Season 1 Recap

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California Dreams, or, at least the first season of it, seems like a bold experiment on behalf of Peter Engel. It’s a lot less derivative from Saved by the Bell than many of his later shows will be and seems to have a solid footing to follow the success of Engel’s most famous show. The music aspect actually works, despite me not liking many of their songs. A group of teenagers trying to get a rock band off the ground is something we can believe because we all knew those kids in high school who were trying to make names for themselves.

The problem I see with the show isn’t the family sitcom format that will be jettisoned next season. After all, I think even the writers realized how pointless the extended members of the Garrison family were and worked to put the band at the forefront as often as possible. The problem is that they don’t really do anything most of the season. When I think budding garage bands, I want to see the creative struggles of young musicians trying to find their way in a hostile creative world. We can have some stuff about their personal lives, but it seems as if that’s the primary focus, with the band aspect being a background gimmick.

As much as I dislike “The First Gig,” we needed more stuff like the primary plot in that episode: the band’s gig disrupting Richard’s planned dream vacation. We need to see that being in a band takes time and patience and has an emotional impact on those involved. The only other episodes where I think that the pressure of being in a band is really featured are “Beat of His Own Dream” and “Double Date.” The rest is just kind of following the band’s personal lives, with unquestioned success for the band being a given.

Yeah, the band thing needed to be more of a focus for the show rather than an afterthought. As a result, we get a lot of unevenness this season with the show acting like it doesn’t quite know where to go. The plots usually end up boring contrivances and the subplots felt so phoned in they’re barely memorable. Even the family sitcom element of it are severely underdeveloped, as Melody and Dennis barely appear over the season and Richard’s role is severely limited. Why even have a family sitcom if you’re not going to have most of the family appear during the season.

Of course, the music does feel like the writers aren’t paying attention to what’s actually popular in the music world. With the Seattle music scene about to explode with grunge, it’s kind of sad they think the California Dreams are a rock band. They are, at best, adult alternative, and, at worst, easy listening. There’s nothing rocking about them, and I laugh every time Matt cites The Beatles as one of his influences, because I think the writers don’t understand what a musical influence is. It would be like if Justin Bieber claimed he were influenced by Kurt Cobain: you’re just picking a random big name the viewers will recognize because you don’t want to have music any more threatening than you’d expect to find on an ’80s compilation infomercial.

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For its faults, though, I can’t bring myself to hate this show, not like I do one of Engel’s other infamous shows, The New Class. It feels like this show’s heart is in the right place even if the writing could use some first aid, and, I have to give it to them: this season, they only directly ripped off Saved by the Bell once, whereas every first season episode of The New Class was plagiarized.

I think i understand why this was saved from cancellation after the first season: there is definitely potential present in the show. With some tweaking and focus, I think they actually could have been as classic a show as Saved by the Bell. Of course, I’ve already had some indication that this is not the direction they went (disclaimer: I’ve already reviewed the first episode of season two), but we’ll deal with that as it come. For now, I could see this as a show I would have enjoyed if I hadn’t been so distracted by Power Rangers on Fox Kids.

As a side note, Wikipedia claims the original premise for the show was that the Garrisons moved to California from the Midwest, where Matt and Jenny form a band. If this was the case, it was never established on the show and, in fact, all indications are that at least Matt, Jenny, Sly, and Tiffani has known each other a long time. I don’t buy this as an actual plot of the show whether it was in the producers’ minds or not.


Let’s talk characters.

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Like it or not, Matt was obviously intended to be the central character of this show. It’s interesting to compare him to characters like Happy Days‘s Richie Cunningham, 90210‘s Brandon Walsh, or the entire Winslow family from Family Matters, all of whom were originally intended to be the central characters on their respective shows but were quickly overshadowed by more popular breakout characters. Like the rest, Matt is sort of bland, without much personality of his own and depending on the rest of the cast to prop up his dead corpse of a character. You can’t just get a pretty boy who looks good shirtless and expect him to carry the show on those merits alone. They couldn’t even seem to decide for sure whether Matt and Randi Jo were consistently dating throughout the season!

So, the fact that Sly and Jake will become the breakout characters is not surprising to me. Matt needed something else than his goody two shoes act to be an essential character to this show. As I said in another review, bad things happen to Matt inexplicably, but they’re always resolved without consequences by the end of the episode. No teenager is as squeaky clean as Matt. None. He’s more of a prototype for Wally from Leave it to Beaver than anything resembling an actual teen.

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I have mixed feelings about Jenny. On one hand, she brings the voice of reason element to the show (except when it’s otherwise convenient to the plot, of course), which is much needed when the other characters are acting like complete jackasses. On the other hand, she has no personality beyond being a strong, assertive woman, and that’s a problem, especially when she’s playing to the whim of the men in her life, as in “This Time.”

Jenny needed to be fleshed out more. I’m not sure I can even name one thing she likes to do beyond playing in a band. Give her some hobbies, interests, something. Give me a reason to like her beyond a pretty face. It’s ironic that, in a show revolving around the Garrisons, the two Garrison teens are the least developed of the band. It’s like Engel and company put all their effort into the other characters rather than focusing on the main ones.

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Tiffani is…weird. I don’t know what to think of her. The writers are obviously playing up the dumb blonde stereotype, which annoys the hell out of me because I could have gotten that in numerous other television shows and movies at the time before it became such a cliche it was mostly retired from real Hollywood productions. Unlike Jenny, Tiffani has a gimmick: being a surfer, but this little character contrivance might as well not even exist as we never actually see Tiffani surfing and the hobby barely factors into any episodes, the major exception, of course, being “Romancing the Tube.”

There’s nothing in particular for me to hate about Tiffani. She’s just kind of there, existing in some sort of stupid bubble that won’t go away. Occasionally, it seems as if the writers want to make her the voice of reason when Jenny’s unavailable to fill the role, but she’s really bad at it. Even the major event of the season for her, the return of her estranged mother, is left almost completely unexplored, and I doubt we’ll ever even hear about it again.

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My favorite character from this season is Tony by far. And I’m beginning to realize it may be because he’s one of the only actual cast members with an actual personality. He calls Sly by his full first name, “Sylvester,” just to get on his nerves. He stands up to the racist father of a white girl he wants to date. He fights his father to continue being a part of the band. This season, some of the times Tony is on screen are the most interesting parts of the episode, by far.

I do wonder what the series would have been like if they’d started out with Tony as the central character. Considering what we now know happened after this season with the gradual lessening of the role of the Garrisons on the show, could it have worked to have Tony as the main character? An inaccurate plot summary on IMDB for “The First Gig” implied that Tony moved to California from the Midwest and started a band. That actually sounds like an intriguing plot line, and one that I wish they had explored.

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I don’t like Sly like most viewers of this show seem to. Unless his character changes dramatically in the coming seasons, he just seems like the Screech of the group: not really needed for the overall plot of the show, but kept around for “comedic” effect. He’s an idiot, not of Screech proportions, but still an idiot, and I’m not quite sure why the rest of the band keep him around when he’s doing stupid things like nearly ruining Matt and Randi Jo’s relationship or spying on Jenny to be her dream man.

The element of his personality that makes him useful is the Zack Morris-esque schemer within, but I feel that could just as well have gone to Tony had they gone a different direction. Really, I feel like Sly has no redeeming traits. He says all the wrong things, does all the wrong things, and generally acts like an ass at all times. I feel like most people remember him because he looks good without a shirt. Hell, even Jimmy Fallon recognized this during the reunion when he had Michael Cade take his shirt off on stage!

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And then there’s the extended Garrison family. What can you say about them? Richard’s the stern father. Melody’s the stern but loving mother. Together they became the Garrison bunch. We barely know that Richard is a college professor. I know they said on screen what Melody does, but I can’t remember it for the life of me, and it really doesn’t matter because both Richard and Melody are only around to act as plot devices, moving the story along lest it stall.

Despite being in the opening credits, Richard only appears in eight episodes this season; Melody only appears in seven. Hell, after the first episode, we don’t see Melody again for several episodes. The reason, I’m convinced, is that every one of their appearances are shoehorned in just to have them on the show. Would the show really have been worse off if Richard hadn’t been around to tell Tony that he wouldn’t mind a black guy dating his daughter, or Melody to be the middle-woman between Tiffani and her mom?

Despite the fact that this is the end of Richard and Melody as characters in the opening credits, we’ll have another opportunity to say goodbye to them next season. It is time, though, to say farewell to the most useless character I’ve ever encountered in the Engle-verse. More useless than Max, Milo, Tina, and Mike put together. So, last, and certainly least…

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Dennis. Why is Dennis even on this show? I’ll tell you why: for cuteness factor. Nineties sitcoms had a bad habit of adding young child characters just for the “AWW” factor. Dennis is scheming something and outsmarted the other characters? Isn’t that adorable? Dennis wants to look at Tiffani’s breasts? That’s so cute! Dennis comes in and spouts random lines that contribute nothing to the episode? Give him a fucking Daytime Emmy folks!

Really, Dennis is a ten year-old boy, and that’s all you need to know about him to understand his character. He has no character development throughout the season and even in the episode with his name in the title, he feels superfluous. The only bit of characterization we get this season, that he apparently doesn’t get along with Matt, comes the fuck out of nowhere and isn’t reflected at all the rest of the season. Dennis is a walking, talking contrivance, and he will never be seen again after this season. I don’t know if anyone will mention his existence at all next season, but, if the writers choose to pull a Chuck Cunningham on him and forget he ever existed, this is one instance where I won’t blame the writers for bad writing. He’s not even competently acted, so he just comes off as a horrible child character in the vein of Oliver from The Brady Bunch.

Ryan O’Neill was in a few other things throughout the nineties, most notably a couple guest spots on Northern Exposure as well as some long forgotten family films. He’s sporadically appeared in some things throughout the 2000’s, including a 2011 film called New Jerusalem (starring indie rock darling Will Oldham aka Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy), but he’s never had much of an acting career. He also appeared in the music video for “Childhood,” Michael Jackson’s long-forgotten attempt to create a them for Free Willy 2 that would be as well-remembered as the one he performed for the original Free Willy. It’s pretty bad. As for what he’s doing today, your guess is as good as mine. He’s kind of dropped off the face of the planet, probably living a relatively normal life, with the caveat that he has an interesting bit of trivia about himself to talk about on social occasions.


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For all its faults, I’m glad this show exists. It’s proof that the Engel cast of writers can develop something half decent when they put their minds to it. Unlike most of what they would later develop, this seems like it has potential, and it’s nice to know it stuck around a while. Whether it maintains quality, improves, or goes the way of The New Class and Hang Time is still to be seen. But, for now, I am glad to have watched the first season of this show, even if it meant seeing Dennis’s insufferable face all season.


My Picks

If you’re familiar with my Saved by the Bell reviews, you’ll know that, in each recap, I pick the best and worst episodes for that season. Since all five seasons of this show are relatively short, I’m picking three I like and three I hate every recap. Feel free to disagree with me in the comments below!

Three Episodes I Loved:

Episode 3: “Beat of His Own Dream”: As I said in the recap, Tony’s episodes tend to be some of the best of the season. This one is no exception, as Tony stands up to his father to stay in the band. Tony’s father acts like an ass, but it’s kind of needed for the episode to progress. My only criticism is that the plot is too easily resolved, and Dennis’s creepy subplot of wanting to fuck Tiffani did not help the episode.

Episode 7: “Guess Who’s Coming to Brunch”: Hands down, the best episode of the season, and another Tony-centric episode, “Guess Who’s Coming to Brunch just proves that the Engel-verse can, indeed, do a half decent very special episode when they have to. IIt doesn’t have a happy ending and really feels like something that could happen to someone in real life, unlike, say, “Jessie’s Song” from Saved by the Bell or The New Class’s anti-smoking or anti-herbal supplements episodes.

Episode 11: “This Time”: I struggled with whether to put this one on the list but, what it comes down to, is that it’s one of the few opportunities for Jenny to truly shine as a three-dimensional character. Her fight with Matt seems genuine. I only wish they’d explored more what was obviously a fear of being alone as that’s the only reason someone would put up with the bull shit of this episode.

Three Episodes I Hated:

Episode 4: “Double Date”: Proof positive that Sly should be fired as the band’s manager, he convinces Tony to do something that should have gotten him fired and books the band without checking the rest of the band’s availability. If I was the audience at either Sharkey’s or the wedding, I would have been severely pissed off and wanted my money back as they really shouldn’t have satisfied either audience, except in contrivance land.

Episode 8: “It’s a Guy Thing”: An entire episode about Jenny and Tiffani teaching Sly and Tony how to treat girls. How utterly boring.  Frankly, if I tried something like this on friends in real life, even if they really were sexist pigs, I probably wouldn’t have a friend anymore. What kind of teenagers really act like this? And the subplot about the Garrison men fixing things was just pointless.

Episode 10: “Romancing the Tube”: I hope I conveyed in my review for this episode how grating on my nerves it is. It reads like something my grandmother, who never surfed in her life, would have written about surfing. And the idea that Sly and Tiffani should have some sort of commitment ceremony after the short time they were dating is just idiotic (they’re supposed to be in high school for fuck’s sake!), but not as idiotic as the ceremony itself. And the subplot with Melody hiring Matt, Jenny, and Tony to paint the bedrooms is just never resolved and might as well not have been in the episode.

Season 1, Episode 13: “Where’s Dennis”

I hope the answer to the title is that he’s still around somewhere so he can have just as much an impact on this episode as he has the previous twelve this season!

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We open with some plot dump: Richard is going to a symposium on the Middle East and Melody is accompanying him because…hell, they never really tell us. Maybe she hopes she’ll get laid without her three boring children around. Richard gives us what may be the worst joke ever written (Camelot is the most popular movie in the Middle East) and Melody reveals their grandmother will be staying with them, primarily to keep an eye on Dennis.

This is greeted with consternation from all three Garrison children as it seems grandma is bat shit crazy and once tried to give Dennis her teeth or some  shit. Matt asks why they don’t just leave him in charge for the weekend and Richard says that taking care of Dennis is a big responsibility and Matt and Dennis are always at each others’ throats. It’s a good thing they’ve spent so much time giving Dennis characterization over the last twelve episodes or this explanation might seem contrived and to come the fuck out of nowhere.

Matt says it will be okay because he’s taking Dennis to Sharkey’s and Dennis extorts Matt’s Nolan Ryan baseball. Richard’s all, “Okay! Just no parties” and we’re thus set up for what I’m sure will be a thrilling main plot.

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In our subplot, Jenny’s dating a guy named Adam who she claims is really cute but has a bad habit of being super punctual because first world problems. I guess standards of cute were different in the nineties.

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At Sharkey’s, Dennis wants to play a game called Mr. Cyclops that involves poking shit in the eye, and Matt gives him some money to poke ’till he drops while he goes to find out what the complication to the main plot this week will be. Mind you, telling a ten year-old to poke ’till he drops would seem inappropriate in any universe other than the Engelverse.

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Sly tells the band he’s booked them a gig at an exclusive popular floating party in Malibu tomorrow night, and they’ve been invited because they’re the coolest of the cool. But then Matt realizes he’s babysitting and can’t go to Malibu. Sly feigns being upset but two quick lines from Matt and Tony convince him to get off his ass and do something.

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At the Garrison house, Jenny and Dennis won’t listen to Matt…

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…so he has Tony call and pretend to be Melody. I’m glad they showed us that scene. It adds so much to the overall plot of this episode by showing Jenny and Dennis are being asses about reasonable requests. It’s going to make me really feel sorry for Dennis when we’re asking where he is.

Sly barges in and says he convinced them to move the party, and guess where it’s going to be? Yes, in sitcom cliche #5143, the kids are going to have a party while the parents are away! So, after a commercial break, it’s tomorrow night and the band are preparing for the party, including hiding shit.

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And Dennis is not happy he’s not invited because he’s like ten so he has to stay in his room. An episode that’s supposed to focus around Dennis and it doesn’t feel like he’s doing much more than he usually does.

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Jenny’s stressed out by Adam’s obsessive scheduling and Tiffani suggests she do something like throw punch on him to throw his schedule off. Why does this subplot exist again?

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So we meet the party organizer, Jake, and it’s funny and ironic they named him Jake, especially considering who’s joining the cast next week. I like to think the Jake you all know and love was just a lot skinnier here and way too over-dramatic about his cool factor. I wonder if they named the new character Jake with the intention of him being this guy? In any case, Proto-Jake here approves of the party so it can continue because, had he not approved, I guess everyone would have just stormed out.

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Adam shows up and immediately starts driving Jenny crazy because he’s scheduled their entire party and shit, so she actually dumps punch on him and it drives her even more crazy he has a spare shirt in his car so she kicks him out until he can be of more use to the main plot.

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So now it’s time for the band to go on but Dennis is playing on Tony’s drums. Since I guess ten year-olds aren’t cool, Matt goes completely out of character and pulls a Sly move by humiliating Dennis in front of all the party goers, because I guess being an ass to prepubescent little boys is cool.

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But it does get Dennis out of there and we get the final new song of the season as we learn why Jenny’s never been on Dancing with the Stars.

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Well, the party was a success and Jake approves, but, with only five minutes left in the episode, we’re finally to the “Dennis is missing” part of the episode. Oh, no. Not Dennis. He’s so important to this show.

It’s pretty bad when Dennis is superfluous to his own episode.

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Well, after a commercial break, the band helps Matt look for Dennis, but Tiffani gets Dennis’s cream on her. I guess that’s what his goal was when he was her secret admirer.

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Mind you, his cream gets on Tony and Sly as well so I guess Dennis might just be confused.

In any case, Dennis’s bicycle is gone so they decide he could be anywhere, but Matt reasons that, by the logic of “he’s bound to be at the only other place featured in this episode,” he must be at Sharkey’s poking ’till he drops.

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And, of course, he’s right and Dennis is there. It’s a good thing Sharkey’s leaves their doors open after close so random preteens can come in and play video games.Matt’s relieved he’s found Dennis after only two minutes of being missing since Dennis is apparently easier to find than Waldo.

Dennis says that Matt’s a horrible, shitty brother, and always being mean to him even though the writers have never bothered to show it on-screen. Dennis’s brief anger is snuffed out when Matt actually gives him his Nolan Ryan baseball, because Nolan Ryan is the magical person who can mend all familial feuds.

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Back at the Garrison house, we have sitcom cliche #7498: the parents coming home early after a shitty time, and Jenny, Sly, and Tiffani claim that Matt is upstairs asleep.

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But then he and Dennis come in and do a horrible job of pretending to sleepwalk, so they make up the lie that they went to see a movie, which Richard and Melody instantly accept.

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Adam picks that very moment to be spontaneous for Jenny because he can now be of some use to the plot, and he reveals the party in front of Richard and Melody. Richard tells the Garrison children to prepare for being grounded and, considering this is the last time we ever see Dennis, I can only assume they just killed him and got it over with.

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And our episode and the season ends with the entire cast sans Richard and Melody doing the shitty sleepwalking because why not. Okay, what the hell was the point of this episode other than to recycle sitcom cliches that were tired long before this episode were written?

Song

“Castles on Quicksand”
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As far as songs go, this is one of the better this season and highlights Jenny a lot better than last week’s piss poor song did. It’s the usual song making them sound like they’re an ’80s pop band, but, at least this time, I could actually picture the song possibly making it on the radio. I mean, the metaphor’s kind of cheesy, but at least it’s not your usual “love you baby” song I’ve come to expect from this show. This time it’s about someone pretending to love you baby!

The choreography, though, may be the most awful of the season, with Jenny seriously looking like she’s about to break into Billy Ray Cyrus style line dancing. On top of it, she’s just moving around the whole time not playing her keyboard despite the fact we clearly hear keyboard sounds in the music. It’s a good thing magic pervades the Engelverse to explain all this bullshit!


And that’s it for season one of California Dreams! If you don’t know my reviewing style, I do a recap after every season, so this week it will be on Wednesday. Tune in then as we look back at this first season as a whole. Then, tune in next Friday as we try to find out whether network meddling will make this show better or worse!

Season 1, Episode 12: “This Time”

Depending on your source, the title of this episode could also be “The Time,” but I don’t really care enough to find out which is correct, so we’re going with “This Time” since that’s what IMDB has.

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Our episode opens at Sharkey’s with Tony playing keep away with the band’s food, because that’s apparently what counts for fun in their universe. Luckily, we quickly cut to something relatively more interesting as Jenny’s ex, Eric, walks into Sharkey’s. Tony says Eric just broke up with his girlfriend as he went out with her last week. We proceed to get plenty of exposition about how Eric treated Jenny like shit and dumped her for his costar in the school play and shit.

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But no time for that as Sly comes in screaming, literally screaming, about how he got the band a gig in Santa Barbara. Jenny reminds them that Santa Barbara is two hours away and they have no way to get the equipment there, but Sly assures them he’ll come up with a subplot that will fix that in no time.

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His solution is to borrow the Mystery Machine from the Scooby-Doo gang as it will, presumably, not fall apart before they reach Santa Barbara. They proceed to make every ’60s reference possible in just a matter of seconds, from hippie bump stickers to eight tracks to The Partridge Family, because apparently referencing old shit is funny

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Melody comes in to tell Jenny she has a visitor and to tell Matt to get that shitty van out of the garage. No, she’s not particularly upset that it’s a shitty van. She just apparently parks in the driveway so the band can use the garage and she doesn’t appreciate having a shitty old van parked there instead if she has to park outside. She tells Sly to get it the hell out of there, but it won’t start because apparently old vans are shitty.

Also, Dennis is there to play the all-important role of repeating everything Melody says. I’m so glad Dennis is a character on this show. His presence is so vital to its interesting and compelling plots.

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Turns out Jenny’s visitor is Eric, and Richard is ready to chop his dick off and stuff it down his throat, but Jenny stops him because that would make this a really short episode. Eric wants to get back together with Jenny because he’s really sorry and shit. Jenny says she’ll have to think about his obviously insincere apology and how he misses her and shit and then make a sudden, rash decision in just a few minutes.

Matt stops in Jenny’s room to see how she’s doing and she’s all, “I got to figure this out on my own through the power of awkwardly placed music videos!” And, no joking, a song starts. It really is the most awkwardly placed song of this series so far, just coming out of nowhere, not even during a band practice or gig this time. Just there.

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The power of music video instantly makes Jenny decide to call and give Eric another chance because we’re only halfway through the episode and we desperately need a main plot to drive the rest of it lest the Mystery Machine be all we have.

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Speaking of the Mystery Machine, the band continue trying to get it running, all the while Sly tries to murder Tony by starting the van with Tony’s hand inside. This is the point I would have stuck Sly’s head in there with the motor running.

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Jenny and Eric come in and the band’s cold to him but he’s all hot and shit. Jenny can’t stay for rehearsal because Eric wants Jenny to help him with his lines in the school musical so they’re off to do shit.

And Melody’s still pissed off a shitty van is in her garage because plot.

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Meanwhile, Eric tries some lines with Jenny so he can make out with her and shit. The audience is losing their shit and the band has mixed reaction, but I can’t help but be distracted by Eric’s really low riding shorts. That’s more of his legs than I really wanted to see.vlcsnap-00013

Matt says they need to get back and work on the van, which is why they go into Matt’s room and start playing “Love is Not Like This.” Is the van suddenly powered by the melodies of shitty music?

Jenny comes in loving everyone because love makes you Saccharine sweet. Richard comes in upset that the noise is distracting him from grading papers, while Melody’s still upset about a shitty van being in her garage. And this leads to…

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Random fighting where you can’t understand what anyone says, because it’s such a staple of television when you can’t figure out a more creative way to show that there’s tension in a group! The more interesting elements of this fight are that Tony’s cranking up an amp in the background, Dennis is jumping on the bed because he’s such a vital part of this show, and Tiffani randomly joins Dennis in jumping on the bed because…fuck if I know! I wonder if this episode come chronologically before Dennis’s crush on Tiffani and watching her jump up and down on the bed is what actually gave him a hard on for her?

The phone rings in the middle of this riveting scene and it’s Eric, calling to ask Jenny to come pick him up and take him to the play early, skipping out on rehearsal, as everyone starts fighting again.

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Matt comes in to try and tell Jenny she’s being manipulated by Eric into doing shit that’s for him, and she’s all, “Let’s have a random conflict so we have something to make up for at the end!” She also tells Matt she’s not going to the gig tomorrow night because Eric wants her to go to his cast party and shit so they can have more conflict to carry the last quarter of the episode since this episode keeps using up its conflict early.

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In the kitchen, the band tell Richard and Melody they got the van running. The solution was putting gas in it because Sly is channeling his inner Screech this episode and didn’t think to check if that’s a thing. So, with the van fixed, Tiffani convinces the rest they need to go and talk Jenny into coming to the gig. There’s some token resistance, but they almost immediately give in after a rousing motivational speech involving Columbus and Einstein and The Wizard of Oz.

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At Sharkey’s, Jenny tells Eric she’s upset she missed her gig, but Eric’s all, “It’s okay because I’m suddenly self-centered and only care about myself and shit even though I’m now acting completely different than I was earlier in the episode!”

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Matt comes in and tries to apologize to Jenny but she’s all, “We are still in conflict mode and must fight until I have a revelation in the next minute!”

Jenny tells Eric she wants to go somewhere with him and fuck, but he’s all, “I have to stay because me me me!” He says he doesn’t give a shit about her concerns and wouldn’t give up shit for her and she’s selfish and shit and she’s all, “I have now had the revelation you’re a great guy except for being a piece of shit and we are now breaking up as I have a revelation!” She then rushes off.

In the garage, the boys have a fight over who gets to drive the Mystery Machine but Tiffani finally says she’s driving because she’s the only one not acting like a dumb ass.

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Jenny gets there and tells the band she broke up with Eric. She tells Matt, “We are no longer in conflict mod and, therefore, I can apologize and shit our stupid conflict!”

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And our episode ends with the Mystery Machine driving off into the sunset and Jenny sticking her head out the window like a dog as sappy music plays to remind us she felt feelings this episode, in case you forgot from all the mellow drama we just experienced the last twenty minutes.

Songs

“This Time”
Jenny singing

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The titular song is very Madonna-esque. I think it’s the first primarily Jenny song we’ve had, and it at least has something to do with the plot, with Jenny deciding what she’s going to do about Eric. It’s okay but, once again, sounds like it’s in the wrong decade, as if Peter Engel hasn’t listened to music since around the mid-eighties. I can’t complain too much as it could be much worse, but it’s okay for a pop song.

This one has another one of those professional looking videos to go along with it, with the band in black and white basically as Jenny sings about her indecision. And that’s about it. The song probably would have been more exciting without the video, but the video just makes it look like they were covering up for how awkwardly placed in the episode this song was.

“Love is Not Like This”
Matt singing

Just as unimpressive as last time I heard this song. The lyrics are just as horrible and non-sensical as ever. What more can I say but please, please quit singing this song.

Season 1, Episode 11: “They Shoot Videos, Don’t They?”

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We open at Sharkey’s to find Sly randomly video taping his friends, because that’s not creepy at all, right? We even get a Murphy Brown and Dan Quayle joke, because that’s aged well over the years.

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And, yes, Matt is together with Randi Jo again because why the hell not after dating several women over the last few weeks. This season seems to have no clue what to do with Matt and Randi Jo and just seems to have them together when it’s needed for a plot.

The purpose of Sly’s insanity is to let the band know he’s making a video to enter into “Video 99″‘s homemade video contest. The prize is $10,000 and a trip to New York City so what the hell do they have to lose if Sly fucks it up as he’s destined to do.

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And he starts off by videoing some random girl and asking her to be in the video. Rather than recognizing this is probably some creepy ass guy who’s going to try to fondle her breasts, she seems really excited by the prospect of being in the video because she’s a girl and stupid and shit, at least according to the Engleverse.

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At the Garrison house, Richard and Melody practically make their offspring throw up in their mouths as they describe the cake they had on their honeymoon. Don’t worry. This barely connects to anything in the episode. They just put it in because Richard and Melody have already been absent from way too many episodes and they needed an excuse to include them.

Melody says she’s in the mood for a nice long walk on the beach and Richard practically orgasms on the spot, so I assume long walk on the beach is code for hot fucking.

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They leave as Sly comes in, carrying the script for the video. There’s plenty of time for Jenny to describe how reprehensible men are, but the kicker is that Sly wants Matt to kiss a girl other than Randi Jo. Sly tells them it’s just acting and Matt is sure Randi Jo will fully understand and this won’t be a plot point at all.

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Naturally, they choose during a movie to talk about the issue and Randi Jo promptly declares there ain’t no ho gonna kiss her man because it’s not like they’re shooting a film or anything. As they loudly argue over the kiss, I can’t help but think that, if I were one of the extras trying to watch the film, I’d be pretty pissed these idiots are talking during the film and preventing me from fully enjoying it. Rather than an usher coming and kicking them out, the argument finally ends when Matt promises he won’t kiss another girl.

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Matt tells Sly he’s not kissing a girl and, though he protests it at first, Tiffani interferes with some non-sequitur about George Washington that convinces Sly to change the scene just to shut her up as he says she’ll just shake his hand.

Also, Randi Jo comes in to watch the making of the video.

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Naturally, Sly is a scumbag and gets the girl to kiss Matt anyway, infuriating Randi Jo and causing her to run out, proclaiming she’ll never trust Matt again. Though Sly was an idiot, I’m inclined to go with Randi Jo on this one: it sure does look like Matt’s enjoying that kiss a bit too much.

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At Sharkey’s the next day, we get some exposition about Matt being pissed at Sly, and Sly comes in and tells Randi Jo that Matt is really sick and asking for her. She suddenly decides to rush off and see him, but he comes through the door just as she’s leaving. For some reason, she assumes he’s in on this even though she knows Sly is a piece of crap and said as much earlier in the episode, but she blames this one on Matt because shut up!

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Matt gets pissed at Sly for introducing more drama into the episode and tells him to just fuck the fucking fuck off.

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In Matt’s room, Tony listens as Matt has trouble writing a song. Matt says he doesn’t know what to do without Randi Jo and Tony tells him to just spout ever cliche in the book until she forgives him and takes him back. Tony rushes off for a date, leaving Matt to question how he gets the dumb plots.

And, in the kitchen, Tiffani has yet another boyfriend after her short lived romance with Sly last week but Jenny apparently doesn’t want Matt to know that people are still dating despite what happened to him.

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And Richard and Melody are still talking about their love and shit. Richard asks if he’d like to talk and Matt says he’d rather be alone and masturbate. He sits at the piano and starts writing the easy listening love song that will become the song of the episode.

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Sly comes in and Matt initially doesn’t look like he wants to talk to him, but Sly asks Matt if they’re still friends and he’s all, “Sure!” I think this is why I’m finding so many episodes of this show to be so boring: the writers introduce conflict that’s resolved instantly with a simple, “I’m sorry!” It’s the elementary school version of conflict resolution: just say I’m sorry and instantly every ounce of conflict goes away.

Sly looks like he’s leaving but then comes back and secretly tapes Matt.

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I guess it’s the next night even though there’s no time indicated but Sly’s wearing different clothes. In any case, Sly arrives just as Richard and Melody are leaving for their anniversary dinner. He sexually harasses Jenny a bit but Sly says they need to get Matt back on his feet and suggests calling a band practice. Jenny goes to call Tony and Tiffani as he recruits Dennis for his plan. Yes, Dennis has an actual purpose for this episode.

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And that purpose would be to hide in a trash can and shoot the band practicing. Naturally, everyone wants to throw something away at that very moment because we need more predictable bad jokes, and the band play Matt’s new song for the first time. Yeah, keep in mind this is the first time they’ve played this song together when I talk about the stupid resulting video.

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Two weeks later, Matt’s over Randi Jo and Sly reveals that he shot the music video and it’s a finalist.

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They tune into Video 99 to see the music video playing and, oh, boy, is it unrealistic, but I’ll talk about that in a minute.

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They don’t end up winning but Randi Jo instantly takes back Matt after some intervention from Sly, despite the fact she should know not to trust him by now, because why the hell not, even though this is her last appearance on the show, and the two rush off to have make-up sex.

And this reveals the basic problem with stories this season revolving around Matt: Matt’s just such a nice guy nothing bad ever really happens. Though he’s supposed to be the central character, he doesn’t have anything near resembling an interesting plot, and things just kind of happen to him. Contrast that to Tony, who had a very well written episode about racism. Maybe Tony should have been the central character…

The rest of the band are impressed that Sly did an apparently selfless thing, and Jenny somehow knows that Dennis was involved even though Sly didn’t say that and asks how Sly got Dennis to help. He tries to insist he didn’t pay Dennis anything.

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But then Dennis walks in with a little prepubescent girl and reveals Sly agreed to take him on a double date so he can get his groove on. And our episode ends with the knowledge that this show is obsessed with the sexuality of a ten year-old who should still be thinking girls are icky and have cooties and shit. God, why do shows think it’s funny or cute to sexualize very underage children?

Song

“Everybody’s Got Someone”
Matt singing

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This song. I guess it’s okay if you’re into Peter Cetera-sounding ’80s easy listening but it’s really just a boring ballad of “Boo hoo hoo! I’m a teenage boy and don’t have a girl of my very own!” I get that easy listening dominated much of the pop charts for the early nineties before Nirvana hit, but that doesn’t mean they had to bring it into this show, especially when Matt thinks the California Dreams are a rock band. Yeah, you all rock so much you belong on those adult alternative stations that still think Amy Grant and Bette Midler were good additions to the pop charts.

The video. Wow. We’ll ignore the fact that this was supposed to have been Tony, Tiffani, and Jenny’s first time playing or even hearing the song and the fact that it’s flawless regardless, right down to Jenny knowing when to come in on backing vocals. Just remember this: the video was supposed to have been shot in secret. In fact, the parts with the band playing was supposed to have been shot by Dennis hiding in a trash can and it looks perfect regardless. And why does Matt keep looking directly at the camera? No, there’s no excuse for this level of idiocy. Don’t make the plot point be that the video is being shot in secret if you’re going to have your actors looks directly at the camera. It’s almost as bad as pretending professional wrestling is an unscripted sport.

Season 1, Episode 10: “Romancing the Tube”

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We open at Sharkey’s to learn that Tiffani broke up with some guy named Kevin that has never been mentioned before and will never be seen, but it moves the plot around so fuck good storytelling! Tiffani’s okay with having broke up with someone because if you can put on a happy face after your mother abandoned you ten years ago, you can put it on anywhere! Why do I get the feeling that Tiffani’s got a bunch of suppressed rage that’s just going to explode one day and turn her into a serial killer?

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Meanwhile, Sly’s pretending to be a surfer to try and attract women, except he just comes off as clumsy. Really, are we supposed to believe that, because he hits things in a restaurant with his surfboard, that means he’s a horrible surfer? In any case, these three scantily clad women, who I guess we’re supposed to accept are surfers despite the fact none of them are doing anything surf related, aren’t at all interest in figuring into Sly’s orgy in his head. Really, is Sly just walking around, oogling every woman in sight and hoping that one of them is a surfer?

Tiffani thinks that impersonating a surfer is the worst thing he could possibly do. Of course, because nothing compares to pretending to like shit you don’t. It certainly overshadows the racism Peter Morris showed towards Tony a few weeks ago. Tiffani offers to give Sly surf lessons and they run off to start their plot.

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In the Garrison’s garage, Matt and Tony convince Jenny they need to buy a garage band lighting system through a catalog. Catch is it costs $300, and where are they going to get $300?

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Well, lucky for them, Melanie just happens to have a subplot up her sleeve and Matt convinces her to not only hire the three of them to paint the upstairs but front them the $300 so they can go ahead and buy the system. Jenny’s initially hesitant about this plan, realizing it will no doubt lead to some stupid resolution, but she goes along with it for really no reason.

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Tiffani and Sly arrive after Sly’s first surf lesson, with Sly excited about surfing and talking like a forty year-old man from Iowa who thinks he knows how surfers talk. Really, it’s like the time when you were a kid that your dad proclaimed that something was “gnarly.”

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At Sharkey’s, the writers decide to speed along the subplot with Tiffani and Sly announcing they’re going on a date to the movies tonight. Jenny’s beside herself at this piece of bad writing but Tiffani insists that surfing has brought out a different side of Sly.

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And so, at the movies, Sly does indeed appear to be acting different, but, considering earlier in the season he pretended to be someone else to impress Jenny, it could mean anything. They end up kissing, sending the audience into a shit fit…

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…but disgusting the rest of the band nearby, who apparently are stalking Tiffani and Sly wanting to see what real sex looks like. Really, I don’t get why they’re there. Were they supposed to be sneaking around to see it? This is never addressed and I just don’t get it.

Also, I’m not sure I addressed it before, but this is the same folding chair movie theater frequented by the gang on The New Class. I guess that explains how Scott will score a date with a girl from Pacific Coast there next year. You know, if they really wanted to do something clever, they should have had characters from both shows randomly appear in the background of the theater on each other’s shows. Of course, this is the Engleverse we’re talking about, so nothing clever will happen, ever. It’s the law.

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At Sharkey’s, all the girls who previously rejected Sly now want his hot body because he’s a surfer and, though he finds it difficult to resist, he does for Tiffani. But then he decides he has to break up with Tiffani because he needs to be available for all these hot women who suddenly want him because of bad writing.

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Back at the Garrison’s, Matt and Jenny paint while Tony stands around like an idiot and tells them how to paint. They get sick of his failure to help and prepare to beat the crap out of him, but Sly comes in just then to continue advancing his plot.

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See, Sly’s decided he needs to get Tiffani to break up with him by being his usual shithead self, and so he’s come up with a list of demands for her like walk a step behind him in public, stare at his picture at all times, and masturbate thinking about him. He tries these lines out on Jenny and, when she reacts by painting him, he figures he has a surefire plan for success, but forgets that Jenny is the most easily offended character on this show.

After Sly leaves, Matt and Jenny start a paint fight with Tony over his refusal to help with the painting.

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This leads to Dennis coming in and telling them that Melody said to knock off their bullshit, leading them to include Dennis in the paint fight. Dennis is such a crucial character on this show. I’m glad they have him on just for important scenes like this one that couldn’t possibly have been cut.

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At Sharkey’s, Sly is surprised to learn that Tiffani is okay with the list of demands and finds out she’s going to have her list. And this is where this episode goes out on the ridiculous side of things, if you can believe that. Tiffani says she’ll finalize her list tonight and tomorrow they’ll have a “surfer soul swapping ceremony” in which they’ll commit to their lists.

Really, it’s like if my grandmother were explaining surf culture to me.

At the garage, Sly decides he has to do something about this and, when Tiffani comes in, he tells her he wants to talk to her.

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She tells him that first she wants to sing a song to him, and sings “Let Me Be the One,” which instantly melts Sly’s cold heart and makes him want to go through with this surfer soul swapping bullshit.

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Dennis comes in and tells the band they have a package for them. They rush off to see their new lighting system, but not before Dennis tricks Matt out of five dollars. Once again, Dennis is such a crucial part of this show. I can’t see how the show could ever run without him.

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In the kitchen, Matt, Tony, and Jenny discover they got ripped off and were sent a flashlight and some cheap overlays. For some reason, they instantly give up on getting their money back when Tony says there’s no refunds from this company because we have more important matters to take up.

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Like Melody pissed they haven’t finished the painting. They’re all, “We gave up on it after our obligatory scene with the paint fight.” She says she wants her money back and, when she finds out they spent it on the lighting system, she says she’s taking the lighting system until they pay her back, which leads to a stupid resolution to this subplot where no one learns anything.

And now, it’s time for the stupidest scene on this show so far. We’re at Sharkey’s for the soul swapping ceremony.

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Sly’s dressed in a tuxedo wet suit. Wait, are they getting fucking married? I don’t understand this bull shit!

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Tiffani comes in for the ceremony to be performed by the great surf guru or some shit and, considering there are churches that will ordain anyone, this could well be a wedding. I don’t understand why this scene is in this episode! Is Tiffani so codependent she would marry someone she’s been dating less than a week?

Ugh, let’s just finish this episode.

Tiffani ends up being the one who can’t go through with it because she finds another guy attractive and decides she must have dated Sly as a rebound from Unseen Kevin. The surfer guru calls off the ceremony and everyone clears off for our resolution.

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Sly says he’s heartbroken but decides he’ll get over it when two girls want to get with him. And our episode ends with the reset button pressed and no one learning anything because this episode just makes everyone except Melody look like dicks. I mean, Sly instantly gets over Tiffani, Tiffani is codependent, Matt, Jenny, and Tony conned Melody, and Dennis committed fraud in one of his two scenes. It’s like this show is trying to make its entire cast look like assholes…

Songs

“Let Me Be the One”
Tiffani singing

Wow, a song actually having something to do with the plot! Who would have thought? They’re really going for the ’80s girl pop star sound here, much like Madonna if Madonna sang really horribly written songs. It’s your basic run of the mill girl wants boy song laced with some “baby, gonna love you to the end of time” shit. Nothing special at all. Kelly Packard’s voice isn’t even particularly good on this one, and the whole production just seems about a decade out of place in the year after grunge hit. The one highlight is we get to see Matt on keyboard for the first time since there’s no guitar in the song, which he’ll be doing a lot of soon.

“Little Surfer Girl”
Matt singing

Matt does a simple acoustic cover of the Beach Boys’ “Little Surfer Girl” at the beginning of the soul swapping ceremony thing. What’s sad is it’s one of the best songs that’s been on the show so far and highlights how Brent Gore actually has a talent for singing when he’s not singing prepackaged overproduced shit. I guess they spent their budget for the season on good songs on getting the rights to do this song, though.

First: Matt on keyboard.

Season 1, Episode 9: “Mother and Child Reunion”

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We open in the Garrison garage where everyone thinks Sly sucks ass because he hasn’t been able to get them a gig for a month. I guess they ran out of people who were so desperate to find a musical gig they decided some backyard band was preferable. Sly thinks they need a new image to make them not seem like the nineties version of the beach boys. Tiffani’s all, “You guys talk about this stupid subplot! I’m going to go do something more interesting, like the laundry!”

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Meanwhile, a random woman shows up at the door to see Melody. That’s two episodes in a row Melody’s been in, that’s a record! If this was a better show, this might be Melody’s lesbian lover coming to take her away from this suburban dreariness, but, alas, Melody doesn’t seem to know who she is. She says her name is Judy Webb, formerly Judy Smith, and Melody’s like, “Oh, shit! There’s the plot right there!”

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Matt and Jenny walk in after Tiffani leaves and find Judy there. Jenny realizes who she is right away: Tiffani’s mother. Judy says she went to Tiffani’s house and, when she found no one home, figured she’d be at the Garrison’s house since everything on this show is either there or at Sharkey’s.

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Sly and Tony come in and Sly immediately starts hitting on the new vagina in the room, hoping to get some later. He doesn’t believe she’s Tiffani’s mom at first, thinking Matt is as milf oriented as he is, until Melody steps in and tells him to back up off.

Jenny suggests maybe they should tell Tiffani that Judy is back in town since it’s going to come as a big shock to her. Judy agrees because plot and shit.

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In Tiffani’s room, after initially having some trouble telling her what’s up, Sly acts like a jackass, so the rest of the band tell Tiffani her mom is back in town. Her response is basically, “Cool!” So she’s about as emotional about this as Dennis was to find out he wasn’t going to get to fuck her. Nice emotional reactions on this show. Jenny’s surprised to hear Tiffani’s taking this so well but Tiffani’s all, “She went on Broadway but now she’s back and we’re going to have a great episode together!”

So Tiffani goes to the Garrison’s to see her mom. Melody tells her Judy is there and Tiffani’s suddenly so nervous she’s going into stereotypical blonde moments.

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Meanwhile, Sly comes in with a new smoke machine because that’s what they need at the type of gigs they play. Imagine the smoke machine going at Sharkey’s or the wedding. Actually, it might help the customers at Sharkey’s not see the food.

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Tiffani and Judy embrace as the audience has an “Aww!” moment and Judy apologizes for leaving her ten years ago and not keeping in touch. Tiffani says she could never hate her mother because the plot demands it.  They’re beginning to get back in touch with each other when the smoke machine gets out of control and the fire department comes around. Tiffani and Judy decide to go find somewhere quiet off screen so they can catch up without it eating up the running time.

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At the garage, Tiffani and Judy come in after going for a surf and seem to be having some awesome mother and daughter bonding and shit. Judy tries to teach the band how to dance but Matt can’t dance and shit so that’s the end of that possibility for Sly’s gimmick. Judy, however, is impressed at how well Tiffani can dance but she seems upset when Judy mentions her father couldn’t dance.

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Jenny kicks the boys out of the garage so she can have a heart to heart with Tiffani about Judy. Tiffani’s upset that Jenny’s upset and so they’re upset and yell a lot and shit.

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At Sharkey’s, Judy arranges a sweet sixteen surprise party for Tiffani. Tiffani’s surprised since her birthday isn’t until tomorrow and she turned sixteen last year (really, Kelly Packard was seventeen when this aired and it shows; she couldn’t have passed as fifteen if she tried) but Judy says she knows Tiffani will want to have her special dinner and shit with her father and doesn’t want to interfere with that.

Sly comes in and says he got the band an audition with a big club owner tomorrow and there is much rejoicing (Yay…). Judy complements Sly and, when he calls her Mrs. Smith, she corrects him that she’s Ms. Webb, once again annoying Tiffani.

Judy gives Tiffani her present: a plane ticket to New York so she can go live with her for a year, and this makes Tiffani go off. Frankly, it’s the closest Kelly Packard has come to actually acting since she’s been on this show and she actually does a half decent angry at this stupid bitch who wants her to run away to New York and live with her. She rushes out, leaving a devastated Judy and four awkward friends who now have to find a way to somehow exit gracefully. Talk about small talk hell.

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Back at the Garrison’s house, the band are worried how to deal with an angry Tiffani. Tiffani comes in, though, and seems completely okay with everything and shit because emotions are short lived the more intense they are.

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Melody comes in and tells Tiffani that her mom came by and said she’s leaving tomorrow. Judy left her contact information in case Tiffani wants to get in touch with her, but Tiffani’s all, “Fuck that shit,” and tears up the paper.

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Time for the audition and…what the fuck… This is what Sly thinks edgy looks like. It just makes them look like a combination between goth, metal, and grunge, or at least what my grandmother would think those genres look like. Seriously, what the fuck is up with the writers of this show not understanding musical genres? They play their one song, and I can’t help but notice the playing looks faker than normal. I’m highly distracted by Jenny in the background dancing like she just watched the seizure episode of Pokemon while background vocals occur despite the fact no one is anywhere close to a microphone. It’s pretty bad, y’all.

The club owner says he likes the music but the costumes are fucking stupid so he’s not hiring them for shit.

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Sly tells them he’s a fuck up for changing their image and Tiffani’s all, “There is a lesson in all this for me if I examine it close enough.” She decides somehow Sly being a fuck up means she shouldn’t give up on a relationship with her mother and rushes off to try to catch her at the airport.

Back home, Jenny calls Tiffani on the phone so she can exposit what happened: she got to the airport but, even with pre-9/11 security, couldn’t get through in Sly’s stupid costume so she missed getting to see her mother.

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But then Judy comes in, saying she couldn’t leave without seeing her again since Judy is never going to be on the show again. They have a bonding moment as Judy admits she was pretty shitty to Tiffani and our episode ends with a vow to be best friends forever even though Judy will never be on the show again!

What a horribly unremarkable episode. I swear, for every good episode like “Guess Who’s Coming to Brunch,” there are four utterly unremarkable episodes to balance them out. I guess at least it’s still not boring me as bad as The College Years.

Song

“Love is Not Like This”
Matt singing

“Love is not like this on the radio…” Seriously… This song is seriously the band’s attempt to be harder and edgier but they just come off sounding like a bunch of dopes. What can one say about this song other than lyrically it’s a mess and musically it’s nothing special at all? It’s way over-produced for a garage band’s song and comes off as trying way too hard. I hope this is one that never sees the light of day again on this show. It’s not quite as bad in my book as “Rain,” but it’s still one of my least favorite they’ve done so far. An unremarkable song for an unremarkable episode.

Season 1, Episode 8: “It’s a Guy Thing”

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We open at Sharkey’s to find out Matt had a very bad date with some random girl who’s not Randi Jo or Angela. I’m really struggling to figure out what it is with Matt and girls. Is he just a polyamorous sort of guy? That doesn’t seem to fit with early ’90s Peter Engel!

But this episode isn’t about Matt so we jump into the real plot of the episode: Sly and Tony acting like jackasses when it comes to women. Yes, they practically tell Matt he should have date raped the girl, as Tony insists Matt should have forcibly kissed her, which contradicts a certain other Peter Engel production from a few years later, confirming that plots on these shows are completely at the discretion of the lulz…

Tiffani and Jenny immediately start judging Sly and Tony for being insensitive pigs, even though, in my experience, pigs are much more awesome than these guys.

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Their judgement is confirmed when an extra walks in wearing a bikini, causing Sly and Tony to both get erections as confirmed by Tony’s “I just saw Barbara Bush naked!” face. They’re all, “Don’t judge us for thinking nearly naked ladies are hot and shit!” But when they go off to oogle her closer, Jenny decides it’s their job to teach our bumbling duo a lesson because shit.

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At the Garrison’s garage, we see part of Jenny’s plan: a red wig named Monique. Matt walks in on Jenny and checks her out from behind, then gets his psychic reprimand from Peter Engel since this isn’t a very special episode about incest. Tony comes in and Tiffani tells him Jenny’s old friend Monique, a foreign exchange student, is coming to visit and is DTF. They make a date for him to meet Monique tomorrow at Sharkey’s.

This is our A-plot folks. Yeah, Jenny in a bad wig to teach Tony and Sly about women is going to be our main plot. Jesus fucking Christ.

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Oh, hi Melody! It’s been a while since we’ve seen you, since, like, the first episode! You were gone so long I was beginning to think Richard murdered you because he thought you spent money on his credit card. Where you been? Just hanging around in your room where the camera can’t steal your soul? Not going to tell? Oh, well, I don’t know why I’d expect anything more from the Engelverse!

Oh, and we get our subplot: Melody’s washer won’t work. Fucking hell this is going to be a long twenty-two minutes, isn’t it?

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At…some meal…Melody tells Richard they need to talk about getting a new washing machine and shit. Richard’s all, “But there are three men in this family not involved in the main plot! Since we’re men and it’s cliche, the three of us will just fix your washing machine for attempted comedic effect!”

After Richard, Matt, and Dennis march out to a rousing chorus of “Men, men men!”, Jenny mentions Monique to Sly, and he immediately wants her hot body.

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So Jenny calls Tiffani on the payphone at Sharkey’s, and Sly brags to Tiffani posing as Monique about how super sensitive he is and shit.

So Tony and Sly end up at Sharkey’s the next day, both to meet Monique because Tiffani says she and Jenny couldn’t play favorites.

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And then…Monique…Jesus Christ, I never thought I would see someone who made Zack Morris in drag look realistic by comparison, and this is an actual woman, though she currently looks like she’s straight out of an ’80s music video!

So try to keep up here: Jenny, dressed as Monique, rushes into the restroom without saying hi. Jenny comes out not a minute later, dressed in completely different clothing and looking like she was never dressed as Monique, telling Sly and Tony that Monique’s nervous to meet them. Tiffani goes in the bathroom to console Monique, but dresses as Monique in less than a minute, comes out, does the shy thing, and rushes off with Jenny following behind to see if she can help Monique. Jesus that was overly complicated. I think I’ve seen Zack Morris schemes that were easier to execute.

Sly and Tony rush out to catch up with Monique and, after about thirty seconds of looking, they give up and decide she’s disappeared. Sly runs in the women’s restroom, looking for Tiffani to figure out what’s going on, and Sly’s assaulted by an angry woman who looks too old to be hanging out at Sharkey’s who’s none too happy that Sly rushed in. The woman says there’s no one in there, that their blonde friend left a while ago wearing a red wig, and suddenly Tony and Sly realize they’re part of a lame plot.

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Back at the Garrison house, Richard, Matt, and Dennis break random shit that has nothing to do with the washer because they’re just taking random needed parts instead of simply buying new ones at their local Home Depot. Boy, this is an exciting and needed subplot, to find out the Garrison men don’t know shit about home repair. So glad they included this!

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Meanwhile, Sly and Tony are pissed at Matt that he didn’t tell them about Monique. They reveal they’re going to get revenge on Jenny and Tiffani for the Monique shit. They try to recruit Matt for the revenge, but he’s all, “I’m not getting in on the main plot for this stupid episode!”

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The band have practice, and all seems to be okay between Tony and Sly as they’re going to meet her separately.

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But then a fight erupts in the middle of “Surf’s Up” about who has a bigger penis, and they decide the only way to settle this is through a boxing match, because that’s the best way for two non-boxers to settle an argument, especially considering one of them decided a few weeks ago he hated contact sports.

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At Sharkey’s, Sly and Tonny do lots of sparing in the middle of the place while the assembled extras wonder why they have to put up with this shit while they’re eating their hamburgers. Tiffani and Jenny try to convince Matt to stop the fight, even calling Matt a wimp. Matt’s finally had enough and says he never wanted to be a part of this stupid main plot anyway and it’s their fault for butting into someone else’s business that a fake fight is going to happen. As he marches off, Tiffani and Jenny fade into commercial break with the realization that this plot just got stupider.

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Tiffani and Jenny go to Melody for advice, and she’s all, “You gotta let stupid people do stupid things sometimes!”

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Case in point, the Garrison men, who are still not passing the Bob Villa seal of approval for home repair and are ready to kill each other over their lack of competence in fixing a dishwasher.

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In the garage, Tony and Sly are ready to fake box, convinced the girls will stop them when they see they’re serious, but then Dennis comes in with a bunch of extras he sold tickets for the fight to. Tiffani and Jenny come in and, no matter how much horrible semblance of fake fighting they put on, the girls won’t back down since Tony and Sly have obviously never watched a boxing match in their lives. The crowd starts demanding a fight and Jenny puts the wig on, revealing they know about all this stupid shit.

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Sly and Tony try to leave but a really angry man from the crowd who apparently enjoys teenage backyard fighting threatens to kill them if he doesn’t get a good fight for his money. The two punch…

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…and soon knock each other out in the lamest fight ever. If I was the man, I would still demand my money back from Dennis.

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In the kitchen, Sly and Tony reveal they each have black eyes and it looks like they may have learned a lesson until one of Jenny’s friends comes in to see her, sending them back in erection mode, and leaving Jenny and Tiffani with the realization that you can’t change a person’s habits in the span of a twenty minute scam.

Melody asks Richard if he’s ready to buy a new washing machine, but Richard says they successfully fixed the damn thing.

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But, wouldn’t you know it, Dennis used too much laundry detergent, apparently breaking the thing in yet another overly cliched way. Dennis yells, “We’re being limed!” or some shit. His actor is such a poor actor I have no clue what the kid’s saying. His diction is almost as bad as Uncle Jesse’s sons on Full House.

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And our episode ends with Richard, Melody, and Matt wondering what the hell this episode was about and whether some reviewer in twenty-four years will waste their time with this boring ass episode and wonder whether they should have just skipped it and had twenty-one minutes of life back.

Seriously, this episode is bad.

Songs

“Surf’s Up”
Matt singing

“Surf’s Up” doesn’t sound any better the second time around. The sad thing is: this may be the closest the band comes to actually sounding rock, but then that horrible popish chorus comes on and you might as well forget any semblance of rock. If they wanted a song about surfing, they should have done a homage to the Beach Boys. That’s what I think of when I think of surfing songs. Mind you, they were popular fifty years ago, but that’s also the last time songs about surfing were popular.

Season 1, Episode 7: “Guess Who’s Coming to Brunch”

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We open at a country club where the band are taking a break from singing to drink lots of non-alcoholic beverages because it’s not yet time for them to do a very special episode on underage drinking. This gives Jenny the opportunity to talk about class warfare so she can establish herself as the Jessie of the group, even though it was Tiffani doing this a few weeks ago.

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Tony locks hands with Kimberly Blanchard, the daughter of some rich guy at the club, and his vomiting of smooth lines says he’s falling in love. He convinces Matt to let him do “Rain” as their next song so he can impress her. The band’s amp blows out in the middle right in Tony’s ear, though, so what impresses her is her own Florence Nightingale syndrome coming to his rescue. Kimberly takes him outside, presumably to fuck him and make him all better.

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At Sharkey’s, Sly has a scheme to make enough money to buy a new amp before their next gig Saturday: write an advertising jingle for Uncle Slappy’s Root Beer. Matt initially doesn’t want to do it, but Jenny’s all, “We need something to do for our subplot so we might as well!”

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Meanwhile, Tony and Kimberly come in after spending a day at Disney Land, feeling all hot and bothered by the Haunted Mansion and shit. The audience loses their mind when Kimberly mentions she was grabbing on to Tony and pretending to be scared. Do they think she was masturbating him in the dark or something?

She does mention she wanted to go to Paris this year but her father wouldn’t let her. This sounds like a throwaway now but will be important later.

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In the Garrison’s garage, Matt, Tiffani, and Jenny perform the first version of their jingle, and it sucks ass, of course, but they say it’s because this root beer sucks ass and they can’t bring themselves to say good things about it. Sly says you’ve just got to learn to lie and shit so Tony suggests he write it himself to keep this subplot going.

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Kimberly shows up at practice and invites Tony to the country club for brunch on Sunday to meet her parents. They kiss, and, I swear to god, somebody in the audience is dead from how loud they screamed.

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At the country club, Tony meets Kimberly’s parents, and there’s something off about her father. Where have I seen him before?

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Holy shit! It’s Zack Morris’s original father, Miss Bliss’s Peter! Now we know what happened to him after Good Morning, Miss Bliss: he moved to California to be with his other family so Derek had to raise Zack Morris as his own! It’s so clear now! Shit, though, he was dating Miss Bliss at the same time he was married to Kimberly’s mother?

Moving to California seems to have had an effect on Peter Morris, though, as he’s now a racist bigot and, while Kimberly and her mother are in the restroom, offers to give Tony $1,000 to buy a new amp if he stops seeing Kimberly because he doesn’t want his daughter dating a black guy. He’s okay, though, if Tony wants to date his son because it will keep him away from that dumb ass Screech.

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At the Garrison’s house, Tony tells the band what happened and that he told Peter Morris to fuck the hell off.

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Oh, hi Richard. You just came the fuck out of nowhere! Seriously, barely an establishing shot that he’s in the kitchen before he just gets up and starts randomly talking. Richard’s here to give Tony some sagely wisdom that some people are just fuckheads and he wouldn’t object if Tony dated Jenny. Sly, on the other hand? He’ll ship Jenny off to Italy before he lets that happen!

Jenny tells Tony he needs to tell Kimberly that her father is a horrible bigot because she’d be upset if it was her and he didn’t tell her.

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So he does it on their date at Sharkey’s. Kimberly doesn’t believe Tony, insisting that her father donates money to every African-American charity Peter Engel’s heard of and that he raised her to be colorblind after she just pointed out she knew he’s black. She rushes off, breaking up with Tony and telling him she won’t believe him until there’s a dramatic scene in which Peter Morris’s true feelings are revealed.

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Back at the garage, Sly sings his version of the jingle, and both he and it suck ass. Tiffani and Jenny say they won’t use the jingle because it’s all lies and they have integrity and shit.

Tony comes in and catches everyone up on what’s happened.

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That’s when Richard comes in carrying a heavy box. Turns out an amp is inside, sent by Peter Morris because he thinks Tony broke up with Kimberly. Tony’s outraged, and takes the amp immediately down to the country club. Peter Morris and his family just happen to be there eating because that’s apparently all they ever do together, and he admits in front of Kimberly that he doesn’t want Kimberly to date Tony because their relationship would be “tough.” Tony tells Peter Morris to fuck off back to Indiana and quit being a racist, even leaving his dolly behind as a parting gift.

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Back at the garage, Sly doesn’t like the new lyrics for the jingle and thinks Uncle Slappy will hate them.

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But that’s before Uncle Slaapy comes in and turns out to be the fashion challenged cousin of Danny DeVito. He loves the new version because it’s just vague enough for people to think they’ll love his root beer, and he buys it, giving the band enough money to buy a new amp.

Tony comes in with Kimberly following behind him. She says she’s sorry for her father being an ass and she wants to get back together with him now that she knows he’s a bigot.

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But then at Sharkey’s, before the band’s gig, Kimberly comes in and tells Tony her father is sending her off to Paris to keep him away from her. She doesn’t have the guts to stand up to him and hopes that, once Peter Engel sets a show in Paris, she might get to come back to the Engel-verse. Tony tells her that’s unlikely and she’s just giving in to her father’s stupidity but she leaves him.

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The rest of the band comfort Tony, with Tony saying he’ll be okay by next episode but that sometimes shit like racism can’t be wrapped up in a twenty-two minute episode.

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The band perform their new song and the episode ends with a fade to black and Peter Engel’s name to let you know that Peter Engel’s super serious and he has his eyes on you, you stupid racists of the world!

Joking aside, this may be the best episode of the series so far. It’s well written, well paced, and even the subplot feels okay. This may be better than any very special episode from the Saved by the Bell universe and actually treats a serious social issue, racism, realistically, with Tony not able to save the world from bigotry by the end of the episode. I’m impressed. I didn’t know a Peter Engel show had this in it.

Songs

“Rain”
Tony singing

Tony starts to sing his one song to impress Kimberly before the amp blows up, and really nothing else to say I didn’t say before other than it’s still a relatively bland song.

“Uncle Slappy’s Root Beer Jingle #1”
Tiffani and Jenny singing

What can I say: a very short jingle about how root beer can keep you from dying in the desert. Nothing special here other than it rhymes. B-!

“Uncle Slappy’s Root Beer Jingle #2”
Sly singing

Well, we finally see why Sly isn’t a member of the band with that horrible singing and songwriting capability. It’s basically a combination of a cold medicine and anti-bacterial cleaner commercial. The only ones who are impressed are the easily impressed audience who think kissing is enough to give themselves a stroke. D+.

“Uncle Slappy’s Root Beer Jingle #3”
Tiffani and Jenny singing

The final version of the jingle is vague and amorphous, like most One Direction songs! It’s just unspecific enough to allow all girls to think the boy band loves them or, in this case, that the root beer is super great shit. B+!

“One World”
Matt, Jenny, and Tony singing

The main song of the episode is okay but the writing is quite mediocre and full of cliches. It also sounds a lot more polished than perhaps any other episode except for “Rain.” If the California Dreams were a real band, I’d expect this to be a filler song on their album. It’s about everyone loving each other and getting along together so I guess it’s appropriate for an episode about racism. But really it’s not terribly special or inspired.

First: Very special episode.

Season 1, Episode 6: “Friends First”

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We open at Sharkey’s to find Tony sucks ass at being a waiter. Seems he refuses to write down people’s orders and insists on trying to remember them because FUCK THE MAN! Yeah, seriously, this is a subplot: Tony doesn’t want to do his fucking job because he’s anti-authority and shit and this results in him bringing cheeseburgers to the band they didn’t order because he’s really proving his point that he can do this competently.

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Naturally, Sharkey, in his second and final appearance on the show, is none too pleased that Tony’s acting like a fucking dumb ass and threatens to fire him if he doesn’t shape up. Of course, this is the guy Sharkey was willing to leave in charge just a few weeks ago so I say that shit is on him.

Sly wants Sharkey to hire the band to play every week, but Sharkey’s like, “You fucking idiots don’t own me and I’m not hiring some garage band when one of you is already messing up my business!”

Meanwhile, Matt’s old friend from band camp, Teddy, is coming to visit, and Jenny immediately starts with the fat shaming jokes because she’s a horrible human being. Tiffani reminds her how shitty it is to make fun of someone just because of their weight, but Jenny’s all, “But Saved by the Bell did it! Why not me?!?!”

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Naturally, Teddy shows up and turns out to have lost two hundred pounds so he’s now instantly attractive to Jenny, who turns out to be a very horrible human being. Tiffani likes him, too, and it’s already predictably obvious what the plot of this episode is going to be.

Yeah, Ted, as he now wants to be called, leaves for the beach with Matt, and both Tiffani and Jenny swarm about his hot, fuckable body. They agree it would be a bad idea to break their friendship up over a guy and decide neither of them will ask him out.

 

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In Matt’s room, though, that quickly goes the fuck out the window as Jenny practically drags Ted by his penis to get him to ask her out to dinner.

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And, as soon as she’s gone, Tiffani comes in and hands Ted their date idea circled in the newspaper. After they’re both gone, Matt’s all, “Why are you dating two best friends?” and Ted’s all, “Because the writers enjoy going with old cliches and this is supposed to be how it goes.”

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In the “Tony’s fighting the man through poor memory” subplot, Tiffani convinces Tony that he needs to improve his memory if he’s going to continue to be a dumb ass and refuse to write down his orders. She reminds him that he said in the pilot he needs money from the job for his many dates, and he’s suddenly decided he needs to do something about that shit.

Sly comes in and I think this is the first time he uses his “ba-boom!” catchphrase, as he’s excited to report he’s negotiated a non-paying gig for the band to play at Sharkey’s. Remind me again why he’s their manager if now he’s not even making them money?

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Matt lets slip to the girls that they’re both going on a date with Ted, and the fighting plot begins as they both blame the other for breaking their promise not to date Ted even though they’re actually both to blame because they’re both sounding like selfish excuses for human beings this episode. They act like little two year-olds and say they’re both going to keep their dates.

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And that starts at the movie theater (ironically the same movie theater from The New Class so it’s no wonder Scott meets a Pacific Coast High student there in season one) with Jenny paying an usher to to tell Tiffani she has a phone call so Jenny can put the fear of god into Ted about Tiffani’s father and make him want to go home right away.

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This is continued at the restaurant when Tiffani brings Sly to act like an idiot in front of Ted and talk about how Jenny’s going to have his babies some day. Spoiler alert, Sly: no, she isn’t.

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Back at the garage, Tiffani and Jenny are both at each other’s throats over their selfish idiocy regarding Ted. Matt tells them this is fucking stupid and they need to cut this shit out for the sake of the band, so they both predictably decide to quit the band.

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In the kitchen, with the girls still acting selfish and immature, Matt tells Ted he needs to fix this shit. Ted finally agrees that he will pick one of the girls and the girls decide that they are too invested in the band to quit so they’re just going to be like Eddie Van Halen and David Lee Roth.

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At Sharkey’s, Matt puts an old photo up on the bulletin board that instantly makes them remember how important they are to each other and shit so they make-up and decide not to let a man get in the way of their friendship, and other such sappy morals.

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And Tony resolves his subplot by showing Sharkey he’s improved his memory, but Tony’s such a dumb ass he forgot he doesn’t work that day. Yeah, I was about to ask: why would someone work on the day they’re playing in the band at the same venue? That would make it hard to play, but it goes with the rest of Tony’s dumb assery this episode.

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The band play their only song of the episode, and Ted comes in during the song, with Tiffani and Jenny looking nervously like their conflict is going to erupt again.

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Sly tries to renegotiate their booking for next week to actually get money, and Sharkey’s all, “I’m not paying for that shit! I’m not even on this show anymore after this episode!”

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Ted prepares to choose one of the girls, saying he has two tickets to see Sting and he’s going to take the winner. The girls tell him they heard he’s going to be in a short film called Gaydar in about ten years and they’re not interested in dating a closet case so they take both his tickets and tell him to fuck off. Also, one of them dating him may impact their friendship and shit.

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And our episode ends with Ted asking Matt what the fuck just happened as his character also fades away into nothingness. God, everyone’s a fucking dumb ass in this episode.

Song

“If It Wasn’t for You”
Matt singing

This is one of the band’s songs from “Double Date” we were supposed to already know so it’s great they finally let us see it. This is an okay song, but it doesn’t have that hit sort of sounds, especially compared to some of the other songs hitting in 1992. I can’t help but, once again, feel like the producers really have no clue about what music was popular at the time this show aired, especially considering Matt thinks he’s a rocker, as this sounds about as far from 1992 rock as you’re going to get. It’s a mellow song without any energy, the type of song I would put on if I wanted to fall asleep at night. It also uses one of the biggest cliches in music: comparing the person you love to an angel. You have to be really good to pull that off, and they aren’t, especially considering The Heights had a much better song involving angels that hit number one in 1992.

First: “Ba-boom!”

Season 1, Episode 5: “Dream Man”

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We open at Sarkey’s to find Sly and Tony bugging the shit out of Matt while he’s trying to write a song. Sly’s got the stupid idea the band should become fire breathers, which I’m sure would work out really well while they’re trying to sing and shit. Why did they ask him to be their manager again?

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Jenny and her friend Jasmine whom we will never see again come in so Tony and Sly quickly move in for sexual harassment time. Tony’s shocked to learn that there’s one girl on the planet who thinks he’s a scumbag…

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…while Jenny just wishes Sly would curl up and die. I don’t get why Sly’s trying so hard to get Jenny in this episode. Just last week he was saying she doesn’t know how to have fun. Why would you want to date someone who’s just going to be a constant pain in the ass?

Tiffani comes in and says that her dad is going out of town on business and, since she’s still not old enough to stay by herself, wants to know if Jenny can babysit her. Jenny’s all too thrilled and invites Jasmine and their other friend Penny along for a slumber party since it will save the writers time and effort as they can just copy a Saved by the Bell plot.

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At the slumber party, the girls talk about brownies and getting fat and clothes and fucking boys and other girl shit.  Oh, and, believe it or not, Penney is played by one of the girls from the original Good Morning, Miss Bliss pilot because Peter Engel really loves reusing actors.

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Tony shows up to bug the shit out of Matt some more so he can spy on the girls and hopefully see them topless…

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…while Sly comes dressed as a cartoon cat burglar. Also, neither of them can believe that Matt never spies on his sister while she’s naked because incest is apparently a thing in the Engel-verse.

Matt gets pissed off at their stupidity and goes downstairs to continue writing his song.

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Tony and Sly call Dennis so he can have something to do this episode. Sly offers Dennis $5 if he gets the girls out of Jenny’s room. This is easily accomplished by Dennis rushing in Jenny’s room and declaring that he lost his pet tarantula in there earlier, sending the girls out and screaming downstairs since we all know girls hate spiders and shit.

Matt’s interrupted once again by the shrieks of a bunch of girls screaming straight out of an old fifties horror film. Tiffani offers to help Matt write and, when he likes her concept, he asks her if she’d like to try writing lyrics since he’s never going to get any work done in this stupid house.

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Tony shows up to try to get Jasmine to go for him again but she’s all, “We’re not even halfway through the episode! I can’t like you until the climax!”

Back in Jenny’s room, the great tarantula crisis must be over so Jasmine reveals that she thinks Tony’s cute but his stupid lines written by writers with no concept of the real world are just turning her off.

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But, even creepier, Sly’s hiding under the bed. Yes, this recycled plot from Saved by the Bell has just been modified to have Sly overhear the girls directly while looking at Jenny’s feet since California Dreams doesn’t have a tech expert to bug the room. Jenny reveals her dream man would be handsome, honest, love French food, fine art, foreign films, and would wear an Italian suit with a silk tie and say something really romantic. Sly decides he can complete the pieces of this puzzle and runs off to ask Sharkey how to become a Goodfellas mobster since that’s obviously what Jenny just described.

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In the garage, Tiffani debuts her lyrics for Matt, and he obvious thinks they suck ass but doesn’t want to say anything because the writers want us to believe there’s a real emotional stake here.

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Tony and Jenny come in for practice while Sly enters wearing an Italian suit and spouting bullshit at Jenny. He’s all, “Romantic shit and fine arts and everything else you said while I was spying on you.”

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At Sharkey’s, Jenny’s dense enough to not think something’s up with Sly and starts to fall for him because that’s the easiest way to move the plot along. Sly comes in and asks Jenny to eat French food with him and see a unspecified foreign film because if I wanted a girl to believe I liked the same things she did, I wouldn’t even bother to look up the actual name of a film to impress her.

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Back at the Garrison house following their date, Jenny continues to be impressed by Sly’s bullshit and the audience loses their mind when Sly kisses Jenny’s hand. It’s nice to see Peter Engel hires the same easily impressed people to sit in the audience for all his shows. Sly leaves and Matt comes in to find a swooming Jenny ready to go to bed with Sly.

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But then Dennis comes in and is all, “Since Sly didn’t pay me the money he offered me, if you offer to pay me more, I’ll tell you that Sly paid me to get you out of your room so he could stare at your feet.” Jenny’s ready to murder Sly so she can go to prison and not be on this show anymore.

Back at Sharkey’s Matt frets over telling Tiffani that her song sucks while Tony finally accepts that Jasmine just finds him repulsive.

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Tony goes over to tell Jasmine he’s sorry for being a jack ass and she’s instantly all, “Well, I guess it’s close enough to the end of the episode. I can like you now!” Tony and Jasmine go off to the beach and I can only assume that Tony killed her and fed her to the sharks for making him work so hard to get her.

In the garage, Matt finally tells Tiffani her song sucks ass and Tiffani’s all, “Ok!” Jesus, do the writers of this show not know how people actually react? Even Jenny’s all, “This reaction is completely unbelievable and stupid,” so Tiffani pretends to be a little mad and is then, “Nah!” Fucking hell! First Dennis two weeks ago and now Tiffani! Pro tip: if your subplot is going to resolve with the characters just being like, “Yeah, whatever,” you may want to reconsider whether the subplot is necessary! By comparison, I’m finding many of the subplots on The New Class to be believable!

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Sly comes in and Jenny’s all, “Let’s have dinner tonight and fuck since no one’s home!” Sly’s all excited and ready for his big chance at getting some.

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That night, Jenny wears a skimpy dress to let Sly know what he’s going to miss out on and leads him along for a bit.

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But she then proceeds to pour food all over him…

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…and gets out a Louisville Slugger so she can beat the living shit out of him. Sly tries to give Jenny a sob story about being rejected in fourth grade and follows it up with a request for some hot fucking, which kind of negates any goodwill he might have actually got from Jenny.

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And our episode ends with Jenny chasing Sly around the room in the hopes she can still get in on some of that sweet homicidal action. One Saved by the Bell plot copied, one hundred twenty-five left to go!

Song

“Tommy Can’t Swim”
Tiffani singing.

The sole song this episode is Tiffani’s stupid song about a boy moving to California from the Midwest. I can’t judge it too harshly since it’s meant to sound about as edgy as the Wiggles in order to push her subplot along. After all, it’s a stupid subplot anyway. But I can’t help but still love Kelly Packard’s voice. Jesus, why didn’t they make her the lead singer of this band?