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…


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.

“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.


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.

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.

Season 3, Episode 15: “Junior Achievement”

We open in class, where a sick Tony sneezes all over everything. Sly tries to kick Tony out of “his” seat, but Tony tells him to suck a wet one and fuck off. Oh, the non-existent days before assigned seating! They were so glorious, weren’t they? Seems there’s a cold going around. I sure hope this doesn’t factor into the plot in any way as they’re beating it into us!

Meet Mr. Parrot, the band’s economics teacher! This week, he’ll be showing us how the writers of this show have no fucking clue what an economics class is as, yes, this is a cheap rip-off of Saved by the Bell’s “The Friendship Business”, which also had no idea what an economics class is. See, Mr. Parrot, who I’m assumed is named as such because he’s ripping off Mr. Tuttle, is going to give his students $500 to start up businesses because it would seem that schools in L.A. were really rich in the ’90s. It appears the writers also don’t understand how business works as the money has to be paid back or they will attend summer school. Um, I’m pretty sure that’s not how developing products works and it’s a horrible message to send for your class project.

In Lorena’s loft, Tony continues to sneeze over everything as Sam brings him a mug of her great-great grandmother’s cold cure that she guarantees will cure him. Geez, I hope colds don’t factor into this shit at all this week!

Since Jake doesn’t have much to do this week and Mark never has much to do, the writers decided to pair them up giving music lessons for their project, while the rest of the band thinks the idea sounds idiotic. Great, they can teach everyone how to lip sing.

When Tony nearly instantly feels better from drinking the tea, Sly gets the idea of selling the formula for their project. Sam’s against it, though, saying she doesn’t want to tarnish her grandmother’s honor until the writers think of a sufficient way to justify it for her.

At Sharkey’s, the band try to figure out a way to get the formula from Sam. When she comes in with a fresh supply and Sly’s able to sell it all in a matter of minutes because the extras on this show just buy anything that the sleaziest member of the PCH student body offers them. When Tiffani claims that means they could make $4 million in one year, Sam’s all, “I guess greed is a good enough reason for me to compromise my feelings and values!”

Back at the loft, the band get going on the tea, with Lorena in charge of packaging, Tiffani of money, Tony of advertising, and Sly of doing nothing and taking money.

While they’re making the tea, Jake and Mark come in with students, but they’re not able to practice for all the noise going on and it’s not like Jake has a garage where they could go, so, because everyone’s an idiot I guess, Jake and Mark aren’t doing very well on their plan as the students say, “Fuck this shit!”

Tony shoots their commercial in Lorena’s house, with a Chinese stereotyped Sam because that’s what this episode was missing: casual racism!

Also, Sly plays the cold germs because he’s perfect at playing a virus. Sadly, Sly’s the only one of them who knows how to act, but they’re convinced that Tony’s commercial is going to get them lots of sales because they’re going to show it on public access because that’s what the kids at PCH watch.

At Sharkey’s, Jake and Mark try to get into advertising through singing in the doorway, and everyone’s all, “Go the fuck away!”

The advertising worked, though, and Tony and Sly sell lots of the tea because I guess kids at PCH love the conspiracy theories and sports talk of public access.

Back at the loft, Tiffani reveals they broke even on the first batch so their plan is to find a way to cut costs on the secret ingredient because they couldn’t do that by cutting out the advertising or packaging or anything.

So Tony tries the new formula with carnations and it appears to be helping his cold as Jake and Mark talk about getting students but not charging them.


Random extras start pouring in, though, complaining the tea is having the stupid side effect of making them hiccup, because that’s a real thing I’m sure. This includes a young Jamie Kennedy, and I guess now we know why he stars in horrible movies like Son of the Mask: the tea affected his better judgment so he accepts such shit roles.  An angry mob furious at the idea of the tea inspiring really bad sequels of Jim Carey films forms and chases our band out the door…

…and apparently straight back to Lorena’s bedroom because these were some pissed off folks who really don’t like hiccuping. Sam laments getting greedy just because of money and shit while Sly wants to lie and shit.

After they all leave, the tea makes he hallucinate that a picture of her great-great grandmother is talking to her. I’m pretty sure Sam’s great-great grandmother, who would have lived in nineteenth century China, would not be in this high quality of a photo, but who cares about things like facts when you’re writing for California Dreams. The photo tells her the moral of the episode isn’t to not make money off shit, but to be honest in your business dealings, and that she must restore her honor.

In class, Jake and Mark get D’s because they admit to Mr. Parrot that they used the $500 on dates. No, you fucking idiot, this is why you don’t give teenagers unrestricted access to $500. Maybe this is why he was never in another episode: incompetence.

When it’s time for the rest of the band to report on the tea business, Sly tries to lie and shit but Sam admits what they did and says they need to return the money of everyone who bought the tea. This makes Mr. Parrot decide to give Sam an A for integrity because she was able to figure out what the moral of the episode was.

As the bell rings and our episode ends, the tea container congratulates Sam on a job well done and she freaks out, suddenly realizing that pictures are talking to her. Next week, tune in for California Dreams‘s very special look at schizophrenia as the stress of the talking pictures begins to take its toll on Sam as they all begin demanding she do their bidding. She starts abusing caffeine pills as she struggles to maintain the pace of making tea and singing in a shitty band!

No song this week.

Season 3, Episode 14: “Boyz R Us”

We open at Sharkey’s to find Tony trying to have a burger in peace, but his friends all randomly steal his food because they aren’t going to have another gig for a month and apparently their parents don’t feed them at home and Sharkey’s just lets kids hang out who don’t buy anything. Tony tells them they should get a fucking job and quit mooching off him, but Jake insists they’ve looked for jobs but there’s nothing out there.

Of course, Sly comes in, having found a job delivering singing telegrams, and suggests the rest of the band get jobs there. They’re reluctant until Sly reveals they pay $25 per telegram, which seems unlikely since that would mean they’d make no money at all off the things. Oh, well, who cares about believability. We have a subplot.

Yes, all that shit about the jobs was a subplot. So what is the plot going to be about this week you ask?

Well, we find out when an old friend of Tony’s, Darren, comes in. Seems two years ago, Tony lived in the hood because he’s black and all black people originally came from the hood since middle class black people don’t exist. It would have made more sense for this to be about Jake, but we need to play up the urban stereotypes for this episode, so get ready for some stupid shit.

Anyways, Tony was in a band called “Boyz R Us” with Darren and a guy named J.R. They start randomly insulting each other and shit because that’s what people do in the hood I guess, and they’re back to bonding and shit.

In Lorena’s loft, Sam’s super nervous about meeting Darren because…I don’t know. She acts like she’s meeting his parents or something. In any case, Darren comes in and compliments Tony on his choice in bland uninteresting ladies, saying Tony always had a way with the girls. Jake invites Darren to jam with them later, which we’ll never see because why would we in a show about a band…

…and Mark shows his racist side as he assumes all black people from the hood talk like gangsta rappers and throw their arms around wildly. Darren should beat the shit out of Mark for being a moron, but he lets it pass, probably because the producers knew they’d never get Matt back if they let Darren kill Mark.

Sly comes in wearing a stupid costume and reveals the rest of the band are supposed to wear costumes in their job, but Jake is all, “I don’t wear costumes unless it’s dressing up as a bad rip-off of Fonzie.”

Darren is suddenly quiet when Tony mentions J.R. again and, though Darren’s hesitant to talk shit about J.R. in front of a bunch of strangers at first, he reveals that J.R. has been hanging out with a bad crowd because, you know, black people in the hood.

Jesus, no. The Engel-verse has a very bad track record when it comes to handling plots about race. I still have horrible memories of Zack Morris wearing a Native American head dress, Slater caring about his Mexican heritage to get some poon, and Eric doing a white person version of gangsta rap. Granted, the plot about racism involving Tony in the first season was pretty good. Maybe lightning will strike twice.

So Darren knows J.R. will listen to Tony and came to bring Tony to talk to him. Tony is all, “You can spend the night at my house and we’ll go see J.R. tomorrow. Plus, it will give the writers an excuse to show more of my family.”

We get a random interlude with Jake and Mark delivering a singing telegram and having a poor, random customer want to shoot them in the face after they literally suggest he’s never getting laid again in their song…

…and we find ourselves at Tony’s house, where his mom looks over old photos with Tony and Darren and reminisces about the start of their music career. Kudos for continuity: they actually remembered that Tony’s father is a football coach.

After his mom leaves, Tony calls J.R. to find out what time they can come over tomorrow, and finds out that the thugs beat up J.R. because he didn’t want to rob a bank with them. J.R. is unconscious in a hospital and they’re unsure how long he’s going to be.

At Sharkey’s, the band complain about how rude people have been to them and how few tips they’ve made from this singing telegram bullshit. They must be right that it’s just a stupid job they’re not getting tips and not the fact that Jake and Mark are implying people can’t get laid.

Of course, Sly is making lots of money and insists it’s because he’s not afraid to be stupid.

Tiffani proves it by doing stupid shit to Mark so, suddenly, everyone’s into the costume shit.

Tony and Darren come in and tell the band what’s going on with J.R. Darren realizes how stupid Tony’s friends are and decides he and Tony will take care of it all. After the band leaves, Darren insists there’s nothing a bunch of sheltered privileged folks can do in the hood, and they need to pay back the guys who messed up J.R., because I guess all black folks automatically resort to violence to settle the score.

Speaking of things that would provoke violence, Tiffani and Sam randomly show up on someone’s doorstep dressed as gorillas, and, rather than calling the police , he gives them a big tip because the rash of evil iller clown shit hadn’t happened yet.

At the loft, Tony is almost all in for the violence and shit, but the band soon talk him out of it with cliche shit about violence not being the answer. He decides they’re right and he has to talk Darren out of it. The only one making sense in this is Jake, who points out the guys will kick the shit out of him if he does this, which completely contradicts Jake’s characterization last season.

Tony goes back to his house to try and talk Darren out of the fight and says he wants to call the police. Darren says the police don’t do shit for any of them in the hood which, in Peter Engel-lingo, apparently means it’s not cool to call the police. Yeah, that’s exactly it guys. Systematic racism and poverty have nothing to do with it. Simplify it to coolness. Darren says this is bullshit and runs off to settle the score.

At Sharkey’s, the band serenade the owner of the beach club they’re playing at next month dressed as a bad Benny Hill skit. The owner tips them well but, when he finds out they’re the band he’s booked, he fires them, saying he doesn’t need a bunch of idiots committing zany antics in his club. And thus ends the stupid singing telegram subplot.

Meanwhile, Tony finds out that J.R. is paralyzed because why the hell not. He decides to rush off to stand side by side with Darren as they beat the shit out of gang members and expect to have no negative repercussions.

Now, up until this point, I’d been willing to give this episode a pass. It’s stupid and oversimplifies race, class, and crime issues, but then this final scene happened and I started laughing hysterically. I’m pretty sure this is not a scene that was written to be funny, but it’s so utterly hilarious in its ridiculousness I couldn’t help it.

Tony arrives to find Darren’s pulled a gun on the gang members, ready to pop caps in their asses. He steps in front of the gun and, rather than two people who beat someone up so bad they paralyzed him using Tony as a human shield, they just stand there and politely allow this scene to unfold. Tony talks Darren out of hooting them as the gang members rightfully ask what the hell Darren’s going to do now since they can just come after him and beat the crap out of him.

Just then, Tony’s mom and Darren’s parents show up with a bunch of extras, saying they’ve come to help.

That’s when the band comes in, saying they called everyone after Tony left, proving that white people who know nothing about urban issues can convince a bunch of black people that all they needed to do all along was just stand up to the gangs. Never mind the gangs have really big and powerful weapons, or that these two aren’t the only two gang members in South Central Los Angeles. It was so simple all along! All violence can just be solved if we simply don’t want it.

Right now I really hate this episode, even though I’m laughing hysterically at the Camus-level absurdity on display here. Thanks, California Dreams, for completely trivializing a major societal problem and teaching kids in the hood they’re just not trying hard enough to rid their streets of violent crime! Great message you’re sending there!

In any case, our extras decide to just randomly hold a couple of gang members, and the episode ends with everyone hugging it out, because the Beatles were right I guess: all you need is love!

Seriously, fuck this whole episode.

“You Captured My Heart”
Jake, Sam, Tiffani, Mark, Lorena, and Sly singing

A goofy little singing telegram song with Sly trying to act like a Spanish bull fighter or some shit. It’s, thankfully, very brief and very inconsequential as I really didn’t want to hear much more of it. All I can say is that, when the songs on this show are goofy as fuck, they truly are goofy as fuck.

Season 3, Episode 13: “Rebel Without a Nerve”

We open at PCH with Sly rollerblading through the hallway after a cheerleader because he’s determined no girl will get away from him without being sexually harassed.

Tony stops him in the name of the safety patrol and Principal Blumford is around to kindly explain this week’s stupid subplot to us: PCH is only a few days away from being a thousand days without an injury on school grounds, meaning they will be able to make the Guggenheim Book of World Records. I don’t even know where to begin. Did the Guinness Book not want anything to do with this episode? Seriously? I don’t understand how it’s even possible they’ve gone a thousand days without an injury since shit happens all the time at school.

Tony’s volunteered to be on the safety patrol to ensure this happens because Sam wants to fuck men who wear stupid sashes, plus he’s hoping for his picture in the book.

Principal Blumford wants to recruit another safety monitor and asks Jake since, in theory, he knows how to intimidate people into doing what he wants, but Jake thinks that’s fucking stupid so he picks Sly instead because Sly wants to perv on cheerleaders more.

Our main plot gets underway when Tiffani and Mark come around and tell Jake about a new kid, Tommy Keating, who’s been badmouthing Jake down at Sharkey’s.

At Jake’s garage, they continue talking about Tommy Keating and shit because that’s apparently all they can talk about, and Mark and Sam even seem to be falling in love with Tommy Keating judging by their praise of him.

Oh, and, as usual, Tony is taking his job as a safety monitor way too seriously by criticizing stacks of newspapers in Jake’s garage because that really has something to do with safety at school.

Tommy Keating himself comes in and taunts Jake, once again proving that the producers of California Dreams have no idea what a teenager looks like. Tommy challenges Jake to a motorcycle race tomorrow to prove who’s the biggest fake ripoff of Fonzie of all, and Jake gladly accepts.

At school, Principal Blumford comes to talk all kinds o shit about earthquake drills so we can waste a bit of time since an earthquake virtually guarantees injuries even if you do all the right things.

A random extra comes in and summons everyone to leave class and immediately proceed to Shakey’s without any penalties or truancy so the band can see Jake’s crashed his motorcycle at Sharkey’s. Seems as if Tony’s being a dumb ass and installed a speed bump right in front of the restaurant which caused Jake to crash through the store front without any worse damage than a few overturned tables.

Tommy comes in to taunt Jake while Sam talks all about how Jake isn’t afraid even if he dies in the process and shit, but Jake wants to back out of the race.

So Tommy starts stealing lockers and bullying people and shit.

They try to get Jake to take on Tommy but he doesn’t want to do anything. Tony and Lorena think the accident’s shaken up Jake and, though he denies it at first, bad writing means he’s definitely afraid. They convince him to get back on the motorcycle…

…and he crashes again because Tony made the speed bump bigger because why the hell not. Jake says he’s not getting back on his bike and he’s going to play it safe from now on because that’s the cliche we’re going with this episode.

So Jake joins the safety patrol, replacing Sly on it since he’s just interested in sex.

Lorena tries to talk Jake out of the horrible plot he’s fallen into, but he won’t listen.

And Tommy comes around and taunts people ten years younger than him as he forces Jake to hand over his leather jacket…

…and then hits on Lorena and tries to convince her how stupid of a show she’s fallen into. This is too much for Jake and his two minutes of being afraid of riding his motorcycle are over so he challenges Tommy to a race after 2:00 when safety week is over. Also, people get to tell Mark to shut the hell up trying to be a character this episode, which is always its own reward.

Principal Blumford prepares with the photographer for his fake Guinness Book picture…

…but Jake and Tony come in and resign with only fifteen minutes left because they’ve decided this entire plot is stupid.

Blumford tries to chase after them, but somehow trips over the banner after he blatantly grabs it as everyone, including the photographer, rush to watch the race. He bites his tongue in the process and considers suppressing that this is a horrible injury that means they’re going to lose the record…

…but Sly comes in, having seen the whole thing, and blackmails Principal Blumford, thus ending that stupid waste of time subplot. Seriously, that’s all they do because they don’t have time to actually do anything else in an episode that already seems like it doesn’t have a lot of substance to it.


Jake challenges Tommy to race him at Cool Man’s Curve, which is a stupid name for a curve that apparently is really dangerous despite its dumb name. Tommy’s scared to race Cool Man’s Curve, though, and backs off before they can go since there’s no budget for an actual motorcycle race. Jake demands his leather jacket back as Tommy races to hang out with adults more his age. Jake declares he’s back and our episode ends with him declaring he’s going to go beat the idiotic plot point speed bump once and for all without crashing, and he’ll do it this time since it’s not on camera and it’ll never be brought up again.

No song this week.

Season 3, Episode 12: “Harley and the Marlboro Man”

We open in the Garrison’s garage for the first time this season. Oh, wait, this is supposed to be Jake’s garage now! My mistake since it’s the exact same set used for the Garrison’s house the first two seasons but with different decorations. One thing you can say about Peter Engel: he will reuse a set whenever possible to get his money’s worth.

The rest of the band come in, disturbing Jake as he’s working on his motorcycle, and it’s exposition time as Lorena tries to encourage him to take a break and go to the beach with them. There’s some sort of bike show coming up and Jake’s uncle, who introduced him to bikes, is coming to town just to help him out!  It’s nice of the band to just kind of stop in so Jake has a chance to establish lots of shit in the main plot all at once.

And who does Jake’s uncle turn out to be but Carmine from Laverne & Shirley. It seems that he ended up a motorcycle mechanic instead of a dancer. Things must not have went so well for Carmine following the end of that show. But it’s good of Tiffani and Jake to even exposit who exactly Carmine is. Also, he was apparently listening at the door so he could enter just as they were talking about him and do a really bad Andrew Dice Clay impersonation. And here I thought the Andrew Dice Clay impersonators died out around 1991.

As the rest of the band leave for the beach, Carmine looks over the bicycle, voicing his approval and lighting up a cigarette. I guess losing the one show people will ever know him for made Carmine decide to take up smoking. Jake asks for a cigarette as Carmine is strangely coughing. No. No, this is not going to be an anti-smoking episode! I’ve already dealt with two of these in the Engel-verse and they were both terrible, among the worst of The New Class, and, given some of the horrible shit that show put out, that’s really saying something! Why did Peter Engel insist on trying to end the scourge of teen smoking?!?!

Well, damn. Schlameal, Schlamazel, Hazzen Pfeffer Incorporated.

In any case, Carmine’s also coughing, insisting he just has a cold, and, gee, I wonder what’s going to happen to him, probably near the conclusion, to serve as a ham-fisted conclusion to this episode?

At Sharkey’s, we get our B-plot this week: Sly randomly found $500 on the beach using his metal detector, so they decide what to do with it. While Sly wants to waste it on hookers and blow, Mark insists on putting up fliers, and whoever can identify the box gets it.

Jake comes in smoking a cigarette, and a waitress very loudly tells him to put it out so the rest of the band hear, and the judgmentalism of the episode begins even as Sly and Sam admit they’ve tried cigarettes and thought they were disgusting.

Back at the garage, Carmine takes a break from the bike to watch some television so Lorena comes in wanting to work with Jake, doing the whole “girls can’t work on motorcycles because it’s a guy thing” shtick that wore out sometime in the 1950s. Jake lights up a cigarette in front of her and she proceeds to judge him some more, insisting he read the Surgeon General warnings in a horribly preachy way. Jake promises he’ll quit as soon as the bike is ready for the show so she’ll shut the hell up and get back to her own subplot.


At Sharkey’s, it’s been a week since the band found the money, and no one’s come forward. Sly comes in dressed in Mama’s Family drag hoping to trick the band into giving him the money, but they tell him to fuck off. They decide that, since the money isn’t really theirs, they’re going to pick a charity and donate the money to it, trusting it to Mark in the meantime since his bad acting will scare away potential thieves.

Jake comes in, happy to announce he’s done with the bike, and Lorena kisses him and promptly recoils in judgmental horror at the realization Jake’s still smoking and shit. Jake promises he’ll quit after the bike show and Lorena decides he must be addicted at this point. Jake rushes off after Lorena asks him for the cigarettes, declaring, quite reasonably, he doesn’t have anything to prove to her..

At the loft, the band sit around and judge Jake for smoking in his absence. They decide they need to give him some tough love, deciding they won’t hang out with him anymore until he quits smoking because judging your friends and ostracizing them from your social group is the best way to get a person to quit smoking! As usual, the Engel-verse has no idea why kids start and stop smoking.

At school, Sly tricks Mark into giving hi the money to create t-shirts for a band called The Counting Toes so they can double the money. Mark, being not so bright, instantly falls for Sly and gives him the money because they had to do something with this subplot.

Jake comes in and the band continue to judge him as he admits he can’t stop after a week of smoking because that’s how addiction works. I guess it’s possible, but it’s not very likely. So they decide they’re going to help Jake quit.

And they’re going to do this by sitting around and lecturing Jake on the health effects of smoking. Sly rightfully points out that, if Jake is actually addicted to cigarettes, lecturing him on health shit for the sole purpose of shoehorning it into the episode isn’t going to make him quit. I can’t believe I’m on Sly’s side yet again this season. There must be something wrong with me that I’m finding myself agreeing with him so often!

So what do they do but show him n American Cancer Society video about the effects of smoking on lungs, complete with a cancerous lung. Seriously, after Sly just told them this shit won’t make him quit. Jake says fuck this shit and rushes off to have a cigarette to relax.

Back at the loft, it’s the boys’ turn to cure Jake of smoking, so they decide he needs to go cold turkey and Tony makes him give up all his cigarettes.

Within minutes, Jake is pacing and yelling and shit because those cigarettes were apparently laced with heroin. He tries chewing gum and talking funny, but nothing will work so he rushes off, defeated by the power of the most addictive tobacco ever.

At the garage, Jake comes in and tells Uncle Carmine he got first place in the bike show. Carmine has news of his own: he was coughing up blood and went to the doctor, where he discovered he has terminal lung cancer from doing too many bad Andrew Dice Clay impersonations. Seriously, this was his first sign he had terminal lung cancer? This feels very forced. Very.

Jake reacts in the way only Jake can react: by kicking shit and throwing away cigarettes, because the pending death of a former Laverne & Shirley supporting cast member is enough to finally make him kick the habit.

At the loft, Sly revels he lost the $500 because he was stupid enough to print $500 worth of shirts inflating his own ego, thinking people would actually want to plaster his face on their chests. The rest of the band blame Mark for being a moron, but Jake comes in before they can burn him at the stake and beg Matt to move back, saving his death for another day.

Jake tells the band about Carmine’s impending death, and we get some gushy gushy comforting for Jake. Sly suggests a way to make the $500 back for charity. I think that might make this the lamest excuse for a subplot in any Engel-verse episode I’ve reviewed so far. Well, maybe not the worst since I did once have to review a subplot about air conditioner repair on The New Class.

Yes, the band is hosting a benefit concert to encourage teenagers to stop smoking through judgmentalism and shit!

Lorena says they’re going to make more money than they found on the beach and Jake says they’re donating the money for cancer research. They decide that, since they’re there, they might as well play a tonally inappropriate for the episode song.

And you think the episode is going to end with this pensive shot of Jake thinking about Carmine’s impending death…

…but it actually ends with this screen from the American Cancer Society telling you that, if you didn’t die from lung cancer while watching this episode, you’re just damned lucky and could drop over dead at any moment!

I guess this episode was marginally better than the two from The New Class, but that’s not saying much. They at least only had one horribly judgmental scene and actually acknowledge their preachiness isn’t going to keep kids from smoking or cause them to stop. Yes, the only thing that will ever keep you from smoking is an uncle who happens to be a dancer-turned-motorcycle mechanic getting terminal cancer just as you start smoking.

“Tough Love”
Jake singing

I don’t understand this song. It starts off sounding like a love song, and then randomly goes into a tangent about people not being perfect because I guess it’s trying to cram the message of the episode even more down our throats. Out of all the songs on the show to date, this is probably the one that makes the least sense lyrically. Musically, it’s okay, but the words make absolutely no sense in trying to understand the point of the whole thing.

I’m a little disappointed: I was hoping this whole preachy episode would be topped off with an anti-smoking song that would make me laugh hysterically like I haven’t since “Jessie’s Song.” I guess this show had different plans, though. It’s almost as if Steve Tyrell had some random, unfinished song lying around and added some lyrics to try to make it about smoking. A bad song for a bad episode.