit for the song. Sly tries to convince Jake to sue Zane, but Jake’s all, “I don’t need money” and shit because suing is always about the money and not holding disreputable people responsible for their actions. And the episode just ends with Jake losing a hero. Seriously. No happy lesson. People just suck sometimes. I would applaud the Engel-verse for not making this into a fairy tale ending if not for the fact that I still find it extremely unlikely that Zane, and the general listening public, found that song appealing. In any case, I’m sure Zane had more luck when he went on to continue to make sucky music in the British boy band One Direction.

Of course, the biggest lesson of the episode: even when Mark doesn’t suck, he sucks.

Songs
“Stand Together”
Jake and Mark singing

This is a song from last season making its triumphant return, if by sounding horrible and ripping off lyrics from The Hollies means triumph. Seriously, how did they get away with so blatantly ripping off one of the most famous lines from an iconic song of the seventies? I’m not sure why The Hollies didn’t sue their pants off. Also, Mark sounds particularly off-key this time around, as if they actually let Aaron Jackson sing, and it all just sounds really bad. If this song really made Zane want to rip off the band, he must have really bad taste.

“Too Much to Dream”
Jake singing

“I had too much to dream last night.” Seriously? My god, maybe they ought to go back to ripping off lyrics from seventies rock songs if this is what they come up with on its own. There’s so many cliches in the lyrics of this song that I’m pretty sure it touched every cliche known to humanity. It’s got a decent melody, but the lyrics just do it in for me. I find it impossible to believe that anyone remotely connected to the music industry would find this anything more than insipid and amateur hour at the open mic.

“Too Much to Dream”
Zane Walker singing

Okay, is this episode just trying to break my mind with its horrible music? Good lord, Zane Walker’s singing voice sounds like a dying hyena that took too many downers before having its vocal chords ripped out. Seriously, this guy is supposed to be a musical legend? This guy? I’m beginning to think no one from this show understands music at all, which may turn out to be true.

Season 4, Episode 3: “Principal Tiffani”

We open at PCH with Lorena complaining about mid-terms because, three episodes in, we’re ready for that time jump I guess.

Tiffani’s suddenly mad because people are being god damned loud while she’s trying to study, and, suddenly, no one wants to listen to her because no one ever listened to her except for all those times in the series when other people listened to her. Yeah, it’s a pretty lame set-up for what’s to come, especially since Tiffani is often the voice of reason on ths series.

The class’s teacher comes in, and we seem to go back and forth on whether this is a chemistry class or physics as, throughout the episode, the band seems to be studying both subjects. I wonder if the writers of this show know the difference. In any case, Sam’s the only one who knows what’s going on because we’re playing up Asian stereotypes this week, and the rest of the class are on the verge of failing because they’ve been too busy hanging out in the hallway the rest of the year.

That riveting scene is cut short as Principal Blumford calls the entire cast except for Lorena and Sam into his office. The reason? He wants to announce that, even though she didn’t ask for the position and keeps telling him she doesn’t want it, Principal Blumford is going to force Tiffani to be student principal for the week because plot. It sure is nice to know that when I accidentally skipped this episode last week and had to come back to it, all I missed was yet another standard Saved by the Bell rip-off.

You may be asking why the boys are there as I was through most of this scene. Well, seems that Principal Blumford wanted to lecture them about how awful the thought of an upcoming cut day is and how it will be spankings all around if any of them instigate or participate in it. Apparently these four are the only ones who ever do anything at PCH. Well, except for Mark. We all know Mark never does anything. And so, in one overly-convoluted scene, we have both our plot and subplot set up

In the hallway, the band sans Tiffani beg Sam to tutor them on the chemisicsology midterm, and she agrees after they agree to pay her $20. Meanwhile, no one respects Tiffani’s authority, and this depresses her as she only nicely asks people to do shit.

This triggers a memory of her being kicked out of Girl Scouts after she lost another hiker, and wouldn’t you know it: the patrol leader is Principal Blumford in drag because that’s what I wanted to see today. Yeah, nobody tell the writers that children aren’t in charge of other children in scouts.

In Mr. Belding’s…I mean Principal Blumford’s office, Jake tries to smooch up to Tiffani, but she’s just so darned upset nobody will respect her authority and shit. Jake teaches her to be assertive by yelling commands randomly, and it’s easy to see where this is going.

Back in the hallway, Sly has the idea to hold cut day on the day of the midterm, but everyone tells him that’s idiotic since the teacher would just reschedule the day. Um, no, it’s idiotic because if you get caught being truant, you get a zero, not to mention real cut days don’t see every student skip school. In any case, everyone comes to the right conclusion, that this is idiotic, for the wrong reasons. Plus Jake says they should be nice to Tiffani and shit, which Mark responds that Tiffani won’t get them in trouble because Mark never does anything anyway.

Of course, that’s Tiffani’s cue to wander around the hallway screaming at people through a megaphone about shit that isn’t against the rules, like having a dirty locker, because we’re lead to believe that one conversation with Jake has lead Tiffani to start abusing her authority. She even hires a random Latino extra to translate Lorena calling her a bitch so she can get in trouble.

And, in Principal Blumford’s office, we see Tiffani’s reverted to kindergarten tactics of putting people in the corner for misbehaving, which is actually refreshing to see happen to Sly since he never gets in trouble for anything. Jake tries to give her another talk, but Tiffani is all “GTFO FUCKER!”

In the classroom, Sam actually has a good way of teaching physichemitronomy through some hands-on experiments.

Unfortunately, she conducts one of the experiments not with electricity, but with Ultra-Rogaine, as Tony’s hair suddenly grows into Buckwheat style before our very eyes despite it being too short for that. In any case, all the experiments serve to injure Tony, which makes me think we’re getting a way too TMI window into Tony and Sam’s love-life.

They decide they’re not learning anything and need a cut day, but Tiffani overhears them and tells them that they’re not going to get away with their weekly shenanigans while she’s in charge, and she’s watching them!

She apparently doesn’t watch them too closely and, the next day, every student in school is missing, which must be the most well-participated-in cut day in the history of teenagers. Principal Blumford is at his most principal-like yet here as he gives Tiffani advice on doing what’s right, not what’s popular, and says she’s still principal and in charge of making this right since, you know, every student not showing up for school apparently isn’t enough of a crisis to take back over. She says she knows where she’ll find the band, who have to be the ring-leaders since they, the Spanish-speaking extra, the teacher, and Blumford are the only ones with enough lines this episode to matter.

Yes, where else would they be but playing a gig at Sharkey’s, because apparently they only play music nowadays when it doesn’t make sense to the plot.

And this party is out-of-control as two extras play the Saved by the Bell board game! This party’s hopping!

Tiffani comes in and confronts the band, and they insist they’re not going back as they utter shit from astrophysicology that they claim is the result of cut day, but probably has more with injuring Tony.

Principal Blumford shows up and tries to order everyone back to school because all that shit about Tiffani still being in charge was apparently a crock. Tiffani overrides him, though, telling him this is cram day, not cut day, and then kisses his ass since he’s now back to an incompetent buffoon. Well, being the sage-like character worked for a scene I guess.

Everyone thanks Tiffani and apologizes for being asses to her, and she apologizes for being an ass, and makes everyone quit the gig she wasn’t invited to in order to cram. Oh, who the hell cares. The episode ends with the reset button being pressed, and isn’t that what really matters: that none of this mattered in the grand scheme of the series?

Song
“To the End”
Jake, Mark, and Tony singing

I kind of like the tempo on this one. It sounds like it could have come out of the mid-’90s lighter rock scene, and I like that a song finally features vocals from Tony again (is this the first time since season one?). It’s catchy enough that, if a legitimate band performed it, and the lyrics weren’t gushing about a corny subject like how awesome friendship is, I could actually see this song being a hit. I know: that’s high praise from me for the songs on this show, but I was listening to a very different genre of music in the ’90s, so I feel I’m playing catch-up.

The interesting thing is that, in the absence of Tiffani, Mark’s playing bass, and the band sounds no different than they do any other time. This proves once and for all that the band has one too many members in it. There’s absolutely no reason for Mark to be on this show other than to give an old friend of Steve Tyrell an excuse to sing on national television after his own show was cancelled. Seriously, Mark is dead weight, and I now know the band could get by without his contributions on keyboard.

Season 4, Episode 4: “The Dateless Game”

Note: Yep, I accidentally skipped an episode. I guess it was bound to happen sooner or later. I’ll go back and get it next week. In the meantime, enjoy episode 4!

We open at Sharkey’s where Tiffani and Lorena compare notes about how Jake is in bed. Actually, they’re talking about the massive time jump we’ve undergone in just four episodes, during which three months have passed. The timeline for this series just confuses the fuck out of me. Next week, I fully expect it to be fifty years in the future.

In any case, Jake and Tiffani are about to break their record for longest consecutive amount of time they’ve dated, and both are scared to jinx it so they’re staying as far away from each other as possible since they know hijinks on this show happen on a weekly basis and the producers are likely to throw anything at them. They’re planning on a three month anniversary dinner tomorrow night.

That’s got to take back seat to Dumb and Dumber’s idiocy, though, as Sly and Mark have managed to get booked on a charity version of The Dating Game so they can sexually harass girls in public. Well, Sly will anyway. I’m not sure Mark’s aware how girls work. Since Tony and Jake enjoy seeing the Winkles humiliated, they decide to tag along and watch.

Since nothing is ever pre-planned in the Engel-verse, the four immediately arrive backstage at an all-girls Catholic school, because of course it is. What else would I expect out of the show at this point. While Sly and Mark practically wet themselves over the appearance of so many vaginas who don’t yet know of their flaws…

…Tony wets himself over the appearance of Milt Bradley, who’s apparently a celebrity game show host who serves as Tony’s life-long hero. Seems Tony suddenly has aspirations of being a game show host, a trait that was pulled deeper out of the asses of the writers than Tony’s acting dream last season. Oh, and naming a character after a brand of board games. Original thinking there, guys. You get a gold star because at least you tried!

Tragedy strikes, though, when Milt tells Sly and Mark the game is cancelled for the night since the third contestant cancelled. Since Tony’s busy obsessing that Milt didn’t think he was super cool and shit, Sly convinces Jake to go on instead with the caveat Jake’s going to act really stupid and shit so he won’t win.

So the game at…St. Margaret’s…seriously, guys, this sounds like a nunnery. I keep expecting Whoopi Goldberg to come running out in a habit.

Well, in any case, Milt introduces the girl to the audience, and we get our basic shtick for the scene: Sly’s his usual asshole self, Mark’s a blithering idiot, and Jake tries to act as stupid as possible. This scene, despite being cliche as shit, may be one of the funnier things the show’s done over the last two seasons, so props to them for that. I actually found myself chuckling at Jake trying to act like a moron.

Unfortunately for Jake, a complete moron is still the more preferable choice out of the three, and the girl picks him after revealing she’s an idiot herself and didn’t understand the rules to the game. Seems the weekly Engel-verse hijinks found him after all.

Backstage, Sly blames Jake for still being the most preferable out of the three even when he acts like an idiot, but Jake blames Sly for having no personality that any girl would ever find attractive. Tony reminds Jake that most girls won’t like it if their boyfriend goes out with someone else while Jake thinks they have a trusting relationship. Jake decides he’ll go on the date and not tell Tiffani, but turns out the date with the girl, Teri, is tomorrow night at Sharkey’s. Oh, the hijinks!

Oh, and Milt compliments Tony’s really horrible game show announcer schtick, because we need an excuse for what comes later.

At Lorena’s loft, everyone thinks Tiffani’s dress for the date looks great, but she runs away when Jake comes in and refuses to talk with him. When Lorena and Sam, in no uncertain terms, let him know she’d rip his eyes off if he cancelled, he decides he has to go on both dates without either knowing so the writers can check another cliche off the list.

So Jake and Tiffani show up at Sharkey’s, with Tiffani complaining about going to the stupid restaurant they’re always at. The continuity fairy must be in town, though, because, when Jake tries to make the excuse they first met at Sharkey’s, or they had their first kiss at Sharkey’s, Tiffani suddenly remembers those events happened at school and in Matt’s garage respectively. I’m actually pretty damned impressed these writers remembered shit that happened two seasons ago. Usually in the Engel-verse, I don’t expect continuity within the same episode.

So you can probably guess what the setup of this scene is: Jake keeps running between tables on the opposite ends of Sharkey’s so he can have a date with Tiffani and Teri at the same time. Sly and Mark help him out with this and, for some reason, he keeps changing clothes in the middle of it while doing his best Stingray impression. This is a long scene and, again, one of the funnier elements of the last couple of seasons despite being completely cliche.

The jig’s finally up when Jake’s puka necklace breaks as he hides under the booth, causing Teri to trip as well and start talking about dating Jake. Tiffani tells Jake to go fuck himself as she doesn’t want to hear any wild excuses.

At the loft, Tiffani still doesn’t want to listen to Jake, but Sam convinces her to listen. After Jake explains, Tiffani claims she’s just really pissed because he lied to her, which I call bullshit on since most girls don’t enjoy their significant others cheating on them. Tony has an idea to settle this, though.

To yet another version of The Dating Game at Sharkey’s. The goal will be for Jake to prove he can tell which girl is Tiffani based solely on his questions.

Unfortunately for him, Tiffani speaks in a very bad British accent that seems to fool Jake, and all three girls have the same hair color, personality, and ethics, making it impossible to tell.

Jake finally says this is all stupid and he starts telling all kinds of less shallow stuff about Tiffani. She comes out and kisses him.

And our episode ends with Jake and Tiffani apologizing, kissing, and deciding to break their new record as Tony jumps in the middle, jealous that anyone other than him gets to kiss Jake.

Actually, not a bad episode for being so cliched. I’m shocked I’m saying this, but will the Jake/Tiffani romance be more interesting the second time around? I’m betting no, but, still, it’s fun to think maybe the writers learned something from before.

No song this week.

Season 4, Episode 2: “My Valentine”

Ah, it’s time for a California Dreams Valentine’s Day episode! Oh, it’s nice of them to do a holiday tie in to celebrate young love, isn’t it? Oh, how all the young kiddies must have swarmed over it when it first aired in…

September…

Yes, it’s not a good sign when our Valentine’s Day episode is airing in September. If they didn’t even give enough of a shit to get it aired at the right time of year, what else won’t they give a shit about? Oh, just you wait and see!

Our episode opens at Sharkey’s with Sly pelting random people with a Nerf cannon because he’s completely lost it and believes he’s Cupid. Actually, he wants the band to play the Valentine’s Day dance, but the others don’t want to because that would get in the way of Jake and Tiffani having some hot fucking since an episode is apparently enough time for them to completely fall in love again.

Meanwhile, Tony and Sam pontificate about their superior relationship since they didn’t have to break up and date a snobby rich girl to realize they love each other. They’ve been together seven months for the record, which, strangely enough, puts season three in July. Does this mean PCH was the first high school to go to true year round schooling since school was definitely in session in the episode they started dating? Or is it yet another sign the writers don’t give a shit?

At school, everyone makes fun that Mark is such a loser he’s the only one without anything substantial to do this episode, and no girl will touch him so his only Valentine is from his mother. Let’s all point and laugh at Mark since he continues to be a really horrible replacement for Matt, which really says something.

There’s also a running gag about Sly knowing the combination for every locker in school that goes absolutely nowhere except a throwaway joke later.

And we find out that Tony’s more than a little obsessed with Sam. Seriously, she may want to consider running now before she finds herself in the middle of a bad slasher film. In any case, Sly reminds Tony that Sam’s an exchange student and shouldn’t be here any longer, especially after her first host family moved away, and wonders why he’s wasting money on her when she’ll be gone in four months after graduation.

Four months? Seriously, four months? So, you’re telling me all of the final two seasons of this show take place in four months? Geez, and I thought the timeline for The New Class was hard to decode…

In any case, Tony decides he loves Sam and shit so they’ll make it work when she goes back to Hong Kong, or wherever the hell she’s from, but Sly insists that it’ll probably not work, so Tony decides he has to do something.

At the loft, everyone jumps out and yells, “Surprise!” at Sam because I guess they’re suddenly in a group relationship.

So Tony gives Sam a present from him: a song he wrote but Jake sings because this show apparently likes to forget that Tony knows how to sing. After the song, Tony tells Sam that he loves her and shit and can’t imagine that she’ll have to leave the country in just four short months, so he’s figured out a way for them to stay together forever and shit: he’s going to pull a Zack Morris and ask her to marry him, which she enthusiastically accepts because plot. The audience loses their shit while the rest of the cast can’t believe this is what counts as conflict.

Back at school, Lorena decides she hasn’t had enough to do this episode so she’s going to act as the really judgmental person who’s going to tell Tony and Sam how stupid they are for wanting to get married because stereotype and cliche and shit. But Sam insists it will be okay because she really loves Tony because cliche and cliche and shit.

But Jake demonstrates he has the power to summon fantasy sequences that the entire cast share.

In it, Tony and Sam are poor and shit even though they’re living in basically a nice apartment that just happens to have shit all over the floor. Tony’s working doubles at Sharkey’s while Sam works for a car wash and shit, and they constantly fight.

The band come to visit, begging them to rejoin the band, even after Tony does a really racist impression of Chinese people, and they quickly leave as the couple starts fighting again. So, what, they’re imagining that the entire band stuck around L.A. after graduation and continued playing at Sharkey’s? I know I’ve put down the Engel-verse’s overly optimistic views on college before, but you’re seriously going to tell me that they think they’re going to get big enough in the next four months so they don’t have to go to college?

This, combined with the fact that neither Tony nor Sam told their parents about getting engaged, suddenly makes the duo decide they’re not right for each other after all and they break up as Sam does some of the worst fake crying I’ve ever encountered on television.

At the loft, Tiffani and Lorena try to convince Sam that she and Tony are being fucking morons, but she won’t hear any of it.

They give each other back all of their possessions, and it looks like the power of memories about Tony nearly causing Sam to choke may be enough to make them remember how much they love each other, but they rush out, and the rest of the band decide it’s up to them to meddle again and get them back together.

At Sharkey’s, the band get Tony and Sam both in the same room under pretense that they’re going to play the dance, but their plan is basically idiotic in that they seem to think merely seeing other people happy and in love will make them realize how they miss each other. Seriously, if I was just broken up with, the last thing I want is to be reminded I’m alone on Valentine’s Day is to see other people happy.

So, they go to plan B: watching Jake and Tiffani give each other presents. In a giant rip-off of “The Gift of the Magi,” Tony sold his leather jacket to get Tiffani a wet suit and Tiffani sold her surfboard to get Jake a patch for his leather jacket since patches apparently cost as much as a surfboard in this universe. Tony and Sam think this giant rip-off of classic literature is lame since it will probably never be referenced again, so there’s only one chance left.

Sly literally pushes the DJ aside and puts in a tape of the song from earlier.

This gets everyone to dance, and soon, naturally, Tony and Sam remember they love each other and get back together, promising to not let a little thing like the Pacific Ocean break them up.

And our episode ends with Tony nearly dropping Sam as everyone dances romantically, even Mark, who can only get a nameless extra who’s hoping to get a speaking role to touch him. If there’s anything I learned from this episode, it’s that Mark will always be lame as fuck.

Song
“What Would I Do”
Jake singing

I’m shocked: the show that’s supposed to be about a band suddenly remembered that it’s about a band. Seriously, it’s been a long time since we had a new song out of this show as it’s struggled in mediocrity to be a Saved by the Bell rip-off. I was beginning to think we’d never have a song again, that, much like Tiffani’s surfing, the band thing was only going to be talked about from here on out and never actually seen again. I guess season four is here to remind us these dufuses still want to be taken seriously as musical savants.

What’s that? Oh, the song? It’s boring. It’s basically a standard easy listening “love you girl” ballad. Nothing special about it, and immediately forgettable after it’s over, so much so that, when they replayed it at the end of the episode, I was all, “Where have I heard this song before?” It’s supposedly written by Tony but shows nothing of his influence in it. Seriously, for a band that was originally supposed to be influenced by the Beatles, they sound more like the bastard stepchildren of Michael Bolton on a good day.

Season 4, Episode 1: “Two Too Much”

Our season opens in the PCH hallway as our resident idiots, the cousins Winkle, pretend like they know what the hell they’re doing when it comes to ballet. Yes, our subplot this week is going to be another familiar cliche that this show has already done: guys doing stereotypical girl stuff to pick up girls. The Winkles are looking for a way to get a girl, any girl, to touch them, and they figure this garbage is good enough a reason as any.

Tony’s all, “Fuck that shit!” until Sam implies they could grind up against each other wearing tights and shit, then he’s all about ballet.

Meanwhile, Jake’s all up in Tiffani’s business about a date she’s going on tonight, and Lorena’s all, “What the hell? You’re dating me but you’re acting jealous over Tiffani and shit! Also, I’m so shocked that I’m dating someone who’s the polar opposite of me and he doesn’t want to do anything I want to do!”

In ballet class, Sly immediately goes into hitting on girls mode, and the crotch of his tights certainly shows it. I’m surprised Peter Engel let that prominent of a package onto Saturday morning. Tony, meanwhile, turns out to really like ballet and shit.

Meanwhile, Jake’s also shocked that he’s dating someone who’s the polar opposite of him and doesn’t want to do anything he does. I do believe Jake and Lorena have taken stupid pills this week.

At Sharkey’s, Jake interrupts Tiffani’s date with a guy who happens to do an advice show. As they talk, he’s all, “It’s completely obvious that the writers are setting you up for conflict this week because Jake and Tiffani still have feelings for each other and can’t admit it despite the fact you went an entire season without any hint of this new, contrived plot line.” Seriously, he’s only there to advance the plot and state the obvious and be scared away as they remind the audience what happened at the end of season two. The audience even has a hissy fit as he says it.

After he’s gone, they sit in confusion as Tiffani asks where this leaves them. I’ll tell you where: with thirteen and a half minutes of an episode left and you’re going to need a lot of filler to pad this one out.

So the filler begins with Jake telling Tony all about his problems as Tony obsesses over ballet and shit. Tony suggests if Jake wants to make things work with Lorena, he’s going to have to do shit he doesn’t want to do to make her happy, which sounds like true love if I ever heard it. Seriously, I’ve never gotten this trope in shows. I get that two people with nothing in common will never work, but it’s going to be no better to just do shit you don’t want to do to please others.

But never mind that because Jake’s going shoe shopping with Lorena because that will lead to true love realized. I can picture it now: kissing in the pumps as Al Bundy lecherously watches with his hand down his pants.

Later, at another ballet class, Sly and Mark stalk a couple of girls and stare at their crotches, confused by why there’s no lump there apparently. They try to ask the girls out, who say they don’t date guys who are only there to pick up girls, but might change their minds if Sly and Mark can prove they give a shit about ballet.

They see their opportunity when Tony comes in, full of ego, and announces he’s going to have a recital after only one class. Tony’s all, “Fuck that bull shit!” and blows off the two idiots to go do other things.

Meanwhile, Lorena’s proving how unsatisfiable she truly is as she complains to Sam how much it sucks that Jake now wants to do everything she does. Oh, how horrible, Lorena! I hope your first world problems don’t cause you too much discomfort! In any case, Jake comes in, dressed for ballet class, and Lorena soon gets pissed off and runs out when he tries to dance. I’m with Jake on this one: what the hell does she expect out of him? Seriously? Is there anything she wouldn’t get mad about?

At Sharkey’s, Jake has a fantasy sequence where he’s in a bad rip-off of I Love Lucy.

He imagines that Lorena is the perfect wife, doing everything he wants to do and satisfying him in every way.

He even imagines the racial minorities are hired help who exist to watch his kid so they can go out and fuck.

But when Jake tries to sing a song about how much he loves Lorena, “I love Tiffani” keeps coming out, causing her to cry all annoying and shit.

Tiffani just happens to come in right as the fantasy sequence ends, on her way to another dance, and Jake admits he still loves Tiffani and wants to get back with her if she promises not to hurt him in a really contrived way again. She’s all, “You’re a dick!” and runs out so we can stretch this out another five minutes.

At PCH, Sly and Mark continue trying to get into Tony’s show and he tells them to eat a dick.

Meanwhile, Lorena finds Jake, and they both decide they just have ridiculously high standards for relationships as of this episode, and they’re going to break-up amicably and remain friends so they can advance the plot.

At Sharkey’s, because of course there’s a ballet recital at Sharkey’s, a Los Angeles Times ballet critic apparent has nothing better to do than to go and critique ballet recitals put on by complete amateurs in surfer-themed restaurants.

It starts looking okay…

…until Sly and Mark come in wearing tutus to complete this whole cliche, causing the critic to walk out in disgust, apparently in shock that the state of ballet in shitty teen hang-outs has sunk so low. However, the girls the Winkles have been hitting on don’t have an ounce of common sense and believe this shows they’re truly devoted to ballet and shit and agree to go out with them. And thus ends that stupid subplot.

Jake and Tiffani go walking, and Jake says he just wants to be friends because he values Tiffani so much he doesn’t want to risk messing up their friendship, especially since he’s only been showing this “I still love you” streak for an episode now. This time, Tiffani throws a fit, saying, despite how shitty Jake’s been this entire episode, she wants him to take a risk and get back together with her. Jake says he just can’t do it.

And that lasts all of ten seconds as he rushes back out to kiss Tiffani. I guess our episode ends with them back together, but it’s not entirely clear as this feels very unresolved, though, looking at synopses for future episodes, this must be the end of this plot. I’m really confused. Not as confused as I am about why the writers feel it necessary to ram this relationship down my throat again despite the fact it wasn’t interesting the first time around either, but I guess I’m stuck with it for now.

No song this week.

Season 3 Recap

And with our new Jake-ified opening credits, we have completed season three of California Dreams, perhaps the most transformative year for the series. You see, if season one was trying to be a family sitcom and season two had no idea what they were doing, season three was here to tell you exactly what this show was supposed to be: a rip-off of Saved by the Bell with a band.

Yeah, I know they were going this route in season two, but they hadn’t gotten there completely. The Garrisons were still around and there seemed to be some acknowledgment that this is supposed to be a show about a band. This season is dominated by events at PCH. Hell, a significant number don’t even feature new songs this season, a bold move for a show that’s supposed to showcase the musical talents of our main characters.

No, they just don’t give a shit anymore, and nowhere is that clearer than in the fact they cast a replacement for Matt who can’t sing and has to dubbed over for his vocals. More on that in a bit, though.

I could complain about it forever, but, really, at this point the show has completely sold out. Any originality and distinction it might have once had from Peter Engel’s most popular show is long since gone. It’s hard to believe my biggest complaint two seasons ago was that Dennis Garrison didn’t have any purpose on the show. You know what: I will make a bold statement.

I would take Dennis Garrison back in a heartbeat if it meant returning to the quality of season one.

Alas, though, I know that’s not going to happen. For better or worse, Peter Engel decided California Dreams needed to be exactly like his other shows on the air, so indistinguishable that you could insert the cast of The New Class or Hang Time and imagine them doing these exact same episodes word for word. It’s really sad from a show that I once praised for distinguishing itself.


Without any further preamble, let’s talk characters.

I definitely get the impression that California Dreams is supposed to be about Jake now. He’s often touted as the voice of wisdom, except when he’s the one acting like a dumb ass, and he’s taking more of a leading role in the band the few times it’s on screen, more like Matt in season one. Yet, it’s clear that the writers aren’t even sure what to do with their most developed character. One minute Jake’s sensitive and wise beyond his years. The next he’s trying cigarettes with supporting characters from Laverne & Shirley.

As if that’s not enough, fresh off his contrived relationship with Tiffani last season (the repercussions of which, by the way, is not addressed at all this season except for an awkward mention or two), Jake almost immediately gets into a relationship with Lorena, another contrived mess that’s obviously trying to mimic the Slater and Jessie odd couple dynamic. It fails and, though Jake and Lorena are a marginally more interesting couple than Jake and Tiffani, Jake’s a much more interesting character when he’s single, something it seems like the writers are desperate to prevent him from being for long. Jake is completely different when he’s single, which may be why the producers keep him in a relationship.

Other than her freak-out over steroids in the season finale and her plot about her father, it’s hard to remember anything significant Tiffani did this season. Really, without her relationship with Jake, it seems like the writers aren’t quite sure what to do with her. That’s true of most of the characters on this show, though. Many episodes it just seemed like she was barely there, hanging out in the background while other characters got the focus.

Really, there has to be more for her to do. At least with Saved by the Bell, you knew what to expect out of the characters. After three seasons on this show, I should know more about Tiffani, yet I feel like I don’t know much at all. Here’s hoping they give her some more to do next season.

Mind you, that could be a dangerous wish since I was saying the same thing about Tony last season. They found a lot more for him to do this year, and much of it was painful to watch. From his sudden insecurity over genealogy to his previous unstated origins about being poor and coming from the hood (despite the fact that his father’s clearly shown to be college educated and hold a middle-class job!), Tony’s definitely found his niche this season: as the black guy, which is a shame out of the character I found the most interesting when I started reviewing this show.

As if that’s not enough, his relationship with Sam comes the fuck out of nowhere. It’s like they thought the easiest way to develop two chronically underutilized characters was to put them in a relationship. The results are painful to watch as it really just means they’re being defined by their relationship. One thing I’m learning is that this show hasn’t the slightest clue how to handle relationships. It’s like the writers are aliens who have a vague notion of hu-man emotions but not the experience of them.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the sudden special friendship between Tony and Sly that lasted for exactly an episode. After Tony was shown to hate Sly’s guts, culminating in Sly injuring Tony on Jake’s motorcycle last season, suddenly they’re best friends this season…for exactly one episode. Seriously, it’s like they flew in a writer who’d never seen the series and just thought those two find young chaps would do well for the episode. The result is all what the fuck?

I’ve mentioned Sam’s relationship with Tony this season, but the most baffling thing about her is why she’s even around. Mark plays keyboard and Tiffani can sing if they need a female vocalist, so what is even her purpose? She doesn’t even actively contribute to most of the songs, instead just standing around and pretending she’s off in a corner playing her own keyboard.

Really, the only episode she gets solely about her this season is the stupid cold cure one. Sam remains underused, sticking around only because the writers seem to think they need her.

I continue to be unimpressed with Sly. He’s a conniving, unlikable shit head who the writers occasionally try to emotionally manipulate me into giving a shit about. Luckily, despite his move up in the credits, he’s really not much more important to the series than he has been the past two seasons. He’s mainly around to act like a jerk and occasionally strut around shirtless for the camera.

Don’t get me wrong: some of his plots have potential. Had Allison been dating anyone other than Sly, I might have given a shit. As it is, I really don’t and I wish he’d just go away. Why the rest of the characters want anything to do with him, especially in the absence of Matt, is simply beyond me.

The better of the two new characters this season is, by far, Lorena, but that’s like saying deep fried butter is better for your body than arsenic. I mean, she’s not a bad character, but she’s all over the place. She’s supposed to be a rich, spoiled little girl, but she actually acted as the voice of reason about money in an episode. That’s like asking Jared the Subway guy to teach us about proper sexual boundaries.

Other than that, she seems to be Jenny-light. Her plots with Jake could have been recycled from last year following Jenny’s departure, kind of a look into what the writers were originally planning between Jake and Jenny. It’s all really uninteresting and perplexing what they see in each other, but it’s a forced relationship that just keeps on forcing itself on us so we’re cursed with it until the end.

Oh, Mark. You are, by far, the weakest link this season, and I don’t make that declaration lightly. I compared Mark to Tony Dillon from The New Class in his first appearance, and the comparison couldn’t have been more apt. Aaron Jackson can’t act to save his life, and, as a character, Mark is flat, boring, and pointless. He seems to just be hanging around the rest of the band most of the time, until one of his desperate subplots show up showing just how unlikable a character he is.

This makes me miss Matt all the more: it’s almost like they introduced a replacement character so weak they hoped it would make Jake and Sly even better. Mark’s sole focus episode, in which he randomly falls for Lorena, is just the fuck out of nowhere. He gives me someone to point and laugh at. Beyond that, not much. He can’t even sing, which makes me wonder what the fuck made the producers think this was the right person for a show about a band?

Overall, I could have really done without this season. I know I’ve said it before, but I really don’t get why it exists any longer? They act like the music holds the show down and have more and more episodes without it, to the point that, towards the end of the season, I was beginning to forget that sometimes they play a song. This is a very poor man’s Saved by the Bell,

I know I have two more seasons left to review but, if they’re like this one, I’m scared it’s going to be a boring, forgettable experience. I was excited to be reviewing this show in the beginning. Now, it just feels like I’m doing The New Class again. Something interesting, please happen next season!


My Picks

Three Episodes I Loved:

I’m suddenly realizing I’m finding it more and more difficult to pick three episodes from this season I actually liked. So, here are three more tolerable episodes.

Episode 1: “The Unforgiven”: After what I just said about Mark, I can’t believe I’m putting his debut episode on this list, but it’s actually not that bad. Had they cast an actor who could actually act and continued developing Mark from this episode, he could have been an interesting character. Resolving his issues with Sly right away was a mistake as well. It’s all downhill for Mark from here, though.

Episode 5: “Yoko, Oh No”: This is not a good episode by any means, but it’s at least competent. They at least addressed the elephant in the room about Lorena being the only cast member without musical experience early so they can move on to other things. It’s an okay episode, and I have no problem placing it as one of the better episodes.

Episode 10: “Daddy’s Girl”: Despite the fact that Tiffani goes from supportive to spoiled brat very fast in this episode, it’s, overall, a decent one, even if it does go nowhere. I would have preferred if they’d actually seriously addressed Tiffani’s jealousy instead of just having it come up and leave out of nowhere, but it is what it is.

Three Episodes I Hated:

Episode 8: “The Princess and the Yeti”: Talk about a pointless episode with mixed messages and the wrong protagonists. The entire band turning against Lorena for her treatment of Mr. Guthrie is wrong-headed. There’s a message in there somewhere they were trying to get across, but it really got lost in the mix somewhere.

Episode 13: “Rebel Without a Nerve”: This one is just idiotic. To buy this episode, you have to be willing to believe that Jake’s entire personality would change over an accident. The idiotic subplot about Principal Blumford and the world record doesn’t help things. No one got out of this episode looking good.

Episode 16: “The Treasure of PCH”: Hey, you know what would make for an awesome episode? Let’s show how superficial all our characters’ relationships are by making them all act like little assholes over money! While we’re at it, let’s make them idiots as well in not realizing the clues to the treasure are superficially fake! That will make for some great television right there, I tell you what!

Season 3, Episode 17: “Tiffani’s Gold”

We open at Sharkey’s to discover that Tiffani suddenly has an interest in volleyball that she claims she’s had her entire life. Yeah, fuck that surfing thing she talks about but we never actually see her do. Volleyball is her thing for the purposes of this episode, and she’s determined to make the “national volleyball team,” which I assume has something to do with the Olympics since she wants to earn a gold medal. In any case, she’s been so busy she hasn’t spent much time with the band and shit because her coach is working her so hard, and blah blah blah!

Meanwhile, after Sam and Lorena oogle some random volleyball guys, Sly, Tony, and Mark get the idea they should have a “studliest man contest” to be judged by Sam and Lorena. I’m more confused by why no one’s acting like they’re dating people and this doesn’t piss someone off.

And then Jake gets a couple of random girls as he says fuck the contest. This is a stupid out of order episode, isn’t it? As usual, the order placement sucks ass and they placed an episode that belonged near the beginning of the season as the season finale. Damn it, Engel-verse, can you never get this right?

In any case, a studliest man contest between Sly, Tony, and Mark is like an intelligence contest between Dustin Diamond and Tony Dillon: I guess there’s a winner, but does anyone even care?

In the girls’ locker room, Tiffani finds Lorena and Sam peeking through a little hole at the guys naked in their locker room because they need to do something to occupy themselves this episode.

They’re soon caught by Coach Hardaway and fuck off without consequences because no one actually cares what they’re doing, and so we can get on with our plot.

The coach lectures Tiffani on her performance and how she might not make it and shit and puts the stereotypical pressure on her to outperform since she’s the shortest one out there and shit.

A random member of the team shows up and is basically all, “I GUESS IT’S A GOOD THING THIS ISN’T A VERY SPECIAL EPISODE ON STEROIDS BECAUSE STEROIDS ARE BAD AND YOU WOULDN’T WANT TO DO STEROIDS EVEN THOUGH STEROIDS COULD HELP YOU! STEROIDS! STEROIDS! STEROIDS!”

Geez, I wonder if this is going to be a very special episode about steroids? I blame this girl’s random talking about steroids if Tiffani gets addicted this episode.

Back at Sharkey’s, the girls get to give the boys their first challenge: they have to pick up a girl with a single line. But it’s not just any girl!

No, the boys have to pick up Fergie. Yes, seriously, that’s Fergie, as in former lead singer for the Black Eyed Peas, long before she was famous. She has no time for Tony and Sly, and Mark’s so far out of his league that he doubts any guy could attract Fergie with just one line.

But then Jake comes in and tells Fergie she left her lights on, which is enough to get her horny and shit I guess because Jake Sommers is the only one on this show who can possibly compete with Fergie. And thus ends Fergie’s very brief stint on California Dreams before she went on to become about a million times more famous than any of the main cast.

Tiffani comes in with a hurt arm after having a girl spike a ball back down at her because that’s apparently enough for a serious injury on this show. Selfishly realizing how much making the team will help the band, the others start putting pressure on Tiffani, telling her she sucks ass if she can’t do it and shit because this episode wants to put as much undue pressure on Tiffani as possible.

This makes her take Sly aside and tell him she needs steroids and shit, rightfully assuming that, since he’s a shithead, he has drug dealing connections. Sly gives her the whole “drugs are bad for you!” speech before ultimately agreeing to help Tiffani get the steroids as long as she promises she’ll stop taking them after she makes the team and shit.

They apparently work, too, because, by the end of the commercial break, Tiffani’s suddenly Supergirl, super hyper and able to open stuck windows in a single bound. Steroids helped Tiffani make the first cut and instantly compensated for all her shortcomings and shit.

Now it’s time for the boys to see who can dress the studliest.

Tony’s dressed as his best “working on my car in my driveway” look.

Mark dresses in a tuxedo because he’s Mark.

And Sly dresses in nothing but his boxers. Naturally, none of this impresses girls in this universe because this is the one place where personality matters more than looks, so everyone throws shit at the three and a gaggle of girls goes off with Jake for a pre-dating Lorena orgy.

As Tiffani leaves, she promises Sly that, now that she’s made the first cut, she’ll stop taking steroids and shit.

At school, Tiffani’s surrounded by…adoring fans who want her autograph. I’m pretty sure that’s not how student athletics work in any universe. And Tony calls her the Nancy Kerrigan of PCH. Um, Tony, I hate to break it to you, but you know Nancy Kerrigan is a figure skater, not a volley ball player, or could the writers not be bothered to distinguish between Olympic sports, assuming it’s just all one mash-up of sports?

Tiffani’s beginning to show irritability from her steroids because she’s been on steroids for a week and, in the Engel-verse, that means a decade. Sly comes in and says he booked a television interview for the band once Tiffani makes the team, and it literally just occurred to me that no one realizes that, if Tiffani made the team, she’d no longer have time for the band as she’d have to practice all the time so she’d go the way of the Garrisons, unless we’re going by Saved by the Bell-style unlimited time for stuff as long as the plot doesn’t call for otherwise. So tell me again how Tiffani’s athletics benefit the band?

In any case, we’re really hammering home this anti-steroids message, so the pressure gets to Tiffani and she takes more steroids

In the girl’s locker room, Sly tries to sneak into Sam’s locker to see who’s winning the contest, but finds a mouse trap and a note because they predicted his behavior.

The real reason he’s in the locker room, though, is to witness Tiffani talk to herself about how she’s out of steroids and shit. She slams Sly up against the lockers when he tries to lecture her and demands he comply with more drug dealing. Now, normally Sly would deserve to get slammed up against the locker, but it’s not convenient for the plot so fuck that shit. When he won’t help her, she says she’ll get the drugs herself and shit.

In the hallway, the stupid subplot continues. Sly’s disqualified since he’s not in a random place at a random time, so the girls ask Tony and Mark when it’s appropriate for a man to cry. I’ll tell you when: after watching the Dustin Diamond porno!  They naturally both fuck up that test…

…but Jake comes in at that very moment telling a girl about how he cried at the movie they saw. Sam and Lorena are all, “Fuck this subplot! Jake wins because he’s obviously the only male character on this show worth anything! Besides, he kissed Fergie!” And thus ends the stupid subplot.

Sly comes in and tells the band that Tiffani’s on steroids. Though they don’t believe him at first because, come on, it’s Sly, her cranky pants behavior as late eventually convinces them and they look somber as they contemplate how preachy they want to go on this show.

At Sharkey’s, Tiffani’s carried in by a random bunch of admirers and shit after making the team because, once again, Peter Engel doesn’t understand student athletics.

The band are all preachy and shit about steroids and Tiffani’s all, “It’s all the writer of this episode’s fault for putting so much contrived pressure into the script!” The band continue preaching to her and tell her they turned down the television interview.

Tiffani gets mad and, in what’s obviously intended to be this show’s take on Jessie’s caffeine pill freak out, she knocks a bunch of shit off a table and then breaks down crying in Jake’s arms, because using steroids for a couple weeks definitely affects you this much!

At the loft, Tiffani tells the band she’s sorry for everything she’s done and she quit the volleyball team since she really doesn’t give a shit about that sport anyway. She’s going to counseling and that instantly helped her get off the steroids.

And our episode and our season ends with the band embracing in a big hug as Peter Engel puts his name on-screen in pride at another half-assed preachy episode.

You know, for an episode that’s supposed to be California Dream‘s answer to “Jessie’s Song,” this sure as hell was a boring episode. “Jessie’s Song” is classic because it’s so ludicrous you can laugh your ass off at it. The only thing that stands out to me from this episode is the lingering question of how the hell Fergie ended up on a Peter Engel show in the 1990s? I mean, seriously, I thought Jamie Kennedy and Mr. Belvedere were the most famous we were going to get, and then she goes and shows up. I mean, shit!

No song this week.

Season 3, Episode 16: “The Treasure of PCH”

We open…directly on a song! I guess this is the show’s attempt to make up for the dearth of songs in the last few weeks: by throwing one at us right off the bat. For a show about a band, there’s sure not a lot about the band going on any longer, is there?

Well, it turns out the band is playing a series of concerts on the pier, and the promoter, Billy Buckman, loves them so much he’s going to book them again and inexplicably give them $1,000. He also seems to have hearing problems from sitting next to an amp so he screams a lot, but this is never featured again in this episode so fuck it.

This leads us into a fantasy sequence because the band suddenly are having visions of what it will be like to be rich and making $1 million a gig, because a million is right around the corner when you just made a thousand, right? You can imagine that Sly is paying girls to kiss him.

Jake has a menu of motorcycles and a butler to show them to him because why not.

Mark and Tiffani bet on tennis games with vacation homes on the line because they have nothing better to do.

Tony and Sam just complain about their photo being misidentified. Yeah, everyone has really bad fake posh British accents, because that’s the first thing you gain when you get right, right? Our band seem to have really limited ambitions of what would happen if they got rich. I get they’re going for the Saturday morning TNBC crowd, but still…

Well, we’ve wasted six minutes with a song, a fake plot point that has nothing to do with the rest of the episode, and a pointless fantasy sequence. I guess it’s finally time to get the episode started before we completely run out of time! Lorena’s suddenly become the voice of reason about money, even though she’s the worst person on the show to lecture about how money corrupts, and believes that money’s changing the band for the worst and will ruin their friendship. Jake is convinced that butterflies and unicorns and rainbows and shit, and that the band’s friendship can’t be corrupted by the likes of the evil MONEY! They make a bet that the least little sight of money will tear them apart, and decide that a kiss is good enough payment because fucking with your friends is only worth doing stuff you’d be doing anyway.

So the plan is that Jake hides a fake letter in a book supposedly written in 1953 that details a guy hiding his $4 million from space aliens or some shit. After token resistance, the band nearly instantly accept that there’s $4 million randomly sitting around out there for them. Tony quickly decodes the first clue as being about the movie theater…

…and they quickly rush over to their cheap ass mall movie theater looking for the next clue under a specific seat. Maybe you should, instead, be looking at a movie theater or under a chair that, I don’t know, existed in 1953! Our band is really stupid this episode. I know it’s a plot point in a minute, but, still, the fact that they didn’t put these pieces together just make them look idiotic.

Anyway, Tiffani chases away a random guy who growls at her by getting him to do his worst impression of a Looney Tunes dog, and the clue is right there where it’s supposed to be, because, of all the cheap ass movie theaters in all the world, it just happens to be in this one.

At Sharkey’s, the band read the next clue and Mark realizes that it’s pointing towards somewhere at the pier because he needed something to do this episode. The band agree to wait and go searching tomorrow, making Jake think Lorena’s wrong about how fragile the band’s friendship is and everything. So Lorena suggests Mark go by himself, which instantly sets off a fight of not trusting anyone because I guess their friendship was really that delicate.

So they all sneak down to the pier hoping not to run into each other, all the while yelling at everyone else for being devious and underhanded and shit, and they finally find the next clue under a bench which I’m pretty sure didn’t exist in 1953. Hell, that pier doesn’t look like it existed back in 1953! Logic and reality isn’t going to stop our band of raving idiots, though, as they figure out this clue is point them towards PCH.

Jake and Lorena come out of the shadows and realize their little trick has worked too well because all of their friends are complete morons. They decide they have to tell them the truth the next day, deciding they’re going to be mad about this shit I guess.

At PCH the next day, our band slept on the sidewalk in front of school all night so none of them could sneak in and find the money, and you can tell because their hair is messed up and that’s a tell-tale sign of stress I guess. Oh, and I guess Principal Blumford let them sleep outside because he doesn’t give a shit about their safety now that he’s not going to set a stupid world record. Well, Tony finds the next clue and a reference to Jaws, a movie from the 1970s, pointing towards Sharkey’s suddenly causes Sam to grow a brain cell as they realize all the places they’ve visited are newer than 1953. No shit you fucking idiots! Next you’re going to realize that the sky is blue.

In any case, they decide Jake and Lorena must be playing a trick on them since they’re the only two not acting like fucking morons this episode, just fucking assholes. They decide to play a trick on the two of them and nominate the least valuable player of their brain trust, Mark, to set up the plan.

Jake and Lorena come in and try to tell the others about the bet, but they pretend to not believe them, with Mark turning in an even worse acting job than usual. So they rush over to Sharkey’s…

…and pretend to tear the place apart looking for the money. Jake and Lorena reiterate they were lying to the band, and they finally pretend to believe them and suggest the way they can apologize is to clean the place up, because that’s great revenge.

No, the actual revenge is Jake and Lorena finding a planted bag of fake diamonds in a surf board on the wall and then getting their turn at playing idiot for the last minute or so as they fight over it, proving they truly were assholes without a high ground to stand on.

The rest of the band stand around and shake their heads judgmentally as they apparently snuck back in the side entrance just to watch Jake and Lorena act like assholes. They exposit the moral of the episode being about money changing people and shit, it’s the root of all evil, but they still have a thousand dollars to waste on Sharkey’s food when no one appears to be working that night so it’s all good. Sharkey’s must really be doing bad in sales lately when they’re allowing the random kids who hang out there to just trash the place to teach their friends a non-lesson. Oh, to live such a charmed life that there are never true consequences for your actions.

Song
“Anytime”
Mark singing

This is an odd song for California Dreams as it has a very reggae-inspired beat to it, and this was long after the eighties reggae revival that saw horrible bands like UB40 emerge on the scene and bastardize old pop songs that didn’t do nothing to deserve the treatment they received. At least it’s an original song with halfway decent lyrics that fit the theme of the episode, but that’s about all I can say about that.

It’s not that it’s a bad song. It just feels odd here, but I don’t know why I would expect any different from a show that still has yet to present an honest to goodness rock song from our “rock” band. You know, the one that was supposedly influenced by The Beatles. In any case, it could be much, much worse, and I’m glad we were spared what might have been from this show.