California Dreams…Reviewed!

California Dreams is an enigma. People seem to remember it fondly, but it had such poor DVD sales the final season was never released. Jimmy Fallon even invited the cast on his show when it looked like he was never going to get a Saved by the Bell reunion. I rarely see anything negative about the series, even about the last two seasons I hated; the closest thing I usually see is about how useless the extended Garrison family was, and they didn’t stick around long in the grand scheme of things. But none of the cast really went on to become well known, and the series has largely been forgotten, not even a blip on most people’s radars.

For comparison sake, Saved by the Bell Reviewed regularly gets five hundred hits a day, even nearly a year after I finished that project. This one is lucky to get a hundred.

So why is it California Dreams has such a good reputation without the accompanying staying power in nostalgic memory that Saved by the Bell has enjoyed?

Personally, I blame it on having some very talented writers who weren’t given much direction where to take the show. Sure, it was quite obvious in the first season and even the second that this was supposed to be a dramatically different show from Peter Engel’s biggest hit: rather than focusing on the school lives of our character, we would see them form a band and try to make it big in show business. We’ll see another aspect of teenage life: the making of dreams and how real life and growing up interferes with and changes what we previously thought we wanted.

And, for a time, it worked. Despite the uselessness of the Garrison family as a framing device, the first two seasons were incredible, with some great writing, compelling characters, and memorable plots. I dare say that, at its best, California Dreams deserved to win some awards, and they certainly should have been nominated for more than The New Class. It was just different enough from the original.

Even Sly, as much as I hate him, was a well-written character. Recall that my two least favorite characters on The New Class were Brian and Tony. I hated them because they were poorly conceived, written, and just overall useless. I hate Sly for personality traits I think the writers intended to give him, and I can’t really fault the show for that. It would be like watching a James Bond film and getting mad at the villains for being too villainous. It worked.

So what happened?

Brent Gore’s exit might have been the worst thing to happen to this show. Though it had already been showing signs of morphing in its second season, the third was nearly a complete reboot. Suddenly, Jake was the leader of the band, and Sly’s dopey and horribly written cousin was kind-of sorta not really filling Matt’s role on the show. More and more plots started revolving around life in high school, and the band itself was relegated to a supporting role, being pulled out on occasion to remind us it existed. This was not the same show I reviewed in its first two seasons.

Yet the third season wasn’t terrible per se; it was just very different, adhering more closely than before to the tried and true Saved by the Bell formula nearly every Engel-verse show follows.

The same can’t be said for the final two seasons, where the writers seem to be phoning in the plots, not giving a shit anymore and barely putting any effort into distinguishing this from so many other Engel-verse shows. It was painful to sit through because I’ve seen all the plots so many times on other shows. I’m convinced this is the era of quantity over quality for Peter Engel, and he long ago gave up when he realized the California Dreams were never going to be a household name like the Saved by the Bell gang, but they were getting good enough ratings not to be cancelled.

Why, then, was the last episode so damned good? I have a theory: Ron Solomon really did care about this show, and it probably killed him they had gotten so formulaic to the point you could drop in the cast of any other Engel-verse show without consequence. So he decided to give it a send-off worthy of the potential it once showed. California Dreams was going to have a better ending than any other Engel-verse show, one that jaded, cynical critics would look back at twenty years later and realize how good it was.

And it worked. After yawning through most of the last two seasons, it was such a pleasant surprise to watch the final episode and see so much actual effort being put into it. Granted, it will still never stack up to classic final episodes like M*A*S*HThe Mary Tyler Moore Show, or Cheers. But, for a TNBC show, the finale is damned good, and it’s a shame most people will never see it, if for no other reason than they have no idea what California Dreams is other than a song by the Mamas and the Papas.

So why weren’t more episodes like this? Why give such few shits about a show with so much potential? I think the answer comes down to this: being different from Saved by the Bell wasn’t garnering the ratings. The NBC execs probably wanted a new Saved by the Bell, especially with the mothership going off the air and no guarantees for The New Class and The College Years. So, Engel and Solomon did what they had to do to keep it on the air: they sold out.

And it makes sense: think of all the critically acclaimed shows that, despite being good, never got the ratings: Freaks and GeeksFireflyArrested DevelopmentStar TrekEverwoodJack & Bobby, just to name a few. Being good doesn’t guarantee your show will be a commercial success, and that’s one of the major flaws of our entertainment industry. Fortunately, things are beginning to change with streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime investing in quality programs, but it’s still true that your show can be really good and never make money.

And that’s the story of California Dreams to me: a good premise and great talent flushed down the drain to make a few bucks.

But let’s not let this cloud our judgment of this show. Let’s always remember this show for what it was at its best. After all, when it comes down to it, I’d rather rewatch this show any day over The New Class and The College Years.

I reviewed this show largely because it kept coming up on Saved by the Bell Reviewed. So many of you remembered it so fondly that I decided I wanted to see what the fuss was all about. Like the Saved by the Bell franchise, I had never watched this show prior to reviewing it. And, as you can probably tell, I’m very glad I did.

I’m feeling it’s time for a break from the Engel-verse, though. I’ve been at this for four years, and have now reviewed five of Peter Engel’s series. I’m a bit tired right now, and I’m beginning to be known as the person who reviews Engel-verse series. Some of you are even already asking if I’m planning on reviewing City Guys or Hang Time next.

And there was a time I wanted to review all of TNBC’s offerings. What I’ve come to realize, though, is I’m essentially just going to be reviewing the same plots over and over again if I do, and that prospect doesn’t particularly appeal to me. I have a feeling I’d eventually be reduced to just going, “Saved by the Bell already did that!” over and over again. Besides, I never wanted to become the internet’s foremost expert on Peter Engel shows.

So my next project I have in mind is going to be a little different. I want to do a blog on One Season Wonders. I’ve always been fascinated by shows which are cancelled after one season and whether they’re worth a second look. Of course, there are some that have become cult favorites in the age of DVD and Netflix, but I also want to review some of the oddities of the past, many of them forgotten, such as The Ugliest Girl in Town or Cop Rock.

So keep an eye out for that. I’ll be launching it soon and will post on Facebook when it’s ready.

In the meantime, I wanted to thank you all for following this blog over the last two years. It’s been such an honor to relive this show with you as it brought back memories for you. Seeing your comments every week kept me going, and I was always amazed by how respectful you all were, even when you disagreed with me.

I was going to do a bonus post or two, but I’m not sure I have much more to say about Califronia Dreams. There’s not much more out there. No, this is a good place to end.

So thanks for taking this journey with me, and I hope you’ll join me for One Season Wonders when it’s launched soon.

Until then, I’m always your friend, Chris the Geek.

Season 5 Recap

If I’m honest, I’ve spent much of season five ready to write it off as yet another year of rubbish. I have not been a fan of these last two seasons, and I’ve been pretty vocal in expressing the opinion that the show had, by this point, nearly completely lost its focus, barely being about a band at all but really just existing as yet another TNBC Saved by the Bell knock-off. I was ready to hate every bit of this season and what this series I had once praised as being innovative, especially for an Engel-verse show, had become.

And, let’s face it: for much of the season, that’s what we’re given: stuff about as palatable as the shit in season four. It’s directionless. It recycles so many plots from other TNBC shows it’s unbelievable. It flounders trying to find direction like a fish out of water. Its very special episodes make the Nancy Reagan episode of Diff’rent Strokes look like the finale of M*A*S*H. Perhaps the biggest sin of all: it doesn’t seem to give a shit that it’s about a band any longer, with barely any episodes focusing on them, and only an indirect focus most of the time they are featured. Hell, there’s only one original song this season. That’s how much of a shit the writers gave about this being a show about a band.

It was pretty depressing to watch all season.

And then along came the final episode, and all I could say was, “Damn!” I’m going to come back to why that episode was so good when so much else about this season was crap next week, but it made me realize that, behind all these goofy ass Saved by the Bell rip-off plots, there were confident writers capable of producing really quality television. How do you explain that? It’s like if Transformers 8 turns out to be a BFI Critics Top 100 choice. For all the crap I’ve endured the last two seasons, it doesn’t appear to be because the people either behind the scenes or in front of the camera lacked talent. Well, except Mark. He just sucks.

For how much season five sucked overall, I have to give it credit. Unlike season four, it at least seems to have the overarching knowledge that it was soon coming to an end, and was working hard to try to wrap up loose ends and move towards friends leaving each other. Season four had nothing, including a reason for existence, so it was refreshing to actually see some direction, even if it was contrived at times and ham-fisted. I would rather watch these fifteen episodes again than ever subject myself to season four another time.

I normally try to talk about characters in these recaps, but it’s really difficult to do for this season. You see, one of the major missteps of this season is I don’t feel most of the character change at all. In fact, nothing of consequence really happens this season until the last five episodes. Jake and Tiffani’s relationship is the same contrived fest it was last season. Tony and Sam continue to bore me with why on earth they are together. And Mark continues to be a useless waste of space. Nothing ever changes.

Sure, characters have their own episodes, but they don’t really effect their overall character arc. Jake is ashamed that his dad is the new school janitor? Get him fired and hit the reset button next episode. Tony cheats to get into the honor society and be with Sam? Let’s give him instant forgiveness and never mention it again! Mark nearly kills Tara Reid in a drunk driving accident? No one gives a shit about Mark anyway so we’ll never mention that bullshit again!

This is on top of the fact that characterization is so all over the map I can’t keep up. Mark suddenly has camera shyness after instantly getting over his stage fright two seasons ago. Sam’s suddenly the smartest girl in school even though it had only been previously hinted at that she was that intelligent. And Jake has long since forgotten the greaser motorcycle guy he was originally written as. I dare say any character this season could have been given another’s episode with barely any rewrites. Really, I can imagine Mark being ashamed his dad is working at the school, or Tiffani being the honor society president and Jake getting jealous and cheating to be near her.

Everyone is interchangeable, and that’s a huge problem when you want people to remember your characters. At least the Saved by the Bell gang were cut-out caricatures of high school stereotypes. These people have, at most, one defining thing that you can’t really even call personality as much as something they enjoy, like Tiffani’s surfing or Jake’s motorcycles.

You may notice I haven’t mentioned Sly and Lorena yet. Well, I’m saving the worst of it for these two. The contrivances necessary to get them from barely tolerating each other last season to dating this season are just completely unbelievable. As long as I live, I don’t think I’ll ever understand why the producers felt it necessary to shoehorn in a relationship with only three non-out-of-season episodes left in the series. For fuck’s sake, Screech and Violet got more development in their relationship than these two, and Tori Spelling was only in three episodes of Saved by the Bell!

On top of that, whatever character development they got was random and made absolutely no fucking sense. Sly’s sudden backstory of having a neglectful father really makes him sound like a jack ass for not empathizing more with the teen who wanted to run away last season. Lorena becoming co-manager of the band with only two more new episodes (one of which was an out-of-season episode!) remaining seemed like the writers’ way of acknowledging, “Yeah, she’s had no real purpose here at all since she and Jake broke up. Let’s pretend there was a plan for Lorena all along!” And their sudden decision to go to college together makes me wonder why this, of all the relationships on this show, is the one that’s going to “make it!”

I don’t understand how any of this turned out the way it did, and I will never forgive the writers for trying to make me sympathize with a jack ass like Sly when he does despicable things nearly every episode. They’re not even well-intentioned like Zack Morris most of the time. He just comes off as a greedy son of a bitch except where the writers want me to sympathize with him.

But then I keep coming back to that final episode, and I wonder why it all had to turn out this way? As I said, I’m coming back to that question next week, but I just find it so sad that a show I genuinely enjoyed in its first two seasons and still found likeable in its third got so bad in its last two years. I suspect this was part of the period where Peter Engel admits, in his memoir, he was really phoning it in, putting out crap like Malibu, CA based solely on his success with Saved by the Bell while hoping no one would be any the wiser.

In any case, season five left me with closure, but not much else. I feel like I could have skipped from season three directly to “The Last Gig” without missing a whole lot, and I wouldn’t have had to endure some truly terrible episodes either. Nothing else really to see here. Season five has never been released to DVD, and I have to wonder if it’s because most people have forgotten these episodes in favor of the first three seasons. That’s when the show was at its best and those episodes seem to be the ones fans discuss the most. These just feel like that horrible racist uncle you’re ashamed of came for Thanksgiving and refuses to leave: awkward, and you have no idea how to respond.

So how did the cast turn out?

Jay Anthony Franke now lives in Australia with his wife. According to his appearance on the Jimmy Fallon reunion, he’s still trying to have a career in show business, but with little success. He’s had a smattering of roles since the end of California Dreams, mostly as voices for video games, but nothing terribly successful that you’ve probably seen.

If you’ve seen any of the cast in anything else, it’s probably Kelly Packard. After the end of California Dreams, Packard joined the cast of Baywatch, where she happily destroyed what was left of her acting career before fading into obscurity. She still appears occasionally in films, usually in bit roles, and is married with four children.

William James Jones went on to star in the second season of Peter Engel’s USA High, which means you probably haven’t seen him in anything else. He had a few other bit parts on television and in film nowadays, but effectively retired from acting in 2002. On the Jimmy Fallon reunion, he said he’s a family man now with a wife and two children, and has switched focus entirely to clinical psychology.

Jennie Kwan has been fairly successful over the years, but behind the scenes rather than in front. Nowadays, she’s a respected voice actress, her most famous role being that of Suki on Avatar: The Last Airbender. She also has done some Broadway work, including a tour of Avenue Q, which, incidentally, is an amazingly funny show which you should totally see if you never have.

Michael Cade continues acting to this day, mostly in supporting and bit roles in films you probably haven’t heard of. He did a brief stint on General Hospital in 1997 and has kept busy over the years.

California Dreams was Diana Uribe’s break, but it doesn’t appear she was able to transition into a full-fledged career. She continued appearing in bit roles on shows like Nash Bridges and Strong Medicine before disappearing from the entertainment industry completely in 2001. She didn’t appear in the Jimmy Fallon reunion so I have no idea what’s become of her.

Aaron Jackson has continued to have some bit roles in television and film over the years, including trying his hand at producing and directing. His IMDB bio, which is way more proud of his appearance on California Dreams than it should be, says he’s a motivational speaker now and coaches up and coming actors. Let’s hope he doesn’t coach them into shows that will mark them for life like they did him. Also, you totally need to look at his default IMDB photo. With him completely tattooed and looking rebellious, he doesn’t even resemble the geeky Mark nowadays.

What more can be said about this season that hasn’t been said? It’s time to let it go and move on to examining the series as a whole, which I’ll do next week. What I can say is at least we got a satisfying ending. The rest of the season may be horrible or mediocre at best, but we’ll always have that one, final episode to fuel the question, “Why weren’t more episodes that good?” We may never have an answer, but, then again, most things in season five didn’t have a reason.

My Picks

As usual, here’s my picks for the best and the worst of the season. Feel free to agree or disagree with me in the comments below.

Two Episodes I Loved:

Episode 2: “Shaken, Rattled, and Rolled”: There was a beagle in this episode. I love beagles. That’s more things I love in this episode than most over the last two seasons. Therefore, I love this episode.

Episode 15: “The Last Gig”: This episode defies explanation. By far the best finale in the Engel-verse I’ve seen, it perfectly ended the series in a mature and realistic manner uncharacteristic for many of Peter Engel’s shows. It brought tears to my eyes, which has happened very seldom while doing this blog and my other one, so I give major props for producing a genuinely good send-off to the band.

Three Episodes I Hated:

Episode 10: “Babewatch”: I really got sick of all the episodes where Sam has to keep assuring Tony she’s not jealous of him noticing other girls and then having Tony not reciprocate such respect. The over-the-top Baywatch spoof that was not at all self-aware that Engel-verse shows succumb to some of the same criticisms as Baywatch pushed this episode over the edge for me.

Episode 11: “Love Letters”: Look, pairing up Sly and Lorena at the last minute just stunk of desperation. At least Saved by the Bell had the self-knowledge to know that having Lisa confess her love for Screech towards the end of the fourth season would have been a really bad idea. This, combined with the fact they seem to have forgotten they already did this plot, with an opposite result, in season four, and you really did waste my time.

Episode 12: “Graduation Day”: The epitome of this universe’s incompetence in handling serious issues, I was cracking up laughing during the over-the-top moralizing about underage drinking. Add to the fact that this was a Mark-centered episode and he was dating Tara Reid, and you have a formula for a truly terrible very special episode.

Season 5, Episode 15: “The Last Gig”

We open at Sharkey’s with Tiffani crying over a hamburger…

…and Tony crying over losing his really crappy job serving his freeloading friends. Yes, it’s the final episode, and our band are preparing to go their separate ways, which means it’s time for info dump about what our heroes are planning to do now that their series, and their only chance for stardom, is fading into the distance.

I’ll sum it up:

  • Tiffani is off to the University of Hawaii to study ocean shit because she’s a surfer and shit and all surfers want to be oceanographers.
  • Sam is going to England to study Physics at Oxford because she’s the smart one. I suppose her Hong Kong accent will suddenly sound like a British one at that point.
  • Mark is going to Julliard because it’s the one music college the writers have heard of. I guess they’ll just take anyone nowadays, even fake multi-instrumentalists with separate singing actors.
  • Lorena and Sly are going to Pacific University because, out of all the couples, they’re the ones who are going to stay together. Why? Also, props to the writers for not getting lazy and creating a fake university for them to go to after “California University.
  • We never find out what’s happening to Tony. I presume he’s going to ride the rails hobo style until he leaves acting.

In the middle of this info dump, Jake comes in, distressed that the band are thinking of college more than practicing for their last gig. See, he’s staying behind in Pacific Coast and is still determined as ever to get the band signed, even if none of those other slackers have their priorities in check.

Also, why isn’t Jake going to college? Are they implying he’s somehow stupider than the rest of the band or something? I don’t get it: this universe is usually so intent on pushing college on all children. It’s a shock for them to reveal that, yes, someone can choose not to go to college AND lead a happy, fulfilling life.

At the gig, Jake tries hard to get a promoter to come see the band, but has no luck.

So he and the band play snippets of a few of their old songs, some we haven’t heard in a long time.

Well, it just so happens there was a record exec there tonight who had nothing better to do that night except go hear some unknown band’s final performance. He says he’s impressed, but he only wants to sign Jake, not the rest of the band. Jake storms off, saying that, unless the whole band is signed, he won’t sign either.

The rest of the band stand there stunned that Jake would do something so stupid, which leads into the series’ final fantasy sequence.

They imagine twenty years into the future, where Sharkey’s is now a franchise and a new restaurant is being opened in Paris, and the old band reunite for the first time to celebrate.

Naturally, Sly and Lorena own it since they’re the ones most obsessed with money and shit.

Mark’s become a drag queen.

Sam’s joined the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Seriously, I’m surprised the costuming department didn’t get sued for this one.

Tiffani comes in, confused she’s a dolphin.

And Tony’s become the first black James Bond because, you know, he loves acting and shit, even though he once told his father that music was his biggest dream.

Jake, though, has a pot belly and is still living with his parents, still trying to get the band signed, even though none of them give a shit about it anymore. This shared hallucination convinces the rest of our cast they have to get Jake to sign that contract.

They find him at Sharkey’s, where he’s convinced the record exec to also sign the band. They all let him know, though, that they’re not interested and are going to college, leaving him to storm out again for the second time this episode.

Tiffani finds Jake at the loft, and it’s actually a pretty touching scene. If they’d had more like this, I might have given a shit about their relationship and not felt like it was manufactured to make up for Jenny’s departure. She tells Jake that the rest of the band’s dreams changed slowly over time, but his has stayed the same since the beginning, or at least since he took the band from a long forgotten character whose show this originally was. He says he’ll sign the contract, but this also leads to the realization their relationship isn’t going to last…again. Yeah, probably something they should have thought about weeks ago, but that’s the Engel-verse for you.

So the band play their last gig…again. Seriously, I thought that other concert was their last gig. They both just happen to be on the pier and have the same extras present? They even play an endangered species this season: a new song! Of course, what could have improved this episode would have been to have the theme song be their final song, just as it was their first.

But, as the concert ends, it’s that time, time to say goodbye.

Mark has to go before people realize he really does suck as much as he seems to, and Sly says goodbye to his cousin using the words that traumatized him years ago, just to remind him how much he does suck ass.

Lorena thanks Tiffani and Sam for being her best friends when the script called for it.

Tony and Sam say goodbye, but Tony breaks down in tears when he realizes his only other major acting gig will be on USA High.

Jake and Tiffani say their goodbye.

And, finally, Jake and Sly say goodbye, realizing they really do love each other for some reason, even though I still maintain Sly is an irredeemable jackass.

And, god damn it, just fuck this scene right here. No, this isn’t a tear in my eye as I watch Jake left alone on the stage. No, my eyes must just be dry because I hated the last two seasons of this show. I can’t be crying as I watch Jake left behind, all alone, his friends gone on to their own lives and he doing his own thing. If I’m crying, I can’t be living up to my reputation I’m gaining from commenters on Saved by the Bell Reviewed as a beta cuck SJW pedophile who over-analyzes decades old shows! No, god damn it, you’re not going to tell me that, out of all the Engel-verse shows I’ve reviewed, this is the one that did a really good finale that got me all emotional and shit! Not the forgotten step-child of Saved by the Bell!

This episode honestly deserves its 9.6 rating on IMDB.

Oh, Ronald B. Solomon, I take back the mean stuff I’ve said about you. You do know your way around a script! Seriously, other than the info dump at the beginning, this episode is nearly a perfect ending to the series. I’m actually shocked after the shitty ones I’ve had to review in the past. The only thing I might have done differently is sweet talk Brent Gore into coming back and have Matt return to recruit Jake into a new band, bookending the series. Since that was unlikely, though, I can’t complain too much. I mean, damn!

And, as our episode, our season, and our series ends, I’m left in an emotional state of sadness and gladness, something I had no idea I’d be feeling at the end of this project. This show: when it was good, it was good.

“She’s Not You”
Jake singing

A snippet of an old song that’s been seen three times before: once with Matt singing and twice with Jake. If they’re going for a retrospective of songs, this is definitely the right ways to go.

“Tough Love”
Jake singing

Here’s another one we haven’t heard in a while, not since the preachy episode where Jake had to give up smoking. Interesting that they’re choosing songs this old to go back to for the final episode.

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

And another song we haven’t heard in a while. Geez, if this was any other episode, I’d swear we’re watching an out of season episode. The producers aren’t usually this good about going back and rediscovering old songs like this. I mean, that’s how we got “He’s So Funky” in like four episodes this season.

“So Glad I Was There”
Jake, Mark, Tiffani, Sam, and Tony singing

Good God in Heaven! Miracles do happen! It’s the sole new song for the season! I’m almost in shock it’s such an unexpected occurrence. Good they ended the series with a new song, but it should have happened a lot more over the course of this season!

The song itself is thematically designed as a goodbye, with each member of the band singing a part almost as a goodbye. It was slow but, for once, I’m not going to complain about its speed. I’m not sure a faster rock song would have been appropriate here. It’s a decent sounding song even if the five vocalists sound a bit unnatural since it could have just as easily been sung by one of them.

It’s the last California Dreams song we’ll ever hear, and that does make me a little sad deep down. When it comes down to it, though the writers didn’t seem to have a clue about nineties garage rock, the songs at least had heart.

Most of you know the drill by now, but I’ll have my usual season recap next Friday. The following week, I’ll have a couple of special posts. And, in two weeks, I’ll wrap up this project once and for all and let you know what’s next for me! See you then!

Season 5, Episode 14: “The Fashion Man”

We open with the band singing a tune we haven’t heard since season two.

During it, Sly tries to get with several girls and is summarily rejected because he registers on all their piece-o-shit meters. Now, you may be asking yourself why Sly’s suddenly hitting on girls again after he’s been with Lorena the last few episodes. You may answer this is an out of order episode, and you’d technically be right. But then you’ll notice that Jake and Tiffani & Tony and Sam don’t appear to be dating this episode, and the band sings a song we haven’t seen since season two.

Yes, my friends, this is an out of season episode from way back in season three, because I guess they needed to burn through it before the series finale. It’s pretty awkward, and I wonder how viewers felt about it at the time after having Sly and Lorena shoved down their throats three episodes in a row.

I’m also curious why there’s a concert going on in the loft. Wouldn’t that wake up Lorena’s parents, or do they just not give a shit at this point?

Anyway, Sly moans to Lorena about how nobody appreciates him and loves the band and Lorena is all, “That’s because you’re a moron who I would never date unless the writers planned a contrived last-minute romance for us two seasons from now.”

And the abuse continues at school when a girl wants Sly to give Jake her number and shit, because we need to establish that Sly has it so bad, at least for this episode.

Meanwhile, the girls, but especially Sam, gush over some Fabio rip-off model named Samson. Yes, seriously, Samson. I was hoping at some point a woman would cut off his hair and pluck out his eyes because that would have been a lot more exciting. Sly hears the band talk about how much money Samson makes without any real talent or effort, and decides that must be the work for him. He sees an ad for a modeling academy that trained Samson, and decides he’s going to be the next big thing, which elicits fits of laughter from the entire band. Man, you know you’re doing pathetic when even Mark is laughing at your chances.

At Sharkey’s, Sly meets Amber Dubois, the proprietor of the modeling academy, and she assures him he could be the next Samson.

Then she butters up the rest of the band, using every racial stereotype available to convince them they also have what it takes to become models. She even tells Mark he could be a successful model, and I’m calling it now: this is a scam. Nobody thinks Mark has the potential to be a model.

Amber steps aside to take a call and, AHA! I called it right! The writers are going ahead and telling us that she’s a con artist seeking to bilk the band out of their money! See, they didn’t even need to show me that! I knew the minute Mark was assured he was attractive enough for people to want to buy stuff based upon him!

So the entire band go down to take a fitness test after Amber lures them with promises they could get paid $500 an hour.

This test involves shit like balancing a book on your head, and other assorted stereotypes about how models are trained. Yep, real model material right there, Tony.

There’s also the opportunity for the band to make stupid faces and completely convince me they can’t act to save their lives. In the end, though, Amber wants them all to pay her money for courses and shit, so everyone drops out, realizing how mind-numbingly stupid the last few minutes have been.

Amber tells Sly that he scored the highest on the test so she’s super-di-duper sure that he’s the next Samson now…

…and he proceeds to have a fantasy sequence involving girls wanting to touch his winkey-dink, and he immediately signs up.

At school the next day, Sly comes in all full of himself, telling everyone he’s already paid Amber more money for an advanced course. After he’s gone, Jake, being the only one on this show with an ounce of god damned sense, realizes something’s up, but Mark doesn’t think Sly’s stupid enough to fall for a scam.

A fat kid nearby who Amber also pegged as the next Samson convinces the rest that any contrivance is possible on this show, and they decide they have to do something to end this plot.

For some reason, Sly’s having an underwear photo shoot in the middle of Sharkey’s because shut up, and the band try to convince him he’s being scammed. He dismisses them as ust being jealous, though, because that’s how the script is writing it.

Amber comes in and tells Sly she wants him to be in a fashion show but needs him to pay for expenses. He’s out of money, though, and decides to sell his car to pay her, which the band care about for some reason.

So what do they do?

Why, get Mark to infiltrate Amber’s office using a really bad disguise that instantly fools adults in the Engel-verse because they have no common god damned sense. Amber does, once again, assure Mark he has what it takes to be a model. Oh, get off it, lady. You are so full of shit it hurts!

The rest of the band come in looking for evidence that Amber is a fraud, and Jake finds lots of empty file folders where records of her clients should be because…I’m not sure what the point of keeping empty file folders is if nobody’s supposed to look at them anyway, but it’s the direction this episode is going so shut up! Then someone calls on the phone and leaves a message on the answering machine basically saying, “Hi, we’re the villains and we’re scamming Sly out of money!” Tony tries to take the tape, but Sam’s obsession over Samson’s painting causes him to jump and somehow tear the tape out of the cassette. Don’t worry, though, for Jake has a plan to wrap this shit show up!

The band hurry over to Sharkey’s and try to convince Sly not to go through with the show, but he continues insisting they’re just jealous and shit, so they decide they need to stall until Jake gets there. They decide the best way to do so is to put superglue on the runway and play the music fast because…hell if I know. It doesn’t even look like it’s doing much other than mildly inconveniencing Amber.

She figures out what’s going on and prepares to spank them all…

…but then Jake comes in with Nitro from American Gladiators, who’s apparently playing Samson this episode because it’s the early nineties and people loved American Gladiators. Samson clears all this up by saying Amber’s a fraud and doesn’t have permission to use his name, and he serves her with papers for a lawsuit because they’re that easy to file in the Engel-verse.

Anyway, Sly feels stupid for falling for Amber, Nitro assures him everything’s going to be okay…

And our episode ends with Sam ready to rip Nitro’s clothes off and find out what what other talents he has since acting is definitely not one of them. Seriously, Nitro couldn’t act worth shit in this episode. Tony from The New Class was more convincing than him. I guess you really don’t need talent to beat the crap out of people on television, just like the band said. Also, I’m wondering why this episode was held back so long. I’ve seen much worse in the course of reviewing this show. It just seems odd that this one, of all the terrible episodes I’ve watched the last five seasons, is the one they decided they weren’t ready to show.

“Handle It With Care”
Sam singing

A repeat song from way back in season two, I have to admit, it’s not a bad sounding song. It may be my favorite from Sam even though, like usual, it sounds like the writers have absolutely no idea what rock music sounds like. At this point, I’m just glad it’s something listenable and not yet another repeat of “He’s So Funky,” so I’m not going to push this point too far and just count my blessings.

Season 5, Episode 13: “A Band Divided”

We open directly with the band singing my super-di-duper favorite song from the band in the whole wide world because I was just in the mood to hear Tony sing about how awesome he is and how everyone should bow at his feet and kiss his ass.

As the band prepare to do the unthinkable and sing two songs in a row, an awful screeching sound starts coming through the amp. Quickly deciding that Mark is the most expendable cast member if something should go wrong, the band ask him to take a look at it.

The amp is so disturbed by being touched by a loser like Mark that it implodes, refusing to ever play for this band again. This creates a crisis in the band as a new amp apparently costs a thousand dollars in the Engel-verse and there are no cheaper alternatives to come by.

Lorena says she’ll give them the money to get an amp if they make her co-manager, and Sly thinks this is a great idea as it will give them one more opportunity to pretend to be a real couple and not just a gimmick tacked on at the end of the series. The band aren’t so sure as they did make Lorena manager back in season three but she sucked ass at it.

Back at the loft, Sly tries to convince the band that nothing will go wrong with making Lorena a co-manager, and he must also hypnotize them to make them forget Lorena’s already been manager once before because no one even mentions it. They decide to let her, reasoning there’s only two new episodes of the show left after this one so what could possibly go wrong?

Lorena immediately wheels in a new amp, excited to get to relive this rerun plot over again, and telling the band they won’t regret it. The band hook up the amp and get ready to play, and the power goes out, indicating Lorena’s house must be a fire hazard if the wiring is so fickle.

Remember last week when the band graduated high school? Well, Sly and Lorena are back at PCH this week trying to negotiate the band for a school dance because school dances in the summer are the hip place to be. You’ve got to love how the Engel-verse is so good at episode placement. In any case, Sly and Lorena fight so much about what to ask for that whoever the hell this is they’re negotiating with says to hell with it and walks out before he can be any further in the Engel-verse after his previous experience in the single best episode of The New Class.

Back at the loft, the band are understandably disturbed to find out they have a lesson to learn this week about cooperation and shit as they scold Sly and Lorena like kindergartners for not being able to get along. The two promise they’ll work it out for the sake of the band and shit.

But that’s not before we get this wonderful image of the two of them fighting over a god damned fucking cookie. No joke. This is what this show is reduced to at this point. If you’re fighting over a cookie, I have to wonder why you’re even a couple. It’s as if the romantic aspect of their relationship is contrived and tacked on at the last minute to try and give them some depth or some shit.

Meanwhile, we need a stupid subplot, so Jack, Tony, and Mark are going to rewire the loft for the amp, because that’s a good idea.

Tony proceeds almost immediately to put a hole in the wall because this subplot exists for no other reason than to try and get me to laugh. It didn’t work. Also, wasn’t this a subplot back in season one, except with Richard, Matt, and Dennis breaking shit in the Garrison house and generally annoying the shit out of Melody? Is this the week of recycled plots? Even Sly and Lorena bickering could have been stolen from season three with Jake and Lorena bickering. What’s the point of this episode?

At Sharkey’s, the band find out Sly and Lorena managed off-screen to get them black-balled from everywhere in town. You know things are bad when even Sharkey’s bans them from playing! That’s like The Max not being a puppet of Bayside High and available for all that show’s wacky antics. The band decide it’s time to teach Sly and Lorena about working together and compromise and shit.

So they waste five minutes of an episode already low on substance so Tiffani can tell them a story a in fantasy sequence format about Jake and Tony being brothers and co-kings and shit and having to compromise on broccoli verses cauliflower. Truly a horrible crisis indeed. For some reason I cannot fathom, this stupid story doesn’t instantly change Sly and Lorena’s minds and they decide the band needs to pick one of them to be their manager. A hard choice indeed: the piece of shit asshole or the vapid idiot who forgets how much she sucks at managing.

Back at the loft, the band recount the events of the episode as we see the boys are basically destroying the loft because that’s funny I guess. They decide they can’t pick between two horrible choices. But wait! Tiffani has a plan: why not let a horrible stereotype decide the future of their band for them!

Yes, this is Judge Maui Zowee, who’s a “surf judge,” because that’s totally a thing and not some made up bullshit in the Engel-verse! He proceeds to basically do a modern day version of Solomon cutting the baby in half to make Sly and Lorena suddenly realize they can work together after all since, after all, there are only two new episodes left in the season. Thus, this entire plot has been pointless as it could have been solved by a stereotype all along, and our episode ends with Jake taking his new co-manager to show her how much he’s fucked up her house.

What? What more do you want me to say about this episode? Lots of recycled plot lines and nothing that makes any impact in the end. Lorena becoming co-manager might have meant something to me if it had come at the beginning of the season, forcing her to work with Sly and realize her true feelings for him. As it is, it’s just another horrible contrivance tacked on at the end of the series that means nothing in the end. I could have written better episodes than this shit. Really, I could have.

“He’s So Funky”
Tony singing

As long as I live, I’ll never understand why the producers insisted on pushing this as Tony’s signature song the last two seasons. Seriously, it may be the worst of his songs, with so much narcissism on show Tony may have been right at home with Donald Trump. And I absolutely hate Sam’s yelling, “He’s so funky!” every few minutes. It’s bad. Just bad. Please let this be the last time I ever have to hear this song. I promise, once I’m done with this blog, I will never have the temptation to ever listen to this stupid song again.

Season 5, Episode 12: “Graduation Day”

We open with the three cast couples really making it a point to show how much a loser Mark is because he’s the odd person without a significant other in the main cast now. It’s the last day of school and Mark wishes he had more time to get a girl to touch him, but that will never happen because they’re all repulsed by his mere existence.

Yeah, this is a Mark-centric episode. I’m sorry in advance. Also, this plot would have seemed a lot more natural last week when we were talking about regrets. Here, it seems forced and shoe-horned. But that’s the Engel-verse for you.

Of all the girls Mark could have a crush on, it’s Tara Reid, apparently because he hopes she’ll get him a job on one of the Sharknado movies one day when his acting gigs are slim pickens. Alas, though, she has taste, and she’s unlikely to ditch it in the next day in favor of our lame attempt of a protagonist.

Meanwhile, Sam is valedictorian because of course she is. Since it was established a mere few episodes ago that she’s the smart one of the group, they have to do this to make it look like the writers had a plan all along. But, alas, she’s now nervous to give a speech in public because talking is something Sam’s always struggled with on this show since ever. So one of our subplots this episode will be Tony helping Sam get over her fear of public speaking.

Principal Blumford is back one more time as well to moralize about the evils of drinking at graduation parties, and, yeah, the actor looks tired and ready to be done with this gig. Tara Reid is like, “Fuck you hippie! We do what we want!” and Mark claps entusiastically hoping she’ll touch him by the end of the episode.

In the hallway, we find out Jake and Tiffani’s teacher was Phil the Bum from Night Court, and, as they ass kiss about what a great teacher he is, he tells them they both missed a pop quiz, which means they get an incomplete and won’t graduate.

So many problems in logic with this subplot. How the hell does a teacher get off waiting until the last day of class to give this sort of information? Wouldn’t you just give the student a zero on the pop quiz and, as long as they’re otherwise passing, they’re fine? Why does one missed quiz count as an incomplete? Do the writers have any idea how high school works?

All these questions will remain unanswered this episode as we watch Jake and Tiffani cobble together a project to try and graduate on time because why not.

Oh, and Tony’s getting on Sam’s nerves about the valedictorian speech. Exciting stuff.

At Sharkey’s, Mark gets up the nerve to ask Tara Reid to some sober graduation party without wetting his pants, and she’s all, “Places without alcohol are uncool!” So, Mark invites her to a party at Lorena’s house since the set was available and Jake’s garage might seem a bit forced. He promises there will be alcohol a plenty, and he proceeds to convince Lorena off camera.

At the loft, some Stingray rejects bring in some beer, instantly sending all the band except Jake and Mark into a judgmental tizzy because alcohol is the devil in the Engel-verse.

Mark won’t be deterred, though, and jumps all over Tara Reid when she gets there in a scene so important that the camera isn’t even focused on them. He steals some beer from one of the Stingray rejects and proceeds to booze it up, which, in my experience, means someone’s going to learn a tragic but ultimately inconsequential message by the end of the episode.

Mark proceeds to sing a song to Tara Reid as they each continue gulping beer. It’s a good thing Mark has a different voice actor so this Mark doesn’t have to worry about alcohol affecting his singing ability.

Lorena starts getting pissed that her classmates are a bunch of morons.

And you know Tara Reid must be drunk as hell if she finds Mark touchable at this point.

We rejoin the Jake and Tiffani project subplot by Jake revealing they bought a Taj Mahal made out of pretzels. Yeah, I’m not sure why Jake’s bringing it out right now when there’s an entire house downstairs where he could stash it, but we need some wacky hi-jinks…

…like the football players getting hungry and eating it in fast motion while Jake just stands there and watches! Remember when Jake was supposed to be a tough guy everyone’s afraid of? Why does he never beat the crap out of anyone except Sly in this whole damned series? I get the urge to punch Sly; that’s a near universal. If he’s a true tough guy, though, why does he let everyone walk all over him?

Mark and Tara Reid decide to go get it on as Lorena kicks everyone out of her loft for being stupid pigs, and Jake and Tony decide they need to cock block him lest Tara Reid regret her horrible mistake in the morning. They basically trick Mark out of his keys by being smarter than him in every conceivable notion, but the joke’s on them: Mark keeps a spare key in his wallet just in case he’s outsmarted by people who are better than him in every conceivable way.

The band make their way to the party at Sharkey’s where the usual Engel-verse muzak is in high gear, which Jake, a rock guitarist, thinks are some slamming tunes. Principal Blumford’s already checked out of this show, though, and is busy jamming it up to the Village People and hoping there’s another Terminator movie before Arnold gets a movie career.

The fun is interrupted by a police officer informing the band that Mark’s been in a car accident, and I’m pretty sure he violates several privacy laws as he tells the entire restaurant about Mark and Tara Reid’s conditions. Mark’s fine but is under arrest. Tara Reid has some physical injuries. Lucky for her, though, the accident occurred before Mark could touch her in naughty ways, so the mental scarring isn’t there.

It’s time for graduation, but Jake and Tiffani haven’t shown up yet and Mark has to tell us all about how drinking is bad and shit.

As if that’s not enough, Principal Blumford has to shame the class for Tara Reid not being able to graduate that day, and he practically looks straight at Mark to give him the eye of disappointment. If I were a parent of this graduating class, I’d be pissed that the principal is choosing graduation as a time to shame one student, ONE FUCKING STUDENT, into feeling bad about his life choices. Seriously, what the fuck!

Principal Blumford calls up Sam to give her speech, but she says she can’t because it’s an Engel-verse tradition to make valedictorian speeches way over-complicated.

Just then, Jake and Tiffani rush in with a Taj Mahal made out of motorcycle  parts, thus bringing that thrilling subplot to an abrupt end.

Anyway, Sam yields the floor to Mark, and he proceeds to give what may be the most moralistic speech I’ve yet heard on a Peter Engel show. I mean, Jesus Christ, when this show gets preachy, it gets preachy, and I’m literally laughing hysterically at how ridiculous this whole damned episode is as my dogs look at me and wonder what’s gotten into me. Thank god someone had the good sense to realize this wouldn’t make a good series finale as it really may be second only to The New Class for worst graduation episode I’ve seen in the Engel-verse.

Anyway, it’s time to hand out diplomas, and each member of our cast, and no one else, gets to graduate, including a stupid last-minute revelation that Sam has an ethnic sounding last name she hasn’t been using the last four seasons, because that was so vital to the episode.

Mark even gets a touch on his shoulder from Principal Blumford for learning from the best how to be really moralistic when the script calls for it, thus fulfilling Mark’s three season quest to get someone to touch him lovingly.

Of course, Sly’s cap has his catchphrase on it because why wouldn’t it? This series is so formulaic at this point it makes paint by numbers look like abstract art.

And our episode ends with our cast and the assembled extras leaving PCH for the final time. This episode is a big pile of what the fuck. From an amazing level of preachiness I’ve never encountered outside of fucking Full House to half-assed subplots that went nowhere, I really am amazed how terrible it is. Of course, it doesn’t help that it’s Mark-centric and completely out of what little character he has, but damn! This was the best they could do for a graduation episode? This is sad!

“Must Be Love”
Mark singing

If it’s season five, it must be another repeat song. Yeah, it’s an okay song for what it is. What makes it amusing this time around is Mark taking chugs of beer as he sings, and then staring at Tara Reid as if they’ve been dating for ages. In any case, it is what it is: the Engel-verse continuing to save money on producing new songs because they really didn’t care about this show anymore, what with quality shows like USA High and The New Class being produced.

Season 5, Episode 11: “Love Letters”

We open at Sharkey’s with the band preparing their pictures for the yearbook. They soon start talking about regrets, and Tiffani regrets, to Jake’s dismay, that she has a regret from freshman year with a guy named Paul. Apparently Tiffani wasn’t really into this guy and tried to turn him down nicely, but he couldn’t take a hint, so Jenny told her to stop being subtle so she was all, “You’re a piece of shit. Go to hell,” and she regrets hurting his feelings. I’m more impressed that the show remembers Jenny exists. Usually characters in the Engel-verse disappear into a black hole once they leave the show. Just ask Dennis and Tori.

So Tony regrets not entering the dance-off, Mark regrets not telling off a bully coach (even though he should regret existing), and Jake regrets never playing the bagpipes for everyone. Gee, I wonder if this episode is going to be about regret? I feel I’m seeing some subtle hints here.

Naturally, Lorena’s regret is really shallow: she regrets dating a guy with flaws, so Sly tries to swoop in and date her and she’s all, “I’d rather eat thumbtacks,” as any sane or insane woman would do. Lorena decides she should just give up since we’re this close to the end of the series because she’s never going to have a love interest written for her again.

In any case, they decide they all need to face their regrets so they graduate without them.

At school, Lorena reveals she received a letter from a secret admirer and she’s all excited because no one’s given a shit about her since she broke up with Jake.

Mark confronts the coach by giving him his best “I’m constipated” face, and we see the real reason Mark’s afraid to stand up to the guy: he’s Ronald B. Solomon, co-creator of the show, and Mark’s afraid of being written out as soon as Solomon realizes how useless he is. In any case, the coach says he has character and now Ronald B. Solomon will just appear randomly throughout the episode to do some gay panic and gender stereotype jokes. Classy guy.

In the hallway, Tony and Sam are trying to set the record for the fall dance-off to prove they could, and Lorena joins them to continue rejoicing that someone wants Jake’s sloppy seconds. I mean, seriously, he’s been interested in Jenny, Tiffani, and Lorena, and so far we haven’t seen any of them with a different man. It’s like they bear his stamp and are uninteresting without a relationship with him.

Sly overhears Lorena saying she’s in love with this mystery man, and Jake soon realizes this is a cheap ploy to get Sly and Lorena together with little actual development…

…and they share a tender moment together as Ronald B. Solomon gives us his first gay panic joke. Sly doesn’t want to tell Lorena because he says he’s never told her how he’s felt out of fear of being hurt even though there was an entire episode last season about him telling Lorena how he felt and getting rejected. It’s even written by the same fucking writer! I mean, there’s forgetting continuity, and then there’s this shit. But this is what we’re going with I guess.

In the loft, the dancing continues as a delivery man brings roses and a teddy bear for Lorena. Lorena thinks whoever this is must be amazing since he’s paying attention to her.

Jake tells Sly he needs to face his fear and shit so he can make out with Lorena. So Jake invites Sly to have a fantasy sequence where Sly’s never taken any risks.

Turns out that Sly is Dustin Diamond in this universe and being bullied by football players and shit.

Tony is his boss and Mark is the relatively cooler Winkle, which is a scary existence indeed. He still pines for Lorena when it’s convenient to the plot, but she barely knows he exists. Sly decides he doesn’t want to grow up to write a shitty memoir trash talking his costars, so he decides he’ll tell Lorena tonight after the gig.

At Sharkey’s, Tiffani tries to apologize to Paul, but he acts like a fucking creepy ass nice guy, so she tells him to fuck off and stick a gerbil up his ass.

The band play a song to put Lorena in a loving mood that Tiffani once sang for her father. Creepy.

Lorena continues reading the letters, practically orgasming over the attention she’s being paid. Sly’s about to tell her that he wrote the letters, but some guy named John steps in and takes credit, continuing his streak of being a creepy nice guy to another girl, leaving Sly devastated.

At the loft, Jake tells Sly he needs to tell Lorena the truth about the letters. He says he’s about to after they stop expositing. Also, the stupid dance subplot is over as Tony and Sam break the record, in case you gave a shit.

Lorena comes in and Sly tells her the truth. Naturally, since he’s a piece of shit that once had to resort to trickery to get a girl to like him, she doesn’t believe him and tells him off for taking credit for Paul’s romantic heart.

At Sharkey’s, Jake plays the bagpipes as the rest of the band laugh about how wacky foreign cultures’ clothing is and Ronald B. Solomon comes in for one more gender stereotype joke.

Lorena tries to get John to tell her some romantic shit, but she soon realizes he’s been written too shallowly to come up with anything romantic, and soon throws water on him as she marches off.

Lorena goes back to the loft and tells Sly that maybe she could do a complete 360 on what she said just last season which, in the twisted chronology of this show, is like last week. She decides to ignore all continuity that’s been established up to now and ignore her previous statements…

…and starts the most shallow and poorly written of the relationships on this show by far.

And our episode ends with Sly’s yearbook listing declaring he loves Lorena Costa and regrets nothing. I don’t understand this. Starting a relationship a few episodes before the end of the series? How were they planning on making anyone give a shit about this? It’s like this ending was originally intended for Jenny and they were going to build it up over the seasons. Instead, we get a really shallow and forced pairing just to say it was done.

“Someone to Hold Onto”
Tiffani singing

Another one we haven’t seen in a couple seasons. I think one of the travesties of this show is Tiffani wasn’t given more songs of her own. She has a beautiful voice and it’s what makes this song memorable for me. It’s a rerun song I actually don’t mind as much. Also, it’s less creepy this time around since she’s singing it to Jake and not to her father. Well, maybe. I mean, she does want to be Jake’s little girl in the song, so maybe she’s into role playing.

Of course, there’s something else I noticed. Remember when I said the only instrument Mark hasn’t played on this show is bass? Guess what he’s playing this week while Tiffani’s singing? Yep, Mark is so talented by this show’s logic he can play any instrument in the band. Either that or he’s so expendable they just stick him wherever is necessary from week after week. Seriously, why is he around?

Also, Tony playing the drums from the side is really weird. It’s like horribly written thugs who tilt their guns to look all tough and shit even though it’s impossible to aim a gun like that. It’s like the writers have no experience how to play the drums.

Firsts: Sly and Lorena date.

Season 5, Episode 10: “Babewatch”

We open in the loft, where Tiffani arrives to tell the band that a Baywatch ripoff called, no kidding, Babewatch, is in town filming and asked her to be a surfing extra and even find other surfers to appear on the show. This is hilarious in hindsight given that, after California Dreams, the only show that really wanted Kelly Packard was Baywatch. It’s almost like they were predicting the future!

In any case, most of the rest of the cast decide they want to appear as extras and start begging Tiffani to cast them. Even Mark is in on the action despite it being a plot point a few episodes ago that Mark is camera shy. Yeah, this just goes to prove my point they have no clue what they’re doing with Mark. They’re just throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks. Anyway, Tiffani’s reluctant but gives in when they give her pouty faces.

Oh, and Jake’s schtick this episode is talking about how shitty a show Baywatch is. Yeah, I’m calling it Baywatch the rest of the episode because their name for it is just stupid. Um, Peter Engel, people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. At least Baywatch was often unintentionally hilarious with surfboard eating sharks and A&W Cream Soda contests. You produced The New Class. No more need be said.

Tony rushes in, excited because he just applied for a role on Baywatch where he’s given CPR by a pretty girl because I guess we’re still going with him wanting to be an actor or some shit. Once again, Tony’s utterly convinced Sam will be jealous, and, once again, she’s all, “I don’t care! Will you please stop airing your insecurities!” Of course, all this is to point out Tony’s hypocrisy later, and Jake,being a Negative Nelly, points out that a million people probably tried out for the role.

So Tony decides he needs an edge and throws a party for the director and star, a David Hasselhoff ripoff if he were thirty years young and much more attractive. Tony proceeds to kiss ass as much as possible.

Everyone gets sick of Jake complaining about Baywatch so much so he goes over and starts complaining to the director and starts complaining to him. The director, in a bid to get Jake to shut the hell up, hires him as his assistant with the promise he’ll listen to his feedback later, but first sends him to get coffee, and it’s funny because Jake appears to be playing an idiot this episode.

Of course, since it’s California Dreams, Tony’s plan to impress the director involves the band singing them a song, with Tony on lead vocals. I’m not sure how this is supposed to impress the director since there’s no indication the gig involves singing, but this is the Engel-verse, where logic has no place.

After the song, we find out the rip-Hoff (ha! I’m quite proud of that pun!) was watching Sam the entire time and wants her on the show.

Back at the loft, Tiffani teaches Sly, Mark, and Lorena how to be a surfer, because that’s actually a subplot now I guess. My god, this show just keeps pulling out the stupidest subplots…

Tony and Sam come in, Sam having signed a contract for Baywatch, and Tony swears he’s going to be cool with the Rip-Hoff kissing his girlfriend. He soon loses his mind and starts ranting, though, setting us up for obvious conflict.

On set, Jake tries to tell his ideas to the director, who promptly ignores him and sends him on more chores because this is also a subplot now apparently. More to the point, I’m wondering why they have to film this scene at a classroom in PCH. Were there no other classrooms or sets in LA appropriate that they needed to come to a random high school classroom?

Of course Tony, watching the whole thing, keeps freaking the fuck out and interrupting shit because he’s jealous of Sam and the Rip-Hoff. Rather than calling security and having Tony remove, they just decide to argue a bunch, because that’s they way you handle an intensely jealous and possessive boyfriend.

Back at the loft, Tiffani decides Sly, Mark, and Lorena are as ready to be dumb ass caricatures of surfers as they’re ever going to be and gives them their new surfer names: Bland, Shithead, and Never Does Anything of Note. They’re ready for their big spot in Baywatch apparently.

Tony and Sam come in arguing because Sam’s sick the fuck of Tony’s control and trust issues. He says he can’t stand her being with with the Rip-Hoff, but she assures him they’re just friends. This is good enough until he asks her to Sharkey’s and she tells him she’s having lunch with the Rip-Hoff to discuss things not related to cheating on him. She leaves, and Sly convinces Tony they need to do something really ridiculous to spy on Sam and the Rip-Hoff.

Yeah, because dressing as sharks in the middle of Sharkey’s isn’t going to draw attention from any half-sane person. And this explains why I didn’t recognize this scene from the clip show episode a few weeks ago: the clip show aired before the episode, maybe one of the few times in television history something that stupid and incompetent happened on television. Of course, the real reason is because this is an out of season episode that originally belonged to season four. It’s just another example of the incompetence in the Engel-verse.

Oh, and Tony and Sly overhear the Rip-Hoff asking Sam out, because a guy in his thirties asking out a high school student isn’t creepy at all!

On set at Sharkey’s, Tiffani blows her line when she’s the one who is too nervous and the others deliver her line, “Cowabunga dude!” for her. I know now why she messed up: she suddenly realized they wanted her to be an Olsen twin!

The director still won’t listen to Jake so he quits doing stupid chores, but then he uses Jake’s idea afterwards anyway. Thrilling subplots this week.

Tony shows up and tells Sam she should be with the Rip-Hoff as the Rip-Hoff does his impression of Richard Simmons’s Sweating to the Oldies. Sam tries to stop Tony, but he’s on contrivance autopilot this week and walks out of Sharkey’s.

Back at the loft, Sam tells Tony she said no to the Rip-Hoff because he’s not a main character, and Tony should have trusted her and shit. We hit the reset button, they kiss, and our episode closes with Tony having learned absolutely nothing since he’s going to repeat trust issues again in the future. I just love how no one ever truly grows and changes in the Engel-verse. They just have lots of random shit happen to them without ever truly being affected by it at all.

“He’s So Funky”
Tony singing

In all fairness, this was supposed to be the first time we ever heard this song but, since it’s an out of season episode, we got to hear it in another episode for the first time because this show has become huge on reusing songs. As with all of Tony’s songs, they’re pretty good for what they are: not rock songs, although this is probably one of the weakest of them just because of Sam’s part where she keeps yelling, “He’s so funky!” I’ve got three words for you: That’s so stupid.

Also, I can’t help but realize Mark is playing drums in this song, proving once again he’s the most disposable of the band. Also, I refuse to believe that someone as bland as Mark is a multi-instrumentalist. If he plays bass in the next five episodes, he will have officially played every instrument in the band, which I find unlikely.

Season 5, Episode 9: “Senior Prom”

We open to find Jake and Tiffani overly excited about the prospect of running for prom king and queen. Mark is on hand to remind viewers that he heard they had a disastrous junior prom “last year.” Yes, serious, they just implied that seasons three through five all happen in the span of a year. If so, that year must have included no sleep since it includes a trip to Aspen. At least it’s not as hard to figure out as how The New Class fit in multiple trips every season.

But, you may be asking, I thought the entire conflict of season two’s “Indecent Promposal” was that Jake didn’t do proms? Well, turns out that he’s decided to make this right with Tiffani since their first time around was so fucked up. Yeah, it’s a lame ass excuse to do this episode, but it’s more continuity than I usually get out of the Engel-verse, so I can’t complain too much.

Also, Lorena has no date to the prom. This plays absolutely no role in this episode. The writers just thought they’d throw it out in case you gave a shit.

Tony and Sam come in and announce they’re also running for prom king and queen because the episode needs some conflict and shit. They briefly think about backing out because they’re friends and this shit usually turns out bad in the Engel-verse, but Tiffani wonders if the writers might give them a realistic scenario for once and realize people don’t have to murder each other over some minor competition. As such they all decide to run.

Oh, Tiffani, you are so naive after five seasons in this franchise.

Sly comes in with a big announcement, and the writers give Mark what may be his first funny line of the series as he asks Sly if he’s also running for prom queen. That was way too clever a line for Mark. They need to take it away and give it to another character quick!

Sly says he booked the band for a gig at the junior high prom before their senior prom. They’re hesitant at first since they don’t want to rush, but he asks how they intend to pay for prom and shit otherwise. I hope through a means other than a gig on the night of prom since you typically have to pay for stuff well in advance.

At school the next day, Lorena’s managed to do an impromptu poll of all twelve students at PCH and found out that Jake and Tiffani are leading for prom king and queen. Turns out that she and Sly have a bet: she bet Jake and Tiffani would win while Sly bet for Tony and Sam. If Lorena wins, Sly has to admit he’s a piece of shit while Lorena has to admit she’s self-obsessed if sly wins. Can’t we just say you’re all stupid and skip this plot?

In any case, Lorena and Sly being stupid leads to the competitive spirit suddenly revving up. Jake and Tiffani gloat about being ahead while Tony and Sam give Sly silent approval to do stupid stuff to get them elected.

Also, Mark has to go try asking a girl out but no one gives a shit because it’s Mark and girls don’t like him unless you drug them and drop them in Aspen.

We go to Sharkey’s where we find an extra bowing at Tony and Sam, calling them royalty and shit. Turns out that’s been happening all day and we soon find out why.

Sly switched the front page article in the school newspaper to a promotion for Tony and Sam being elected and the student body of PCH are such idiots they automatically assume it’s true and start doing really bad Wayne’s World impressions. Seriously, I’m surprised Mike Meyers isn’t suing the shit out of them for stealing his SNL bit without attribution. It’s that bad.

Mark comes in practically peeing his pants because a girl agreed to go to the prom with him, but no one gives a shit about that because they’re now fighting about the election. They start pulling Mark in various directions because the only reason they give a shit about him is for who he can vote for.

After a commercial break, we get the couples doing various things to try to show the extras they’re the best choice for prom king and queen, including Jake and Tiffani slow dancing in the middle of Sharkey’s, because that’s the sole criteria of being prom king and queen.

Followed by Tony and Sam doing a more modern dance, except Sam appears to be doing a dance called “stand in place moving your arms up and down and stomping on a bug.”

Then Jake and Tiffani suddenly improvise a scene from a play about thirteen-year olds who commit suicide the first day they know each other, and Tony and Sam reference Tiffani-Amber Thiessen’s character from 90210 a bunch, except the writers apparently don’t watch much 90210 since they have Tony reference Valerie dating Brandon despite them being cousins on the show. Yeah, I’m not sure 90210 was ever that risque. Once again, it seems the extras at PCH are the most easily influenced group in the history of everything because each one of these stunts impresses the shit out of them because plot.

They also take turns putting up signs at PCH advertising their candidacy…

…which is taken so seriously that Sly and Lorena apparently break into school after hours because that’s not against the law or anything. Prom king and queen is not this serious, and to risk a felony for their stupid bet makes no sense.

They also swarm an extra with bumper stickers the day of the election, and it’s sad when the extras have to be the voice of reason, but he runs out before the show has to give him a guest credit as Sly and Lorena are kicked out of the voting room with really horrible disguises on.

And, just to ramp up the conflict even more, they decide that the couples should start randomly fighting over stupid shit as well because why the hell not. Considering last week they were supposed to be showing how good of friends they are, this is a huge juxtaposition.

Mark comes in upset because the girl who was going to the prom with him realized her horrible mistake and dumped him for her old boyfriend, but no one gives a shit about Mark so they all continue fighting until Sly declares it’s time to get dressed for their gig, leaving the sappy music and the audience going “AWW!” to remind us we’re supposed to feel sorry for Mark.

OMG! We haven’t seen the mystery machine since season two! In its triumphant return, it does what it does in every episode it’s in: it breaks down, and in the middle of nowhere because Jake got lost! Jake tries to fix it, but it’s got “can’t fix it without a random part-itis” so they’re stuck.

In the midst of it, everyone’s fighting, Lorena doesn’t understand distributor caps can’t be found in the middle of nowhere, and I think a cannibal farmer tries to eat them.

Tony finds the school radio station’s broadcast of the prom for all those too much of losers to make it to the prom, and they find out the girl who won is the one who dumped Mark. Since everyone continues to not give a shit about Mark they fight more and blame him for it and he runs crying into the Mystery Machine, saying he wished he’d never become a second-rate replacement character on this stupid show.

Mark’s outburst reminds them they should probably pretend to give a shit about Mark for a minute and they apologize and make up and hit the reset button and shit.

And Sly and Lorena decide they’re going to dance and shit as a couple as Mark gets out a guitar since he’s now okay with the fact no girl wants to touch him.

Mark and Jake sing a song so everyone can dance, and our episode ends with the couples having a good fake prom in the middle of nowhere. This isn’t the worst prom episode of the Engel-verse, by far, but it is kind of dumb and pointless. I can’t fault it too much. It’s not the worst thing that’s come out of the revamped California Dreams, and it’s nothing short of a minor miracle that I laughed at a line from Mark.

“Too Much to Dream”
Jake and Mark singing

In case you don’t remember, this is the song Zane Walker stole from the band two seasons ago and Jake was all, “No! I’m not going to sue! Wah wah wah!” I can’t believe it’s making a return since it’s technically not their song any longer since Jake refuses to press for his artistic rights. It’s back, though, because the writers thought it sounds romantic even though it has some of the corniest lyrics and worst metaphors I’ve ever heard in a song. Also, at this point, I’m pretty sure the show was running low on money and couldn’t afford new songs for this year.

Not much else to say about it that I didn’t say before.

Season 5, Episode 8: “Letters from Woo”

We open in the loft where Sam grabs a video camera and starts filming the band for oft mentioned, never seen Uncle Titi. Turns out he’s afraid Sam’s alone being so far from home and wants to make sure she’s not caught up with weirdos and freaks.

Of course, Tony proceeds to butcher Mandarin and make a fool out of himself because that will reassure Sam’s uncle she’s fine. Really, she’d have been better off sending her uncle the tape from “Reel Teens.” At least that was cleverly edited so no one appeared to be too much of an asshole.

This naturally leads Tony and Sly to fight over who gets to operate the camera, and Sam stops the two idiots, saying Tony needs to be by her side so her uncle can see her boyfriend, which actually makes sense.

They proceed to get to the real point of this episode: to be a clip show, and she tells her uncle all about when she arrived and Matt, Tony, Sly, and Jake bet on who would get to kiss her first. Yeah, I’m sure that will reassure your uncle you’re not with a bunch of psychopaths: talk about how your male friends objectified you, though it is nice to see Matt back one more time, even if it’s in clip form.

They then tell the story of how Tony and Sam got together, and then find out Sly’s an idiot and didn’t push record so Jake takes over as they start talking about things completely unrelated to Sam’s life, like Sly convincing Tony to get his operation last season. They also rehash the topic of last year’s clip show episode by showing how much of an asshole Sly can be by showing how he was a shithead to Mark. Yeah, that’ll convince Sam’s uncle she’s okay.

What I find funny is that, after this, they just completely forget about having one of the band hold the camera. Really, they just all start appearing in frame because they suddenly remember they had a tripod all along and this entire bit was completely pointless padding, much like this whole episode.

But everyone’s okay now so that makes it all okay. They proceed through a reel of wacky subplots, and all this section really made me realize is how much of the stupid subplots from the last three seasons I’ve forgotten. I mean, I completely blocked out Tony doing ballet and the band dressing as cops and robbers to be singing telegram delivery people. For the life of me, I can’t remember when Tony and Sly dressed as sharks to spy on Sam on a date.

Suddenly, the writers realize they have five minutes left and need some sort of conflict, so Lorena freaks the fuck out over the fact Sam taped over her home shopping network tape, though she could have said something about this twenty minutes ago and choose not to. The band briefly fight before Tiffani and Tony tells her she’s being fucking ridiculous. This goes into a set of clips about the band overcoming adversity, including how Lorena helped Jake overcome smoking. I can imagine Sam’s uncle wondering why the fuck he should care about Jake’s smoking habits when he was worried about his niece.

We top it off with the time Sam couldn’t fly home for Chinese New Year so the band threw her a party and flew over her parents, because that makes up for everything else in these clips. What I find most amusing is that, though this is supposed to be the big redeeming clip, Mark and Lorena weren’t around when it took place so I guess it doesn’t redeem them, but, rather, Matt instead.

And our episode ends with Sam assuring her uncle that she’s really okay and, even if she’s not, she only has seven more episodes left before she can put this behind her for good. Sorry for the short review but, really, not a lot to work with here. I never thought I would say it, but last year’s clip show episode is far superior. At least it had a framing device that kept me wondering throughout the episode, even if, ultimately, it was never resolved. Pretty horrible and boring episode.

No song this week. Sam’s uncle does’t give a shit about his niece’s success in a pseudo-rock band since she’s been in America.