Season 2 Recap

One thing I’m consistently amazed at when reviewing Peter Engel shows: the horrible ways the producers try to “fix” them after a lackluster first season. The prime example, of course, is The New Class, but Hang Time was a victim as well. In the case of The New Class, they took a mediocre, boring premise (recycling plots from the original Saved by the Bell with new look-a-like actors) and turned it into a horrible monstrosity for season two. Yes, season two of The New Class remains one of the worst things I’ve ever watched on television that wasn’t cancelled.

I bring it up here because I feel like California Dreams is a victim as well, albeit not as bad as The New Class. Last season was fairly solid. The weak part was the Garrison family. So, they wrote all of the Garrisons but Matt out of the show early in season two and add a new, strong breakout character. So far so good. But what do they do then? Why, show the band going to school, because, if ever there was something teenagers were demanding, it was to see what the Saved by the Bell gang would have been like had they also had an after school band…well, I mean an after school band that shows up in more than three episodes.

This ended up being the template for many of Peter Engel’s shows later on:

  • The College YearsSaved by the Bell at college
  • California DreamsSaved by the Bell with a band
  • Hang TimeSaved by the Bell with a basketball team
  • City GuysSaved by the Bell in the hood
  • USA HighSaved by the Bell in Paris

Yeah, you get the point. Peter Engel was a one trick pony and, outside that formula, doesn’t seem to have been able to figure out what made a show work. I complained last season that we needed more focus on the band in a show about a band. If anything, I think this season showed less focus on the musical aspects of the show, and it’s only going to get worse from here. So, this season, California Dreams, a show I praised so highly in last season’s recap, officially became Saved by the Bell with a band.

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And, yet, all is not bad with this season. Jake is a great addition, as I’ll talk about in characterization, and it was interesting to see the focus come off the Garrison family. Yet, this season is such a mixed bag. Jenny’s departure was hastily thrown together, Matt and Tony feel like background characters much of the time, Tiffani is officially around just to be a sex object, and Sam is completely underdeveloped.

It’s like Peter Engel didn’t understand what went right with season one so he just started tinkering with everything while missing opportunities for greatness. To give an example, one thing that made the early seasons of Happy Days great was the interaction between squeaky clean Richie and greaser Fonzie. They had the perfect opportunity to keep Matt as the main character and make him the foil for Jake. Yet, they pushed Matt as far to the background as possible and made most of Jake’s interactions this season with Tiffani and Sly. I suppose Sly could work as a foil for Jake as well, but it just comes out of nowhere why Jake would give a shit about Sly.

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It also feels like they had no plan for the season, or else the plan was completely thrown out very early on. Richard and Melody were in several early episodes and there seemed to be a genuine attempt to set up a coming romance between Jake and Jenny. Then Jenny abruptly left and it’s like the writers went into “let’s throw everything at the wall and see what sticks!” mode. The worst for me was the Jake and Tiffani romance as it came the fuck out of nowhere in an episode obviously meant for Jenny and fizzled out just as abruptly. Even the opening credits this season look like a green screen vomited all over the camera after last season featured such an amazing looking beach video.

Overall, it’s a very “meh” season.


So, yeah, characters.

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Matt’s character suffered the most this season. Many, many times it felt as if he was a minor character when the show was supposed to be about him. They gave him what he needed the most this season, a balancing character, and then completely wasted it for most of the year. I don’t get it. I really don’t. Were they trying to sabotage his character and pave the way for his exit?

Whatever the reason Brent Gore departed at the end of the season, he leaves behind a Matt that was a skeleton of what he once was. Really, most of the time it felt as if he was around to sing the songs and that was it. Maybe that was all the writers cared about given he was the last remaining Garrison on the show. It’s a real shame because, after having already watched a few season three episodes, I find myself missing Matt more and more, but more on that in the season three recap.

Since his departure from California Dreams, Brent Gore has had a handful of acting roles, most recent in 2016’s I’m Not Ashamed, the borderline offensive Christian film that tried to turn the Columbine High School shooting into a martyrdom tale. He’s mostly been performing music, doing some tours as a musical artist, and, according to the Jimmy Fallon reunion, he’s involved with a non-profit called the Los Angeles Performing Arts Foundation. And, let me tell you, he’s aged amazingly. Matt Garrison is still hot to this day.

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Tiffani had an interesting year, inexplicably becoming the female character on the show with the most development and actually moving a bit beyond her stupid blonde stereotype of last season. She even got to be in a relationship with Jake thanks to her good fortune that Jenny departed early in the season. Overall, a great year for Tiffani, right?

Not quite. I think almost every, if not every, plot centered around Tiffani this season was all about a guy wanting to get in her pants, and I find this to be completely off-putting. Tiffani has a trait that’s been barely explored: she’s a surfer. Yet, the writers almost completely ignore this and choose, instead, to focus on how she can most titillate the young male viewers. Had Jenny not left, I hate to think what the plan was for her. To be as useless as Matt and Tony? The writers are desperate for us to see Tiffani as the Kelly Kepowski of California Dreams. That she is not. Kelly had personality. Tiffani is just whatever the writers cooked up for her this week.

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Look, I get it: Tony’s not supposed to be a main character. But he went from having two of the best episodes last season focus on him to one of the worst this season. And that episode was the only one that had him as a main character. He’s around for laughs because watch the black guy do jive things and shit, and that’s all. I wanted him to do something this season! What more can I say but Tony was completely wasted this season, and that’s the real shame of the year.

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Sly is all over the board this season. Early on, he seems like he’s just around fulfilling the creepy comic relief role that he did last season. As the episodes progress, though, it seems like the writers decided to give him more of a significance on the show. In fact, Sly’s importance seems to be directly proportional to Matt’s decreased role on the show, making me wonder if the two are connected.

In any case, I’m still not a fan of Sly. I feel manipulated every time the writers have him on screen and want me to feel sorry for him after he was just acting like an asshole a few minutes previous. I know he’s supposed to be the Zack Morris of the show, but there’s something I hate about in Sly that I don’t despise in Zack Morris, and I can’t quite put my finger on it. Maybe it’s that Zack Morris, most of the time, doesn’t intend to harm his friends, whereas Sly just steamrolls right over them and then feels bad later. I don’t know, but I guess I have three more seasons to figure it out.

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So I don’t have a lot of negative to say about Jake. Really, he’s a good introduction to the show, providing some balance in the characters that didn’t exist last season and opening up more possible plots. He’s good in the role he’s in, and I’m not even terribly upset they gave him such significance on the show. I’ve stated some of my complaints previously: that they didn’t pair him with Matt often enough and that his relationship with Tiffani was the fuck out of nowhere, but those are really more to do with Matt and Tiffani, in my mind, than with Jake.

Jake could have been the character that took this mediocre series and turned it into something great, but, as I said above, the writers of this show really suck at figuring out how to integrate new elements. Done right, Jake could have brought more rock and less pop to the show instead of coming off as just as much an easy listening dope as the rest of the band. It is what it is, but it could have been so much smoother.

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Jenny doesn’t do a lot this season before her very early departure so there’s not much characterization to talk about that I didn’t mention last season. Of course, there’s the future relationship with Jake they were clearly setting up that just came out in a spat of writer’s diarrhea in her final episode, begging why she was written out when they were clearly planning on keeping her in. I’ve heard different conflicting accounts of this, from Heidi Noelle Lenhart didn’t get along with the rest of the cast to she actually went to study music abroad. Whatever the reason, ironically, Jenny is the only one of the Garrisons to get a proper departure episode. Yeah, even Matt only got a throw away line, and he was the fucking main character of the show!

Heidi Lenhart’s done some sporadic acting throughout the 1990s’ and 2000s’, but probably nothing much you’d remember other than a recurring role during the final season of Beverly Hills, 90210. She seems to have mostly retired from acting to focus on being a mother, telling Jimmy Fallon she’s very happy to be the mother of two daughters.

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It’s hard for me to review Sam. I really don’t have much against her except when she goes into one of her shut the hell up moments. But she’s a pretty bland character without much characterization other than being from Hong Kong, and that backstory is so easy to poke holes in for anyone who knows anything at all about the territory.

I guess the positive thing is they didn’t make her a complete Jenny copy, but they need to figure out what they do want to accomplish with her. Really, she was in most of the episodes this season and I struggle to remember anything memorable other than the guy she was imagining in his underwear, and that had less to do with her and more to do with an attractive guy in his underwear. It’ll be interesting to see where the writers go with her in the coming seasons.

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Of course, we’ve also got to say goodbye to Richard and Melody. They weren’t around much this season, but they popped up a bit in the early episodes before the writers decided to stop focusing on their family. Scaling them back was a very good step for this show, but it’s a shame they couldn’t have them pop up when it was convenient to the plot. They’re not bad characters. They just had nothing to do.

Michael Cutt still sporadically acts to this day, but his biggest role outside California Dreams might be a brief recurring role on 7th Heaven. Sad as it is to say, California Dreams remains the biggest role he’s ever had.

For Gail Ramsey, California Dreams was her final acting credit. Previously, she had a starring role on General Hospital in the ’70s and ’80s and a recurring role in The New Mike Hammer. She dropped off the face of show business, and interviews since suggest that she became a teacher in a Christian school, which, you know, good for her for finding something that makes her happy.


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Overall, I’d say, for me, I don’t hate this season of California Dreams, though there sure is hell a lot less to like about it. I’m keeping my mind open for what comes next, though I’m scared what that will bring. It’s a shame because I feel like more seasons with the original cast minus the extended Garrisons plus Jake could have been something very special. We’ll never know, though. All we know is that they made a very boring season out of what could have been the best one of the series, and that is such a shame.


My Picks

Three Episodes I Loved

Episode 1: “Jake’s Song” Jake’s introduction episode was actually pretty well done and set up what could have been a great comedic relationship between Jake and Matt. Sure, many of the elements of this episode were never followed up on, but it felt like a solid episode, one I’d easily recommend as an example of what’s right this season.

Episode 10: “Vote of Confidence” An episode that provided some much needed characterization and motivation for Jake. It makes complete sense that Jake is the way he is because he felt inferior to his overachieving brother.. If it’s true what some of you have spoiled to me that they forget about much of this later on in the series, it will be a damned shame because it’s a great backstory for Jake.

Episode 13: “Save the Shark I struggled with whether to put this episode on the list or not. After all, I was hard on it, and rightfully so, for its horrible capitalist caricature and weak motivation for tearing down Sharkey’s. However, it does provide what may be the only chance this season for Matt to really shine, and, for that, I can’t hate it too much.

Three Episodes I Hated

Episode 2: “Ciao, Jenny” It shows that this was a hastily written episode to provide a departure for Jenny, and that’s no excuse for this to be such a weak episode. The fact that Jenny nearly gives up going to Italy to be with a guy who just declared his love for her is insulting. It’s just a lazy episode that would be forgettable had it not been for the fact a main character left.

Episode 8: “High Plans Dreamer” Easily the worst episode of the series so far as it is nothing but an absolute time waster. There’s no reason for it to exist other than for the cast to play dress-up. What’s worse, they took a character who was the primary in two of the best episodes last season and made the worst this season about him, and that’s just sad.

Episode 15: “Can’t Buy Me Love” I still feel insulted by this episode and its manipulation to try to get me to feel sorry for Sly after he was just acting shitty to a girl. Sure, she was a jerk, but so was he, and I can’t help but think this episode is an example of everything I don’t like about Sly on this show.

Season 2, Episode 18: “Indecent Promposal”

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We open at PCH to news that it’s time for the prom because why not. Also, financial aid is available! I’m not exactly sure what financial aid for a prom would be. Are they going to give the students money to buy dresses and tuxedos and limos and shit? I don’t get it.

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Oh, joy, Mookie is back one more time because he apparently randomly accepted delivery of a bunch of roses for Tiffani. Yeah, why not give them to a guy who’s such an idiot he’s still in high school in his late twenties. No, this isn’t yet another out of order episode as Jake’s jealous this time. Instead, we find out a guy Tiffani’s been visiting at the hospital sent them to her to thank her for being a hot blonde. No, seriously, Tiffani acts all naive through this whole episode, and I have trouble believing even she’s this dense. The guy wants her and she insists on pretending she doesn’t know what’s going on.

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But poor Matt and Sam don’t have dates for the prom and that will turn into the closest thing to a subplot this episode has. Also, Sly comes in to exposit that he’s going to be DJ for the prom and he got the band to play the post prom party at Sharkey’s because no other band in town wants to play at Sharkey’s.

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At Sharkey’s, Sam asks this new exchange student from India to the prom. He must have not gone to an American high school because, unlike Sam, he has a really bad Indian accent and the only English word he knows is “yes.” And I’ll give you three guesses what his name is.

Haji.

Yes, they named this random Indian character after a Johnny Quest character. God I hate Peter Engel’s writers.They make me want to punch them in the face.

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Luckily that uncomfortable bit of bull shit is interrupted by the arrival of Glen himself, who tells Tiffani he decided to stalk her so he could thank her in person and wins the disapproving Jake over through flattery.

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They’re soon joined by Matt, Tony, and Sly. Sly acts like an asshole to a complete stranger until he finds out Glenn owns a Ferrari in the parking lot and begs him to drive it. Matt and Tony follow behind, hoping to get prom dates and shit, leaving Tiffani and Jake with Glenn so we can get on with the plot.

Tiffani suddenly finds out Jake doesn’t want to go to the prom because I guess they choose to not talk about the prom until this very moment because plot. Yeah, Jake thinks proms suck ass and doesn’t want to go and I guess he’s unwilling to do anything that might make Tiffani happy because that would just be stupid and prevent this plot from going forward.

Glenn offers to take Tiffani to the prom for Jake because that’s a reasonable response from a guy who obviously has no ulterior motives, and Jake’s against it at first. But Glenn says his dad owns a hotel in Catalina and, if they go through with it, he’ll make sure the band has a gig all summer there.

Yeah, Indecent Proposal had come out that year and Peter Engel decided to rip it off. I’m so shocked given how original everything he does is.

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In the Garrisons’ garage, the rest of the band is overjoyed about the prospect of having their own version of Malibu Sands, but Jake and Tiffani just aren’t sure. Sam suggests they compromise and go to the prom half the night and the movies the other half, but that would interfere with this whole stupid plot so Tiffani, after some more resistance from Jake, convinces him to let Glen take her to the prom.

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At Sharkey’s, Sam says she’s tired of her subplot and will go to the prom with the next guy who comes through the door. It turns out to be Mookie, so Sam prepares for her date with the man who can’t graduate.

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Alfred delivers a prom dress to Tiffani from Glenn. Jake’s jealous because he obviously doesn’t give a shit about the prom. Also, Matt gets a date to the prom on the condition he find a date for her friend. Tony says he hates blind dates.

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But he’s convinced by the next scene at the Garrisons’ garage, and, as they go off to the prom, Tony insists she better not be ugly and shit because he doesn’t want it to be that kind of episode.

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Sam dresses as Kimmie Gibbler and goes off with Mookie dressed in a gorilla suit because I guess it’s going to be that sort of prom. And, as Tiffani goes off to the prom with Glenn as Jake looks on longingly wishing he wasn’t so badly written this episode.

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At the prom, Tony finds out his date is basically Jessie Spano times two in the quasi-feminist department while Matt’s date doesn’t like him because…he’s a bad dancer? And Sam tells Mookie to just nod approvingly at everyone the whole night because she’s scared he’ll embarass her and stupid behavior like that won’t do it instead.

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And Tiffani does the usual modest shit of not knowing why everyone’s standing there.

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Sly keeps sucking p to Glenn and uses the Ferrari to get girls interested. Glenn takes advantage of this opportunity to get Tiffani to go outside with him to the exterior of Bayside in their prom episode.

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Jake shows up because this episode is so transparent in its cliche nature it’s unreal. Matt tells him to go look for Tiffani elsewhere…

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…and he just happens to wonder to the exact spot where Glenn and Tiffani are kissing. After he marches off in anger, Tiffani pushes Glenn away and tells him it’s wrong. Get this: Glenn confesses he really likes Tiffani. I mean, complete plot twist, am I right guys? Tiffani calls him an asshole for setting this who thing up and rushes back inside.

This is all so stupid. I mean, everyone’s either an idiot or an asshole (or both) in this episode. Glenn makes good points that it’s so contrived for Jake to not be at the prom and shit. This is all just horrible.

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Matt and Tony decide to switch dates mid-prom because…I don’t know. Just role with it at this point.

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And Sam has fun manipulating a mentally challenged man and a racial stereotype who doesn’t know how to speak English.

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Tiffani finds the gang and lets them in on Glen being an asshole while Matt tells her that Jake was here and looking for her. She runs off to find Jake just in case some contrived writing allowed him to witness the kiss and not the aftermath.

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Tiffani finds Jake on the park set that will later be used for the Eiffel Tower on The New Class, and he reveals he saw the kiss and can’t get it out of his head. Since this was one of the most contrived relationship in the history of the Engel-verse, ranking up there with Nicky and Maria, they need a contrived way to break up, and this is it since Jake says he can’t keep dating Tiffani knowing that she briefly kissed another guy and shit. They brood until Sly comes to retrieve them for the prom after party, oblivious that they’re unhappy.

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At Sharkey’s, the band play one more song for the season, a break-up song I’ll have some to say about below, and our episode and our season ends with Jake and Tiffani trying their damndest to play together in a band right after they just broke up. Twenty bucks says they don’t mention this at all in the season three premiere and we just find ourselves with the reset button having been pressed instead of exploring what it means for exes to be playing together in the same band.

Song
“What Will I Do With My Heart?”
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This may be the most easy listening pop song that’s yet been on this show. It’s essentially a break-up song that could have come straight out of the adult contemporary genre, and it’s about as dull as you’d expect a song from that genre to be. It’s so dull I don’t have a whole lot to say about the song other than I guess Sam’s vocals sound nice on it. Yeah, I guess that’s the one thing you can say.

What I wonder is why the band is playing a breakup song at the prom after party, and why couples are looking lovingly at each other in the midst of it. Yeah, I get this is to set mood after Jake and Tiffani’s break-up, but it’s just so ridiculously out of place in the context they’re setting it in. Are they expecting a bunch of people to break up? I almost expected to see a bunch of people get up and slow dance in the middle of a damned break-up song. Once again, the Engel-verse fails to understand how context matters when it comes to the shit you’re putting in your episode. A love song could have served the exact same purpose and not seemed so damned ridiculous.

Season 2, Episode 17: “Dirty Dog Days”

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We open in the garage to find Matt and Tony arguing about some basketball shot that’s physically impossible while possibly injuring a cat. Jake rides in with their basketball, apparently hit in the impossible shot, while the audience loses its mind for his mere presence among us mortals. Don’t worry. This is all just some time wasting that has nothing to do with the rest of the episode.

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The real plot comes in the form of Sly stealing an “old time” radio transmitter from his cousin because theft is hilarious apparently. We’re about to see as well that the writers of this show have no idea how radio transmitters work. See, I know the implication is supposed to be that this is an old ham radio or some shit. But ham radios do not broadcast on the same frequency as radio stations so, unless Sly’s cousin operated a pirate radio station, his happening to have this lying around makes no sense.

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But who cares about sense when we can play it for cheap laughs as Jake pretends to be “Midnight Mike,” a pirate DJ, who’s interviewing a British band called the Dirty Dogs. There’s some really bad British accents and the guys congratulate themselves on a silly little diversion that, in the real world, would be nothing but friends being stupid together on a lazy afternoon.

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But at PCH the next day, everyone’s talking about Midnight Mike and the Dirty Dogs. Seems that the guys were broadcasting over top of a commercial station and, despite the fact they didn’t have an antenna attached at all so, unless everyone at PCH lives next door to Matt, no one should have heard it. But everyone at school managed to hear the broadcast because the writers don’t understand radio waves and now everyone’s obsessed, with a group of screaming girls even running to the gym to start a Dirty Dogs fan club.

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Tiffani and Jenny are even obsessed with Midnight Mike and the Dirty Dogs, apparently just happening to listen in at the same time as the broadcast. All these damned coincidences. And Jenny thinks Midnight Mike is fuckable and shit because you can apparently tell a lot by a person’s voice.

Why’s Jenny here you ask? Yeah, this is that episode I mentioned in passing that, chronologically, should have been the second episode. So, after fourteen episodes of Sam, we’re suddenly back to Jenny one more time because NBC apparently liked to confuse the shit out of their viewers with horribly out of order episodes.

Also, are PCH students really that easily impressed? Everyone is now obsessed with the Dirty Dogs even though they haven’t heard a single song by them and, as far as they know, it could have been some stupid kids playing on a physics-defying radio transmitter.

The boys quickly decide not to tell anyone that it was them given that Jenny just reminded them pirate radio broadcasts are illegal. They’re even going to keep it from Jenny and Tiffani because plot. They decide they still have fifteen minutes of this episode to go, though, so they’re going to take advantage of this plot to somehow advance the band.

In Matt’s room, we see this plan in action as Matt and Jake use the physics-defying radio transmitter to broadcast California Dreams songs as Dirty Dog songs in between Jake gushing about how much of a future he has with Jenny. What exactly was their plan again?

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Naturally, everyone at school and even in the normally quiet Sharkey’s listen to the broadcast at exactly the right time and decide they love the Dirty Dogs because they’re so edgy and shit. Jenny and Tiffani are confused why Midnight Mike is playing the band’s songs, and Tiffani decides it must be some sort of weird mistake. Jenny threatens to shank a bitch that thinks Midnight Mike could make a mistake and says it must be a sign he wants to touch her nether regions, so they rush to tell the guys what happened.

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At Sharkey’s, Sly and Tony try to reveal to Stingray and the other assembled extras that Dirty Dogs are really the California Dreams, but no one will believe them because apparently they’ve missed every one of the biweekly performances the band has there. Really, what did Sly expect in this universe where people can’t tell a person from the exact same person wearing a stupid costume?

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Jenny and Tiffani show up to tell Sly and Tony what’s going on, and Sly says that he gave Midnight Mike a demo because he thought it would be good for the band. Sly says he’ll go chew Midnight Mike out so Jenny wants to come with him in the hopes of fucking him. There’s a bit of exchange about why they can’t, so the girls say they’ll go tell Matt and Jake instead and more time wasting, and then Sly and Tony try to call Matt and Jake to warn them, but an old woman destroys the payphone with her purse. You know, the usual stupid shit of this universe.

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Sly and Tony quickly run to Matt’s house and then try to hide in Matt’s closet with the transmitter, but they’re found out by Jenny and Tiffani and use the excuse they were measuring Matt’s closet for a recording studio and missed Midnight Mike. Jenny and Tiffani buy this excuse because they were born yesterday.

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And Jake proceeds to get depressed that Jenny doesn’t yet find him fuckable because she’s obsessed with Midnight Mike. and hopes they can start their longstanding relationship soon.

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In the garage, the band wants to quit the pirate radio business until Sly puts on a McGruff the Crime Dog mask. What is his plan?

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Well, at Sharkey’s we discover that Sly plans to have the “Dirty Dogs” play there Friday because why the hell not.

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An FCC agent happens to walk in and hears Sly say he knows Midnight Mike because, if there’s a place I would look for a pirate radio station, it’s in a cheesy looking diner all the teenagers hang out at. And, on top of that, he says that, if Sly doesn’t help him catch Midnight Mike in the act, Sly’s going to jail because the writers apparently don’t realize that merely knowing a pirate radio broadcaster isn’t a crime.

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So, yeah, Sly gets wired, goes to the Garrison garage, and gets everyone to say they’re going to broadcast again from PCH on Friday.

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And the FCC agent listens in while giving Diet Coke some nice product placement because, if there’s anything that makes me want to drink Diet Coke, it’s fictional FCC agents who enjoy it alongside baked goods.

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At Sharkey’s, the boys get Jenny and Tiffani to wear dog masks with the idea they’re going to reveal themselves as the band onstage, and the girls still don’t suspect that the boys have been broadcasting all episode because they took a whole bottle of stupid pills this episode. Great way for Jenny to go out, huh.

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The FCC agent and Sly tour PCH looking for the transmitter, which is in a classroom and taped. The agent shuts it down just before Midnight Mike reveals the Dirty Dogs’ identity so Jake jumps on a mic really quick…

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…and Jenny finally figures out that Midnight Mike was Jake the entire time, as she says that she now finds him infinitely attractive and hopes they can have sixteen episodes of love making now.

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The band play “Welcome to the Low Road” as the extras suddenly accept the Dirty Dogs as the California Dreams, the FCC agent never tries to figure out who Midnight Mike was again, and our episode ends with us bidding farewell to yet another Garrison as Jenny goes out on what was, perhaps, the most ridiculous episode of this show to date.

Songs
“Welcome to the Low Road”
Matt singing

Well, here’s a weird situation. I’ve previously reviewed this one on the “Schoolhouse Rock” episode, but this was technically, in production order, the first time this song aired. Oh, well. It’s still one of the edgier songs they’ve ever done. Not much more to say about it.

Season 2, Episode 16: “Rebel Without a Clue”

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We open at PCH where Sly’s decided to give his teacher, Miss Hess, a rose as a peace offering. Matt and Tony won’t believe this is a genuine peace offering because, I mean, it’s Sly…

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…and apparently Miss Hess won’t either, because she immediately stomps on the rose and shit. I mean, can you really blame her? This is the guy last week who thought romance was making a girl wax your car.

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As punishment for his good deed, Miss Hess makes Sly write the thirteen original colonies on the board while she talks to the class. Instead, he decides to make his best “I have to go to the bathroom” face behind her back, making the class laugh. She’s not amused, though, and this is the first indication how contrived Miss Hess is going to be: because Sly made fun of her, she’s gong to give a surprise test tomorrow as punishment. I’m pretty sure there’s lot of literature on the philosophy of education about why that’s not a good idea.

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At Sharkey’s, Sam stares in amazement at a poster for the dance because she needed some excuse to tell us all about how the band is playing the dance so why not some more contrivance? But we get our subplot: Matt and Jake wrote a new song but disagree over whether Tiffani or Sam should sing it because the writers needed something for the non-Sly cast to do this episode. So Tony’s the deciding vote and, yep, that’s going to be this subplot for the rest of the episode: Tiffani and Sam kissing Tony’s ass to get him to pick them.

Sly comes in, mad that Miss Hess doesn’t like him. He decides the way to get back at her is to study and get an A because…okay, maybe success is a pretty good revenge against a teacher who doesn’t think you can succeed. Touche, California Dreams. Touche.

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At the Garrison house, as Matt and Tony study for the test, Sam tries to bribe Tony with brownies as the writers completely show how much they don’t understand subliminal messages. Yeah, subliminal messages are apparently just saying random sit, and Tony must have the most impressionable mind ever.

Sly comes in and Matt teaches him all about mnemonics and shit.

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And that’s apparently all it takes for Sly to learn history because he gets a perfect score on the test the next day. And now the episode proves we haven’t even begun to learn about contrivances yet because Miss Hess decides that Sly getting a 100% in itself is enough proof he cheated, so she gives him an F and suspends him, because taking such serious action without any proof isn’t abuse of power at all!

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At Sharkey’s, Tiffani empathizes with Tony over getting a quarter as a tip because that’s her way of sucking up to Tony. Okay, this is just getting stupid now. Y’all need to learn what sucking up actually is and stick with it!

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Sly says he wants to get back at Miss Hess so Jake says he’ll randomly help Sly go to the disciplinary board with his grievance against Miss Hess. Apparently Jake has experience with this because he’s so edgy and shit. About as edgy as Kirk Cameron on Growing Pains.

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Tiffani and Sam continue their sucking up by giving Tony a massage, and, after they shake his neck silly, he says he’s sick of this bull shit subplot and will have a sing off tomorrow at 4:00 pm to decide who’s going to sing the song.

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Meanwhile, the disciplinary board turns out to be just as contrived as you would expect given that Peter Engel and his writers have proven many times they don’t understand how schools work. Jake’s defense, though, is just as contrived, and basically just, “Sly didn’t do it!” No mention of Miss Hess having no evidence. No mention of her having a vendetta against Sly. No mention of how stupid and contrived this whole situation is. Just, “He didn’t do it!” Gee, Jake, you’re a real Matlock there.

Because the disciplinary board doesn’t understand how disciplinary boards work, they instantly find Sly guilty and uphold his suspension and shit so we can carry on with this stupid plot another ten minutes.

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In the garage, Sly catches everyone up on the plot in case anyone’s been asleep from the glacial contrived pace this is all going.

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It’s time for the sing off, so Tiffani and Sam talk smack to each other, but then, after the singing, decide the other is the best choice so they start fighting over not wanting to do the song because this subplot wasn’t stupid enough before.

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At PCH, Sly comes to beg Miss Hess to let him take another test, which Jake decides means Sly isn’t rebellious enough and shit, and she tells him to get the hell out before she calls the police. Oh, yeah, throughout this whole episode there’s a thread where Jake seems to think Sly is rebellious and shit for studying, which just seems like a cheap excuse to get Jake involved in the plot.

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At the dance, we have an old favorite before the band launches into their new song. And who did Tony pick you ask?

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Why, both of them, of course! Yes, he turned the song into a duet, and you can find my thoughts on that below under the song analysis. Suffice it to say it’s stupid and a cheap ending for a dumb subplot, but the girls loved it and that’s all that counts I guess.

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Sly sneaks in dressed in a bad Benjamin Franklin outfit and, wouldn’t you know, Miss Hess suffers from the same issue that many adults in the Engel-verse suffer from: not being able to distinguish a person from the exact same person in a bad costume. He takes off his hat and wig to reveal, OMG, he’s Sly! She threatens to expel him, but the entire student body demands an immediate, impromptu verbal retest because why not, and, I swear, the questions are much harder than any high school history test I ever took, like that Benjamin Franklin drafted the articles of union. But he passes, even getting a trick question right, and she gives a half-assed apology for her misconduct and declares that she was wrong.

Really, this entire episode, Miss Hess has felt similar to Julie from last week in that both are so ridiculously characterized in the most extreme fashion just so you don’t think Sly is a piece of shit. It’s emotional manipulation of the worst kind, and I’m not buying it. I mean, really, it feels like they’re just writing characters this horribly on purpose to try and not upset the Sly fans because he’s really a good guy deep down, right?

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And just to prove how much of a good guy Sly is, our episode ends with him putting a sign on Miss Hess’s back making fun of her size and appearance, because that doesn’t contradict previous Peter Engel messages at all. You know what? Fuck you Peter Engel for the last two weeks of this blog. I swear to god, next week better not be police torturing Sly in prison for jaywalking or some shit.

Songs

“If It Wasn’t for You”
Matt singing

Well, here’s a song we haven’t heard in a while, and in a totally inferior rendition no less! Not much to say about it that hasn’t been said before other than this is the last time we’ll ever hear it!

“Standback”
Sam and Tiffani singing

This is a softer song because girls I guess. It’s okay, has that usual late ’80s easy listening vibe to it if you’re into that sort of thing. What I can’t understand is why it’s a duet. I get that was a plot point, but you don’t make musical decisions based on what’s convenient for the plot unless you just have no creativity within you at all, or else you don’t give a shit about the songs. The song doesn’t benefit at all with two singers on it. All it really does is make it clear how Sam and Tiffani sound almost exactly alike as singers. While Jenny had a commanding, high pitched voice, I doubt Sam could truly hit those high notes, and the show suffers for it.

 

Season 2, Episode 15: “Can’t Buy Me Love”

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We open at Sharkey’s to find Tiffani bugging the shit out of the rest of the band as she exposits this week’s main plot about a “servant auction,” where you have to be someone’s slave for a week for fun, in order to buy a new scoreboard for the gym.

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Tony’s instantly interested in being a servant so he can service some sexy ladies, because that’s apparently all Tony’s capable of given his shallow characterization this season.

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But Sly wants to buy a girl named Julie because he hopes this will be his opportunity to feel the touch of a woman when she can’t say no. Well, she thinks he’s a piece of crap (I wonder where she got that idea from) and tells him to fuck off before she gets out her mace.

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Meanwhile, the coach wants to recruit Jake to be a servant because he knows the girls will donate lots of money to get his hot body. Yeah, this is another out of order episode where Jake’s not dating Tiffani yet, and I think the writers missed an opportunity for genuine conflict with this little plot thread, but this is the show that thinks painting your mom’s house counts as a subplot. He finally convinces Jake to do it with the promise of a year-long hall pass because apparently administrative misconduct is common in the Engel-verse.

Also, I spent most of this episode wondering if the show had already forgotten that Tony’s dad is a coach at PCH as I couldn’t figure out what sport this guy teaches. Turns out he’s a basketball coach, even though he tells Jake, “Touchdown!” because I don’t think the writers of this show understand the difference between basketball and football.

At the auction, the coach clears up a possible question I might have had about this auction: no, servants cannot do the homework of their servees. Rape and sexual assault and misconduct is okay apparently, though, because it’ll be hilarious when someone tries to force someone to do sexual stuff with them.

Tiffani’s the auctioneers…

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…and, in sitcom cliche number 4321, Matt “accidentally” buys Tony through some misconstrued hand gestures that Tiffani refuses to allow Matt to take back. After how this season’s going, I’m not convinced these two don’t want each other really badly.

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Then there’s Jake, who’s purchased by a trio of pep squad girls who can’t speak in any way other than cheer.

Sly buys Julie for $100 to her dismay, and Sly acts like a jerk to the guy he outbid because we’re supposed to be sympathetic to him this episode.

And, because Sam’s upset that no one will be her servant, she buys Tiffani for $5 because that’s going to be a stupid subplot that barely figures into this episode.

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In the hallway, Tony’s still upset the only nookie he’s going to get is from Matt.

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Meanwhile, Julie runs away from Sly as quickly as possible as any sane woman would, and Sam comes up with lots of chores for Tiffani. We’re almost halfway through the episode at this point and it really seems like the longest episode ever!

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At Sharkey’s, Sam tells Matt that, if he paid for Tony, he might as well get his money’s worth. Matt tries to give Tony an order but Tony’s all, “I’m not into this shit because you don’t have a vagina!” He makes Matt feel bad for engaging in a sitcom cliche, so Matt ends up volunteering to be his servant to make it up to him because that makes a lot of sense!

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And Sly makes Julie wax his car three times because he’s hoping the hard work will make her forget how much she hates him. So, he tries to make her kiss him and she throws a drink in his face for being a moron. Remember this when the writers want us to feel sorry for Sly at the end of the episode.

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In the Garrison’s garage, the cheery pep girls are beginning to grate on Jake’s nerves, even when they make him kiss all three of them because that doesn’t completely go against a very special episode from The New Class about how forced kissing can be sexual assault.

 

Matt’s upset about how the servant stuff is interfering with band practice, meaning they won’t have a song this week.

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And I think Julie literally threw Sly out of the car and into the Garrison’s garage. Good on her. He probably tried to cop a feel under the guise of this servant bullshit. For some reason, Jake feels some pity for Sly even though the entire situation is Sly’s fault as he really only liked Julie for her looks, and decides to help him try to score with Julie.

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So, yeah, we’re in another restaurant with another disguised waiter as Jake tries to help Sly out in the love department in a French restaurant. Even with Jake’s help, Sly’s a complete idiot, and, after Jake gets thrown out for trying to jam out on his violin, Julie says that Sly is pathetic and she’s going to tell the whole school.

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At school, Sly’s bummed because Julie’s told everyone in school how he’s pathetic, and Jake tells him he’s got to tell her off for this plot to resolve as Jake ducks into the restroom to avoid another annoying scene with the pep girls.

Now, I have to admit, Julie’s being a bit of an asshole at this point as well, but her being a jerk doesn’t make Sly not a jerk just because he’s in the opening credits. It is possible that they both could be assholes. You have to actually give the viewers a reason to sympathize with your character, and this did not do it. It’s attempted emotional manipulation by trying to change who’s being a joke. Up to this point, Julie’s done nothing unexpected from Sly’s sleazy advances. She is not now the villain.

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But the writers don’t see it that way and so Sly tells Julie off and tells her she’s a vapid, horribly written character who shouldn’t appear again beyond this episode. Her friends are so shocked they decide this is enough to abandon her, and Julie’s left standing there shocked at the bad writing that’s just been exhibited.

At Sharkey’s, the servants are sick of having to be servants and shit, and Tiffani leads the way in planning revenge to cap the episode off. I seriously have no sympathy for any of these fucks except Jake and Julie since they were purchased for the sole purpose of being sexual objects.

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So PCH must love horrible excuses for dances as much as The New Class because this is the “freedom dance” to celebrate the release of the servants and unveil the new scoreboard as our main characters exhibit some of the most wooden dancing since the 1960’s Peanuts specials.

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The new scoreboard instantly shorts out and nearly catches on fire because I guess it’s supposed to be funny that this entire episode was for nothing and warranties don’t exist in the Engel-verse.vlcsnap-2016-10-14-17h11m58s525

Tiffani thanks everyone for their participation in the fundraiser and then reveals their revenge:

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Silly string fights, because that will teach these students to buy a servant and then boss them around!

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After everyone’s had enough of wasting silly string, the band try to comfort Sly, who’s suddenly down even though he wasn’t a minute earlier.

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Julie shows up and apologizes, saying she should have given him a fair chance and asking him out on another date.

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And our episode ends with Sly silly stringing Julie, implying he’s telling her to fuck off with her snobby self, because, if there’s one thing we needed to cap off one of the most emotionally manipulative and contrived episodes in the Engel-verse, it’s a great moral for the kids that grudges can be fun!

Season 2, Episode 14: “21 Jake Street”

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We open at school with Matt and Tony doing their best impressions of Charlie’s Angels. Seems that, since the writers thought it would be a good idea to do a subplot about art, they’ve decided to suddenly give Matt and Tony artistic abilities, Matt painting and Tony sculpting because those are super easy to cultivate when your free time is already taken up between a combination of performing in a band and hanging out at a shitty restaurant. I guess sticking your thumb in the air is the writers’ way of symbolizing sticking their thumbs up their asses while writing this subplot. In the end, Sam’s going to model for Matt while Tiffani models for Tony.

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The real plot begins when our males spot fresh female meat in PCH and fall all over themselves to see who can fuck her first. But she thinks they’re all losers.

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No, she’s really interested in Jake because he’s a bad boy and shit. And, yes, this is an episode that’s horribly out of order given that Jake and Tiffani aren’t dating here. Our girl is Michelle and she instantly wants to fuck Jake’s brains out.

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In the Garrison garage, Tony sucks ass at sculpting and actually tries to sculpt out of stone, but breaks the shit instead.

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But Sam just sucks ass at being a model as she has another bad case of can’t shut the hell up in this episode.

Sly comes in and says he’s booked the band, but it’s a gig where you have to be twenty-one to enter. Sly tells the band not to worry as this is their opportunity to rip off another Saved by the Bell plot and get fake IDs.

Jake comes in with Michelle and says she wants to hear the band play so they can shoehorn in a song, and, though Matt and Tony wanted to focus on their brilliant art creations, Jake insists by threatening the entire band with bodily harm since he’s such a good friend…

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…and they waste a couple minutes on a song that has nothing else to do with the episode. This is the problem with many of the songs on this show: they aren’t necessarily the worst things about an episode, but they just feel tacked on to remind you this is a show about a band.

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At Sharkey’s, Jake suddenly realizes Michelle has no characterization so far so she spouts some shit about how he’s hot and stuff. She then says that she’d love to go to a hot dance club with Jake and get up on it, but all the good dance clubs are twenty-one and up. Jake tells her not to worry as Sly just happens to be getting fake IDs for them in a contrived plot point and that he’ll have Sly get her one.

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A random guy comes up who Michelle identifies as her Uncle Frank, but, when Jake gets up to get them some drinks, they reveal they’re cops and Michelle’s actually undercover trying to bust a fake id ring. Well, I guess in the perfect Engel-verse where the worst things a person can do is take caffeine pills and sexually assault via unwanted kissing, in a world where prostitution and hard drugs don’t exist, busting fake ID makers would be high up on the list of crimes for cops in this universe. But why Jake? Really, did Michelle just intend to date every guy who looked stereotypically shady until she found the right one? And what if the fake ID maker is a woman? Is Michelle prepared to go lesbian for the sake of the case? I guess, in this universe, profiling random cases based on superficial characteristics is a good way to catch criminals.

In any case, Frank is worried Michelle is getting too close to Jake, but Michelle assures him that this won’t end up like every other time writers lazily use this cliche with her falling in love with Jake.

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Back at the Garrison’s garage Sam becomes an art critic and can’t shut the hell up about her lips.

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Meanwhile, Tony tries to show off his skill at working with wood but sucks ass at that instead. Tiffani tries to get him to use a reasonable medium like clay, but he’s all, “Clay sucks ass for a few more minutes!”

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At Sharkey’s, Sly’s there waiting for a phone call from the fake ID person when Michelle comes up and starts trying to suck his dick for information on the fake IDs. You know she’s full of shit as she keeps telling him how big and strong and shit he is and how she wishes she’d gone for him and not Jake as she’s obviously very bad at profiling people. We also get some random haha moments as Sly admits to not paying parking tickets to a cop and shit.

Jake comes in to take Michelle to a movie, but she makes excuses while Sly takes the call on Sharkey’s pay phone, which is apparently now his personal phone. He finds out he’ll get the IDs by Friday, but his contact is paranoid because he thinks a couple inept cops are on to him.

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At the theater, Jake and Michelle whisper sweet nothings to each other, but, when Jake tries to kiss her, she puts a soft drink between them because undercover cops never kiss their subjects to maintain the ruse! Also, she can’t stop talking about Sly, which leads to a popcorn war…

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…which leads to an usher coming to give them spankings or some shit. In case you don’t recognize who this guy is, this is David A.R. White, an actor, producer, and director perhaps most famous for enabling the proliferation of the current wave of shitty far right Christian films, including the God’s Not Dead films. Yeah, if you’re as sick as I am of far right Christian propaganda making moderate and liberal Christians look bad, you can thank this guy personally as he figures out new ways to write atheists who don’t resemble any real atheist who ever existed.

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Back in the Garrison garage, Tony managed to sculpt a half-decent looking bust of Tiffani using clay because he realized off-screen clay was the right way to go, in case you gave a shit about this subplot. Also, Matt finished his painting, but won’t show it to Sam because he’s tired of hearing her run her mouth.

Sly tells the band sans Jake that Michelle really likes him, and they warn him that Jake is supposedly violent, even though, judging by his actions this season, he seems to be all bark and no bite.

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Jake and Michelle come in and, as Sly takes photos for the fake IDs, Michelle tries to insist that she and Jake need to accompany him to pick them up instead of going on a date, and Jake finally gets sick of all this bullshit and tells her to suck Sly’s dick if she really likes him.

After a commercial break, Sam and Tiffani sneak into the garage to look at Matt’s painting but accidentally drop the box containing Tony’s bust. What’s more, I don’t see any evidence the painting was even in the cabinet they were looking through. Come on, prop people, at least try!

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Jake insists he doesn’t give a shit about any girl who’d rather go for Sly than him, but, at school, he decides to try to find out, but, instead, overhears Michelle and Frank talking about busting the fake ID makers because these are some crack fucking cops they’ve assigned to this case!

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Women now want Sly because someone dumped Jake for him. Jake tries to tell Sly that Michelle’s a cop, but Sly won’t listen because, in sitcom cliche #7123, he assumes Jake is jealous that Michelle went for him.

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At Sharkey’s (yeah, they’re having an art show at Sharkey’s…), Matt reveals his painting to be a pair of lips that look like they’re straight out of the opening credits to symbolize how Sam can’t shut the hell up.

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Tony discovers his broken bust, but the teacher loves it because abstract art or some shit, and instantly awards Tony first prize, proving that the producers of this show don’t understand art in addition to their regular ignorance about musical trends.

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The fake ID guy shows up in a Sharkey’s shirt, and gives Sly the fake IDs. Frank and Michelle step in to arrest him. He tries to get away, but he’s stopped by Jake smashing Matt’s painting over the guy because…I guess love is leading Jake to help bust a guy who was actually performing a service for Jake.

Yeah, I don’t understand this ending either.

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Michelle tells Jake the truth and says she likes him more than Sly even if she is apparently too old for him. She says she couldn’t kiss him at the movies because of cop shit…

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…so Jake forces her to kiss him, which I’m pretty sure The New Class taught us is sexual assault on a cop.

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Michelle decides not to arrest Sly and the rest of the band because they’re really sorry and promise not to do it again, and our episode ends with her telling Sly he has to pay his parking tickets, too. This was an overall good episode nearly ruined by a horrible ending. What’s the moral here: you can do something illegal and, as long as you’ve learned your lesson, the cops will let you off? What a great message for teenagers.

Song
“She’s Not You”
Matt singing

I’d say this is actually one of the band’s better songs. If they were a real band, this would be one of their singles definitely, even though it still feels like it doesn’t belong in the early nineties, but maybe, rather, mid-eighties pop. Good use of all instruments for a change, and it’s a simple enough song, even if its hook isn’t the catchiest in the world. And the lyrics, in general, do a good job of painting a juxtaposition of a girl the singer should be attracted to because she’s perfect, but he just can’t get over the one he’s singing to.

What I can’t get over, though, are the lyrics. For a show that was too scared to imply Sam was picturing a guy naked a few weeks ago, they sure don’t have any problem with implying the girl Matt’s singing about has big breasts. Occasionally in the Engel-verse, something like this makes it past the censors, and I have to question who Peter Engel has blackmail on. Oh, well. If that’s the worst thing about this episode, it’s actually doing pretty well.

Season 2, Episode 13: “Save the Shark”

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We open at Sharkey’s to learn that, since the actor for Sharkey won’t be returning, Sharkey sold the restaurant since he apparently hated how his restaurant was constantly being commandeered by a shitty easy listening band with delusions of being better rock stars than Elton John. Also, the rest of the band are just now hearing about this because the writers needed a lame excuse for exposition. So meet Mr. Stone, the new owner, and his daughter Katie, who instantly gives Matt a hard-on the likes of which he hasn’t seen since Randi Jo. Tony begs Matt not to get Katie involved in one of the zaney schemes that seem to happen every week since apparently, in this universe, Mr. Stone could fire random friends of people who hit on his daughter, but Matt’s determined to try to have one more love interest before his time on this show is done.

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Mr. Stone comes looking for Tony, and Tony instantly assumes Sharkey told him how shitty of a worker Tony is. Turns out Sharkey has a sense of humor, though, as he told Mr. Stone Tony was his best worker, even the time he nearly lost a bunch of money for the restaurant when he was left in charge, so Mr. Stone has decided to promote Tony to manager because why the hell not employ a teenager who won’t be able to be there during school hours.

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Matt goes to hit on Katie and turns into a blubbering idiot, but he finally gets out he wants in her pants. She tells him to fuck off and sends Matt off wondering what went wrong in this plot.

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At school, Sly convinces Tony to let the band play at Sharkey’s every night because, now that Tony’s manager, they can abuse their position at Sharkey’s even more than before. Tony’s hesitant at first, but Matt and Jake are for it so that’s enough to convince him it’s a good idea since people other than Sly like it.

Meanwhile, Tiffani and Sam walk in with Katie, who’s hoping to be the gender balancer of the show now that she goes to Pacific Coast High. Matt goes over to ask her out again…

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…and promptly trips over himself as people trample him worse than Wal-Mart on Black Friday. What the fuck is wrong with this that he has five friends, none of whom bother to help him up? In any case, Katie takes pity on him and helps him up, which gives Matt another opportunity to convince Katie to go on a group date with him and the rest of the band.

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The band creepily take Matt up on this and are interested in how many bases he can run on this date. I’m kind of creeped out by how invested Matt’s friends are in his love life.

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Their advice even leads to a gay panic joke where Matt and Jake caress hands because gays be icky, am I right guys? Also, I feel sorry for all the people trying to see the movie who have to listen to all this bullshit.

In any case, when Matt tries to kiss Katie, she pulls away and tells him that, though she likes him, she’s only here until her father can tear down Sharkey’s and build some condominiums and shit, because that makes sense they would move to California and enroll Katie in school just for that, and that Mr. Stone hasn’t informed the employees they’re losing their jobs. Now’s where this episode starts to go from standard California Dreams fare to silly.

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The band meets in the Garrison garage to discuss the downfall of Sharkey’s, and Tony’s upset naturally to be losing his job. But I really don’t get the rest of the band. I’m going to say something controversial: I don’t feel like Sharkey’s is as significant to this show as The Max was to Saved by the Bell. I would think the loss of the Garrison garage next season as a place to practice would be a more significant dilemma but, no, we’re worried about the restaurant they play at sometimes.

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So let’s give the rest of the band a reason to be upset: Johnny Himalaya and the Wavebreakers used to play there. Who the hell are they? Well, Johnny Himalaya is frequent Engel-verse writer Ron Solomon in an uncredited cameo, and they’re apparently some parody of Elvis or the Blues Brothers or some other band that wasn’t popular at all when Matt and Sly were preteens and watching them.

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But never mind that! Preteen Sly has a libido the likes of which haven’t been seen since Dennis, and he convinces Matt on the spot that he needs to form a band so they can get girls and shit. And that’s the reason they’re upset about Sharkey’s being torn down: because Sly was a perverse little preteen fuck there and that matters for some reason. No, I’m sure Matt and Jenny wouldn’t have perfected their musical skills (I can barely type that without laughing) anyway and formed a band. It was all because Sly wanted to get laid years before his balls dropped.

Katie insists that they won’t be able to convince Mr. Stone to keep Sharkey’s open, but the others are like, “He’s seemed like a nice guy up to this point so maybe you’re wrong! Let’s convince him Sharkey’s can be profitable!

So the band runs the restaurant for the day because none of the other waiters showed up for some reason. Seriously, Sam even wears a uniform shirt at one point. I don’t understand this plan other than Sly is extorting money out of people for anniversary shout outs! It just seems like business as usual, which shouldn’t be enough to convince anyone of anything!

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The band play the theme song for their set because why not…

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…and retreat to the manager’s office to count the receipts. They somehow managed to make $5,000.

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They also discover Johnny Himalaya got his start in Sharkey’s and even sent Sharkey an autographed photo as thanks. Gee, I wonder how they’re going to resolve this plot…

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Mr. Stone isn’t impressed, though, because, up until this moment he’s been a nice guy, but he’s suddenly going to be a horrible industrialist who can’t see long term investment opportunities and says that’s not enough since he’ll be making $7 million off the condos. No, no, no! You cannot characterize a person one way for three quarters of their only appearance and then suddenly have them become a different character and expect it to be credible! You’re now turning Mr. Stone into the greedy capitalist stereotype, which I don’t buy since he’s done nothing up until this point to be believable in that role!

But fuck believability! We’re on a tight schedule here so let’s just get on with the show and shit! Mr. Stone asks Tony for the keys and declares that Sharkey’s is officially closed as of that moment, and that was apparently his notice to Tony that he’s out of a job because giving notice be damned!

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At school, everyone’s still mad about Sharkey’s closing so Katie randomly says someone tried to save their gas station through a loose association with Elvis. Gee, I wonder what they’re going to do. I really wonder how they’re going to pull this on off.

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So, yeah, pretty predictable stuff. The band break into Sharkey’s to get the Johnny Himalaya picture. Johnny Himalaya’s dead and not getting credit for this episode, by the way, which is why they don’t just have him come.

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But Katie’s there getting it for them because she’s decided she doesn’t want to move and shit. With movers coming to take the furniture away, Matt leaves the rest of the band to guard the furniture while he takes the photo to the historical society…

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…and the others suck ass at the job as they allow everything to be taken away.

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Also, the wrecking ball picks that very moment to show up…

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…and Mr. Stone even seems to know they’re inside because it’s completely legal to tear down a building with people inside rather than calling the police to have them arrested for trespassing.

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Matt shows up in the nick of time with Mrs. Rubio from the historical society, who’s played by the same woman who played Miss Bickel and several other roles on The New Class because I’m becoming convinced she was sleeping with Peter Engel to get all these roles. She’s somehow managed to get a court injunction to prevent Sharkey’s from being torn down until it can be named a historical site next week because add court injunctions and historical sites to the lists of things the Engel-verse doesn’t understand. Sorry, I’m not buying it. There are plenty of historical sites that are no longer standing but have a historical marker in front of them. You need a better reason than, “Shit happened here,” to make something a historical site and a lot longer than a matter of minutes to get a court injunction.

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But, defeated because of stupid Engel-verse logic, Mr. Stone tells Katie to come the fuck with him for spankings, but Matt tells him to be easy because she just wants to live there and be the band’s groupie. His hard heart he’s had for the last five minutes softens and he says maybe they can work something out, which I assume means they moved far, far, away since neither Mr. Stone nor Katie ever show up again.

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Katie’s so grateful to Matt that she’s ready to tease his cursed virginity, and walks out with the band sans Matt.

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And our episode closes with Matt hallucinating that he sees Johnny Himalaya on stage thinking him for saving Sharkey’s as Matt walks out self-satisfied. This episode is so self-congratulating and egotistic that the solution has to be saving a shitty surf restaurant at any cost, even worse than the episodes of Saved by the Bell and The New Class where they saved The Max. Seriously, I couldn’t care any less about Sharkey’s than I do at this very moment…or could I?

Song

California Dreams theme song
Matt, Sam, Tony, and Tiffani singing

So this is the second time we’ve really gotten a full performance of the theme. (Yes, I know there is an even longer version on the soundtrack, but it was never played on the show.) I don’t have much extra to say about the song itself, but I thought I’d look at the biggest change this time around: Sam replacing Jenny on the secondary vocals.

I generally like Jennie Kwan’s singing voice, but this is one time when it feels like she’s out of place. Heidi Lenhart had a big, booming voice that made you believe the lyrics on the theme song. Jennie Kwan just feels like she’s out of place here. Whereas Jenny was big and bold on the vocals, Sam seems meek and reserved. I just miss Jenny’s version of the song and wish it didn’t have to change with her departure.

This is all my subjective opinion mind you. If you love Sam on this song, good for you. I just can’t agree with you on that assessment. And, believe me, when Jake takes over Matt’s vocals next season, I’ll have even more to say. One of the strengths of the music on this show is they have several different styles of vocalists. I think it’s a mistake to peg any of them on a song as replacements.

Firsts: Mrs. Rubio.

Season 2, Episode 12: “Schoolhouse Rock”

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We open in the hallway at school where the band’s just finished camping out for Sting tickets. Remember when Sing was actually popular? Ah, this brings back memories of my childhood! Unfortunately, it won’t be creating memories for the band as Sly’s an idiot and used all his money to bribe their way to the front of the line. As a result, when they got there, they had no money left to buy the tickets.

Also, I’m pretty sure all their parents are irresponsible if they let their kids camp out the night before a school night for concert tickets.

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Sam takes the sting of not getting to see Sting (ha for lame puns!) out by trying to murder Sly. You know, if Sam could only learn to shut the hell up sometimes, I might actually like her as a character.

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But there’s more important things afoot, like that the Marine drill sergeant from “Surfboards & Cycles” is back, and she’s been promoted in the middle of the year in the middle of classes to vice-principal, because apparently that’s a thing: to randomly promote one of your worst teachers at times that would disrupt classes the most. I suppose there are times when it makes sense to promote a teacher, but I blame this more on writer’s incompetence since they could have easily made her vice-principal to being with.

In any case, she’s here to harass the band about the state of their lockers, until she gets to Tony’s locker, where I think she has an orgasm over a Twinkie, because I guess really odd food fetishes pass as comedy in the Engle-verse.

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At Sharkey’s, there are people randomly clog dancing in the middle of the floor because Sharkey just lets anyone do anything they want and shit. This barely connects to anything that follows. Miguel Higuera, the director for the last three seasons of The New Class, directed this, and I’m pretty sure a random clog dancing group blackmailed him into randomly inserting them into an episode that otherwise has nothing to do with them. There is a running gag that Matt apparently clogs, sucks ass at it, and was bitter he couldn’t get into the club. It’s not funny at all during the episode and, like the cloggers themselves, could easily be dropped.

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Sly comes in and announces that Sting’s opening act dropped out, so Sly decides to call Noah Garber, Sting’s promoter, sure he can do the world’s worst Sting impersonation in an attempt to get Noah to book the band as Sting’s opening act. Noah tells Sly he’s a fucking moron and the band should hire a new manager, which I’ve been saying all along, but nobody ever listens to me. Not one to be dissuaded when it comes to ridiculous things like plausibility, he comes up with a plan to get Noah to pay attention to the band.

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His plan is to get all the band to break into Noah’s office under false pretenses, including Tiffani doing the worst Swedish accent ever after Sly’s bad British accent.

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The band soon breaks into song, singing the theme song of all things, and, rather than doing something sensible and calling the police for essentially breaking into his office and wasting his time, Noah agrees to hear them the next day during a small window of opportunity.

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Unfortunately for them, the Marine woman is still being psychotic, and starts yelling at the cloggers. When another clogger comes around, she bends down to steal his shoes and rips her pants, putting the entire student body into hysterics. She quickly yells and threatens to give the next person who laughs detention, because that’s totally not an abuse of power or anything that could be overrode by someone who outranks her, like a principal.

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So, she goes around and taunts everyone until Jake starts laughing hysterically. She gives him a detention slip. After she’s gone, Sly says that detention just happens to be at the very same time Noah wants to see them play, and they decide this is a disaster of epic proportions.

This I don’t understand. The band went an entire season playing without Jake. Just play one of your songs from season one where his presence isn’t required! Why is this such an epic issue? If you really wanted me to buy this crisis, have her give detention to Matt or Tony. But, no, Jake being unavailable is apparently the worst thing ever so Tiffani decides she has to go get Jake out of detention.

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In her classroom…why the hell does the vice-principal have her own classroom? Does she still have to be a teacher like when Mr. Dewey was vice-principal of Bayside? Does Peter Engel even understand how school administration works? Well, in any case, Marine lady pisses off Tiffani so bad with her psychotic ways that Tiffani yells at her and gets detention herself. Okay, so now it really is a crisis, one that needed not happened if they just admitted they could audition without Jake.

In the hallway, Tiffani reveals what happened, and she and Jake decide they just won’t go to detention and will go to the audition. After all, what could happen?

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Well, what happens is that, at Sharkey’s, which is now at the complete mercy of the band for their whims, psycho lady comes in and drags Jake and Tiffani back to school, which I’m sure is not only illegal (after all, you can just suspend them if you’re mad they didn’t comply with your orders), but I’m pretty sure she’s being equally incompetent leaving all the other kids in detention unsupervised just so she can wander around town looking for two kids skipping detention. God, why can’t this be competently written?

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Noah’s sick of this bull shit and says he has other places to be and has a flight at 5:00, back before you had to show up at airports hours early. Sly begs him to stay but, as a consolation prize, steals his plane tickets when he isn’t looking, saying they have one last chance and the others have to get Jake and Tiffani out of detention.

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In detention, we see the Marine won’t even allow them to do homework in detention, which I’m pretty sure defeats the point.

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Tony shows up in a bad disguise to tell Jake and Tiffani they have a plan…

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…and Jake feigns interest in the Marines to distract Psycho. Then, outside, the class, Matt does some clog dancing to piss off Marine lady.

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Matt tells her that the clogger ran off down the hallway, where Sam clogs to get her attention. When she gets there, she finds a shitload full of Twinkies that makes her fall down on the floor, putting her into fits of orgasmic bliss over the creamy goodness, as Matt breaks out Jake and Tiffani and takes them to the gym.

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In the gym, Sly brings in Noah and the band prepare to perform, and they even have an audience because it turns out Sly’s crashing the clogging competition since, if there’s one thing high school kids in the nineties loves, it was clogging competitions. The band plays their song…

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…and the cloggers randomly dance to it because, once again, I’m pretty much convinced at this point that one of the cloggers had blackmail on someone in the crew. It’s the only explanation that makes sense unless the writers are just so clueless they think clogging is inherently funny.

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Noah thinks this odd little performance is good, but Sting already has an opening act: Elton John, thus rendering this episode completely pointless, although Sly is stupid enough to think the band is better than Elton John. Yeah. Keep telling yourselves that, guys. In any case, Noah says that, if the writers ever decide to bring him back, he’ll keep the band in mind for a zany plot. Since Noah’s a one-shot character, I’ll let you guess how throwaway that line is.

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And our episode ends with crazy Marine lady giving the whole band detention for busting Jake and Tiffani out of forced detention, because her incompetence is apparently now everyone else’s fault and she has no checks and balances with the principal.

Songs

California Dreams theme
Matt, Sam, Tiffani, Jake, and Tony singing

The band sings a brief a capella version of the theme song in Noah’s office. I do have stuff to say about Sam’s vocals in the theme verses Jenny’s, but I’m going to have another, fuller opportunity next week, so I’ll save my comments for then.

“Welcome to the Low Road”
Matt singing

This song may actually be the closest thing to rock music the band’s done so far. It actually has an edge to it and sounds like something that could have passed as rock in the early nineties before Nirvana hit it big. If every California Dreams song was like this, I could actually believe they are a rock band.

Unfortunately, it also highlights one of the biggest problems with the band performing such a song: I have a problem believing this song coming from them. With the possible exception of Jake, they all look like they are more at home in a J.C. Penny catalog than performing edgy rock, and Matt looks way too happy to be singing this song.

Oh, and, funny enough, at one point, Jake sings into the microphone, but we only hear Matt’s voice. It’s like they weren’t sure at this point in the show if they really wanted Jake to sing or not.

Season 2, Episode 11: “The Year of the Woo”

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We open at Sharkey’s where Sly’s so excited he’s about ready to pee his pants. Turns out he got the band a gig Friday in Burbank paying $1,000. Guess they had to do something after the last couple weeks to make Sly not seem like a completely incompetent manager, like make him land a gig that’s too good to be true for a band still in high school. But, oh no! The Mystery Machine keeps breaking down! Whatever will they do?

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Meanwhile, Sam spouts random Chinese words expecting everyone to know what they mean. Tiffani says Sam is giving the traditional Chinese New Year greeting and shit, which actually is true. I looked it up. To my surprise, the writers on a Peter Engel show actually know what the hell they’re talking about. It’s such an unheard of occurrence that part of me wondered if I should go play the lottery today. It could be my lucky day, and then I could afford to pay someone to finish reviewing The New Class for me!

Speaking of luck, the main plot of the episode is that Sam’s parents sent her $800 of lucky money which she’s going to use to go home to China for Chinese New Year.  I know. Exciting, huh. For all the research the writers are able to do about Chinese New Year, they make horrible references to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as if they’ve never watched the show, because a Peter Engel show has to make up for competence somehow. Let me break it down for you: a reference joke is not funny if it doesn’t get the reference.

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At the Garrison’s house, Jake takes advantage of having dirty hands to rub all over Sly’s rippled chest. Also, he reveals that the repairs needed on the Mystery Machine are beyond his meager plot convenient abilities, so they’re going to need $700 to fix it. Sam conveniently walks in waving her money around, and the boys convince her to use $700 of it to fix the van, promising her they’ll pay her back out of their earnings. She’s all, “I don’t get to do shit on this show often enough to see when a plot is going to go wrong, so sure!”

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In the garage, Sam has a case of shut the hell up as the band waits for the Mystery Machine to get back as it’s late and the band has to get going to their gig.

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While they’re waiting, the boys randomly reveal they’re having a guy’s night in playing poker tomorrow and Tiffani can’t go because she’s a girl and girls have cooties and shit.

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But there’s no time for that because the mechanic, Gus, is here with the Mystery Machine. And you can tell he’s crooked because he makes them pay another $100 he didn’t quote them, which I’m pretty sure is illegal and they can tell him to fuck off. But, no, Sam gives him her last hundred dollars…

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And random parts fall out of the van when they try to start it because the prop people wanted to make this look as much like Looney Tunes as possible. Also, I can’t believe I have to defend Sly here, but Jake blames him for going for the cheapest mechanic. But…Jake is the one who gave them the quote for $700, not Sly. Were the writers not able to remember what just happened a few minutes previously for a cheap joke?

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In any case, in the kitchen, the band expresses sympathy that Sam’s not going to have a Happy Chinese New Year. Sly comes in and reveals that Gus told him to fuck off when he asked for a refund or a free repair and shit.

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Sam goes to call her father and let her know she’s not going home, and her father actually has a Chinese accent, which makes me think Sam was actually adopted.

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At Sharkey’s, Sam can’t help crying about everything because it reminds her of Chinese New Year which involves lots of lame puns and shit. The boys decide they want revenge on Gus, and quickly come up with a plot convenient way to get Sam’s money back.

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They lure Gus into the poker game under pretense of fixing the Mystery Machine late at night, for some reason. The boys pretend they don’t know what they’re talking about with poker so Gus will join the game, thinking they’re easy marks.

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Gus quickly wins all their money, though, and it looks like this old cliche didn’t work.

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But, wouldn’t you know, Tiffani comes out and, despite having a vagina, she knows how to play poker, as indicated by the fact she knows how to do trick shuffling and shit.

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She quickly wins all the money back along with Gus’s promise to fix the van for free and, for some reason, his clothes, because she just wanted to see a bald, middle aged man in his underwear. Because the plot doesn’t call for it, Jake doesn’t feel emasculated. But the clincher is the boys still won’t let Tiffani play with her because now she’s too good and shit.

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The band give Sam her money back, but she soon finds out all flights to Hong Kong are booked. So she’s depressed again, and the band decide they have to pull out a contrivance that will make Sam feel all better and shit.

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That something is dressing Sharkey’s up in every stereotypical Chinese thing they could find, complete with a Chinese dragon running around trying to eat Sly at times. Sam’s super happy because this is totally as good as going home to be with your parents for a holiday.

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But the band reveal they flew Sam’s parents to L.A. because flights to the United States weren’t sold out and her parents just happen to have a schedule that allows them to randomly fly halfway around the world on the whim of a shitty easy listening band their daughter is in.

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Speaking of the band, Sam demonstrates her singing skills for her parents as people at Sharkey’s continue doing stereotypical shit.

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And our episode ends with everyone satisfied with themselves that a plot which could have easily been solved by threatening Gus with a law suit ended so unsatisfactory. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go wax nostalgic for the days when $800 could fly two people from Hong Kong to L.A., times which I’m sure have never existed.

Song

“Mama Said”
Sam singing

Sam’s one song doesn’t sound very different the second time around. For a character who’s supposed to be the lead female singer, she doesn’t get many solo songs, does she? Not much to say about this song I didn’t say the first time around except this time they’re singing it while stereotypical Chinese shit goes by.

Season 2, Episode 10: “Vote of Confidence”

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We open at school to meet Harvey Kramden, who’s playing the role of the rich jerk who’s running for student body president. And here’s another instance of Peter Engel’s casting people not knowing what a teenager looks like. The actor playing Harvey was born in 1965, making him twenty-eight when this episode was filmed. Keep this in mind when you find out his subplot in a few minutes.

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In any case, none of the band seems to like him, and thinks he’s even more arrogant to have printed his own money as promotion, though Sly doesn’t seem to understand the difference between money with Harvey’s face printed on it and real money

So now on to the subplot: Harvey really likes Tiffani and proceeds to sexually harass her. Given that Jake doesn’t threaten to beat the shit out of him, I can only assume this is an out of order episode that should have aired before Jake and Tiffani hooked up but that the network couldn’t be bothered to think of things like continuity. Tiffani thinks Harvey’s a doo doo head and doesn’t want anything to do with late twenties guys still in high school, to his disappointment.

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The band decides that what the viewer wants is a discussion of Pacific Coast High’s student politics, and Jake reveals that the school election is a fucking stupid idea for yet another plot within the Engel-verse.

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And, when it’s confirmed that Harvey’s only competition is “Roxanne the Radical,” a crazy person who’s put metal detectors on a trash can…somehow…that detects when someone throws a recyclable can in the trash so she can freak out of them. Given these two choices, apathy abounds.

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Stingray shows up to give Jake a message from the office. Given that it’s Stingray, though, he forgets why he’s even on this show and that he has a note in his hand. I’m not sure why the office decided to trust Stingray with anything. After all, he’s just slightly worse a person to trust with official school business than Screech. And it’s not like they couldn’t just page him. Also, I was wrong back in Stingray’s last appearance when I said that Stingray came to this show from The College Years. Turns out it was the other way around as this season aired the same year as the latter show. In any case, Stingray is still fucking stupid!

In any case, it’s a note saying that Jake’s brother, Kyle is coming to town, and Jake’s always felt like he’s in Kyle’s shadow because Kyle goes to Harvard and swims and gets all the girls and shit. Sly suggests that Jake could run for student body president to impress Kyle, but Jake’s all, “That sounds like a stupid idea for a Peter Engel show, not something that would actually happen!”

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At Sharkey’s, Harvey continues harassing Tiffani and offers the band $200 to play at a rally to get people to vote for him. Being that the band will do anything for money, and I do mean anything judging by the rest of this episode, they agree.

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At Jake’s house, Jake tries to brag to Kyle about all the awesome things he’s been up to, like placing second in the bike show and getting a tiny article in the paper.

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But Kyle’s busy getting his name on a giant front page headline, making Jake suddenly start having a small penis complex. The rest of the band suddenly walk in without knocking because doorbells don’t exist in any Peter Engel show, and they meet Kyle, who already knows about all of them except Sly because Sly sucks. Jake gets tired of hearing Kyle brag about shit at Harvard, and suddenly decides to run for president after all because mild bragging is enough to completely change his mind about shit like this.

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But, at Sharkey’s, everyone’s afraid of Jake and think he’s trying to bully them out of their lunch money or some shit until he bullies someone into shaking his hand.

Meanwhile, Matt and Tony pick up campaign stuff for Jake and wonder where Sly got the money for all of it. Because Sly is a selfish moron, he spent all of Harvey’s money on the campaign, assuming the writers would just forget about Harvey being in this episode. They didn’t, though, and Harvey shows up demanding his money back now that the band isn’t playing for him because Jake is running, and he’ll only be satisfied to forgive the debt when they promise him some fun time with Tiffani. Yeah, like I said, they’ll do anything for money. Also, I think Harvey might be a cross between Rick Dees and Scrooge McDuck. If you’re too young to know who Rick Dees is, look up “Disco Duck” on YouTube and be horrified.

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In Jake’s room, Sly reveals Jake’s new look for the campaign, which is basically dressing like a private school guy I guess? He thinks this is stupid, and Kyle seems to agree, saying that Jake just needs to be himself, but Jake says fuck this good advice stuff in the ass because he has an artificial grudge with Kyle to grind.

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At the pre-election rally, Roxanne and Harvey give their speeches, which basically amount to talking up their stereotypes. Sly reveals to Tiffani that she needs to go on a date with it, and she tells Sly to fuck off at first, but Tony gives her puppy dog eyes, which makes her agree to do it to move the plot along and shit.

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For Jake’s speech, he comes riding in on a motorcycle wearing his leather jacket and plays a song about being a normal guy and shit. Because the audience is easily impressed by Jake’s pandering song, they instantly love him…

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…and, by the next scene, he’s been elected president. Kyle’s even there to congratulate Jake and Jake honestly thinks he didn’t take Kyle’s advice, but the band points out that Jake did exactly what Kyle said and was himself, and Jake’s suddenly upset as he realizes he played along with a stupid plot device that’s now pissing him off more than it should.

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At the first student council meeting, Jake prepares to preside but is interrupted by Sly, who doesn’t understand the role of student council and thinks they can create and enforce a dress code to force girls to wear bikinis on campus. Jake tells Sly to fuck off, but Sly reminds Jake he did all this stuff for the wrong reasons, bleah bleah bleah, and Jake decides that’s enough to convince him to resign because his motives were impure. All through this scene, though, I can’t help but wonder how Stingray managed to get on the student council and whether he really represents the best and brightest Pacific Coast has to offer.

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At Sharkey’s, Harvey goes on his date with Tiffani as Matt, Tony, and Sam watch to make sure his late twenties ass doesn’t try any statutory rape shit on her. He pretends to be a changed man at first, and Tiffani starts buying it, unable to see through the sitcom cliches, but Sly comes in with news that Jake resigned, which I think makes Harvey have an orgasm from power since he jumps up and reveals it was all a ruse to get some hankey pankey and, since he got the second highest number of votes, he’s the new president.

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At Jake’s house, he reveals to Kyle he resigned and tells his brother he’s sick and tired of being in his shadow in this contrived plot. Kyle reveals, in sitcom cliche number 3,212, that he’s always envied Jake for being a rebel and going his own way and, in the last minute, they instantly make up, which is good since we’ll never see Kyle again.

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And our episode ends with the Sommers brothers getting into fisticuffs so the episode can have a good final freeze frame even though it’s a pretty damned stupid way to end the episode. This was a pretty mediocre to boring episode. Really, the shit with Kyle could have been cut out without much effect to the episode. Just have running for president be some scheme Sly came up with to make money and you’d basically have the same episode.

But I do think this is the first episode where the Garrison house isn’t seen.

Song

“Leather and Loose”
Jake singing

Jake’s first song on vocals is a basic acoustic song and, I have to say, it makes me think Jay Anthony Franke missed his calling as a country or folk singer. Seriously, he has exactly the right voice to pull off that kind of singer-songwriter vibe, and he may be the best performer out of the band. Mind you, I like that kind of music so I may be a bit prejudiced, but that’s just me.

The song itself is nothing really special. It’s just Jake singing why people should vote for him, and the lyrics reflect how shallow it is. But, if you can ignore the vapid lyrics, it’s not bad for a simple acoustic song.

Firsts: Harvey Kramden