Season 4 Recap

This is the season of California Dreams I rarely see people discuss. If season one was origins, season two is changes, season three is revamp, and season five is graduation, season four is really the season when not much of consequence happens. Think about it: the only thing that really change this season was Jake broke up with Lorena and started dating Tiffani again. Seriously, that’s it. Sure, you could say that Sly liking Lorena is hinting at something next season, but that’s only one episode and, solely based on this season, it was not apparent anything was going to come of it.

That means this is nearly an entire season of filler. Nothing this season matters in the grand scheme of things. In fact, some stuff serves to muddle the overall timeline by implying the entirety of seasons four and five happen in three months. Peter Engel was not on his A game this season, and it shows. This is about the point in his memoir when he admits he was overstretched and going for quantity over quality. What was once a nice change for the Engel-verse has really dropped in quality.

This is not to say that the show is terrible. Indeed, it continues to be better than both The New Class and The College Years, which each suffered from having no reason to exist. Still, I praised this show during its first season for daring to be different than the standard Engel-verse formula first devised during Saved by the Bell. It seemed to have direction I haven’t seen in any other Peter Engel production besides Bell.

Think about it: the reason for the show to exist is supposedly that the group is in a band. Yet, at this point, the band rarely plays a role in anything. Many of the episodes don’t even feature an original song, which is something that once distinguished this show from others. You could swap out our cast of characters for Zack Morris and company often with very few consequences. It’s cut and paste at this point: find a plot that worked well for another Peter Engel show and insert the names of our band members.

This makes it hard when I’m supposed to be giving a fair review of this show and the reality is that there’s just nothing going on I didn’t see in thirteen years of the Saved by the Bell franchise. Truth be told, I was bored much of the time and wondering when my pain would end. How many more episodes to end of season, I would think. How many more times can I see a character with inconsistent characterization suddenly change personalty a few episodes later? How often can I scratch my head at the wrong character being given a plot on this show? How many times can I despise the emotional manipulation necessary to make Sly a likable character?

These are all questions I asked myself over the last fifteen weeks and, in some ways, they haven’t yet been answered. I’m hoping, oh so hoping, that season five is better. It’s sad when I would give anything to have season three back. I never thought I would say that.

Let’s talk characters.

If anything, Jake shows regression this season. He’s suddenly over his heartbreak with Tiffani two seasons ago despite there being any actual mending of fences and the fact their relationship was barely mentioned last season. It’s like the producers realized Jake and Lorena weren’t working as a couple and decided to press the reset button back to the glory days even though Jake and Tiffani are a much worse couple. At least Jake and Lorena had the opposites attract thing going for it. Jake and Tiffani are just…bland.

Other than that, not much changes for Jake. He’s the same old Jake he’s been for the last few seasons: supposedly a tough guy but having never shown any behavior that would back up that characterization.

Did Tiffani do anything this season other than date Jake and be a horrible student principal? I mean, I remember her in every episode, but it’s hard to remember what she did. She started a lot of episodes and participated in plots, but she usually fell to the background by act two. It’s kind of sad: when the writers are trying, Tiffani can be an interesting character. Therein lies the problem: they aren’t trying most of the time.

Another horribly underused character, Tony had a few plots devoted to him and some even worse subplots, but nothing to speak of this season. His relationship with Sam is relegated to the background in all but a few episodes, and he becomes a really bad comic relief character. This is all a shame: when Tony is at his best, he has the potential to be the best character on the show. Yet they won’t let him shine, forcing him to stick in the background in a relationship the writers insist on pushing even though they barely act like a couple in a relationship. Really, if the episodes involving him flirting with other girls weren’t out of season episodes, would you really find it so out of place?

Sam’s development this season is strange. She suddenly becomes a shop-a-holic despite showing no signs of it previously, and it continues to baffle me that she’s supposed to be an exchange student. They actually remembered that a couple times this season, though those episodes ended up being huge time wasters for her. Still, she at least wasn’t annoying most of the time, though I have to question her role in the band considering how few songs she gets to sing on. Don’t go getting rid of her, though. I’m saving my worst criticisms for another member of the band.

Lorena has very little to do this season after Jake breaks up with her, and I questioned at times why she’s still around. I guess I got my answer in the season finale, but it just seemed like she was acting as a rich snotty girl most of the time for the sake of a little conflict. If her role last season was to be Jenny mark two, the producers have long forgotten about it and relegated her to yet another background regular.

Sly has the most to do this season, acting as the focal point for more than one episode. Unfortunately, that means he’s also the most inconsistently written. Our clip show episode this season establishes he has a heart of gold, yet he’s a piece of shit to a girl with weight problems and immediately starts judging older people next episode. Every lesson Sly learns is forgotten by the end as the reset button is pressed, but I’m supposed to give a shit about Sly because he “comes through in the end,” even though that means he acts like a piece of crap in the interim.

Really, I don’t get what people see in Sly. At least you could see character growth in Zack Morris over the course of the Saved by the Bell franchise. Sly never seems to change, and always has a default personality to fall back on except when it’s convenient to not have him fall back on it, such as when Sly decides he genuinely likes Lorena and isn’t just treating her like a piece of meat like every other episode. It makes me sick, and I’m leaving this season continuing to dislike Sly.

Mark continues to be the most useless character on this show. He is completely superfluous, his out of season episode not withstanding. Several episodes prove he’s not needed at all when it’s shown there’s no difference in sound quality when only four members of the band are playing. It’s like the writers were trying desperately to craft a character worse than Fake Swiss Brian from The New Class, and they succeeded one hundred percent with one who shouldn’t be on at all.

God, why can’t I have Matt back? I miss him so much at this point!

This is shorter than most of my recaps, but that’s because I just can’t muster the energy to seriously think about this season. I don’t like it at all, and I doubt any of these episodes will be going down on a best of list at the end of the series. It’s been drudgery to get through, and I just don’t know what else to say. The season when almost nothing happened was the season I truly don’t want to think too deeply about. I’m just praying that the final season of the show is a bit more exciting and has something more to offer.

My Picks

It should be no surprise that I can’t muster the energy to actually like a single episode this season. So, here’s my three least favorite episodes, in no particular order.

Episode 5: Fallen Idol: Jake’s idol is a plagiarist and steals one of his songs. What pushed this episode into horrible for me was the ending. Seriously, they chose to do absolutely nothing about the plagiarism because being a terrible person is punishment enough? Fuck that! This guy is making tons of money off the band’s song. That’s what civil suits were made for.

Episode 8: OldAfter learning about being a shithead to overweight people in the previous episode, Sly’s now an ageist prick who hates old people because of an experience with his grandfather? The sudden change of heart and bonding with a guy are so lazy and even worse than when the same thing happened in “Running Zack” on Saved by the Bell.

Episode 13: We’ll Always Have AspenIt should come as no surprise this was my least favorite episode of the season. Any episode that tries to convince me Mark has an actual purpose on this show is going to fall flat, and his romance truly makes Maria and Tony in the final seasons of The New Class look like a classic romance by comparison. Seriously, just get rid of Mark and make us all happy!

Season 4, Episode 15: “Dancing Isn’t Everything”

We open at Sharkey’s with Lorena dancing with some random guy. I won’t bother to learn his name as he won’t be seen again after this scene, but, suffice it to say, I think California Dreams suddenly forgot they’re about a band and decided they’re about dancing instead. For a minute, I wondered if we’re watching Dancing With the Stars.

No, actually, the writers decided to give Lorena some characterization besides being rich. Suddenly, she loves dancing and it’s always been her dream to win Sharkey’s Dance Contest which has never been mentioned before now. She’s auditioning for partners and, though this guy dances better than I ever will, he’s not good enough for Lorena because winning this contest is important so she can have her time in the spotlight and shit since she really doesn’t have a clear role on this show.

Oh, and they came up with an excuse why Tony can’t be her partner: the band is playing the contest because they’re totally a dance band now.

Sly offers to be Lorena’s partner, but she laughs in his face because that’s just stupid and shit. She rushes off to find her partner.

Meanwhile, Tiffani’s been reading a book about dream interpretation and we find out that, in a minor subplot, Tony wants to replace Jake as leader of the band. Yes! I’ve been saying this since season one! The more important development, though, is finding out Sly’s been having dreams about Lorena and he now has a crush on her and shit. He decides the way to make her like him is to get her to let him be her dance partner.

At the loft, after Sly recounts the events of the last scene in case you forgot, Lorena comes in and introduces her new partner, Andre. The band plays a song, they dance, and he’s awesome because he goes to Julliard School of Dance, which is totally a thing and not just something the writers made up to sound smart. She decides he’s her partner…

…but he sprains his ankle, leaving him unable to be Lorena’s partner.

At school, Sly convinces Lorena that he’s the best choice she has left without Andre. She very reluctantly accepts Sly as her new partner, telling him she’ll rip his penis off if they don’t win, and we’re off for our main plot.

Also, Tony ridicules Jake’s choice for song lineup as they name drop songs I haven’t seen in four seasons because that plot’s still going on.

At the loft, we discover Sly dances about as well as I do on a Friday night after multiple drinks. Lorena insults hi a lot and he runs out, saying fuck this stupid contrived plot. Tiffani and Sam tell her about Sly’s crush on her, and she says she thinks she knows the easiest way to get Sly to do whatever she wants.

Outside, Lorena flirts with Sly, telling him they’d make a good partnership to win the dance and for sexy times after, apparently forgetting they’ve already done this plot earlier in the season with Sly in the wrong. We’re going to repeat it anyway, though, because we want the audience to feel sympathy towards Sly this time.

At Sharkey’s, it’s time for the dance contest, and it’s apparently the old trope where everyone dances and is eliminated instantly.

Lorena flirts with Sly some more, insulting him in Spanish when he asks for a kiss and shit because Lorena is a horrible person this episode, and their plan is apparently that Sly will just stand stoically in place…

…while Lorena uses him as a live strip pole. I’m not sure why, but this keeps them in the contest despite the fact that only one of them is dancing, but this is the shit we’re going with.

You may be wondering why I’m not commenting on more. That’s because not much is going on. This episode has a whopping four songs, all of them reruns. What am I supposed to say about that? It’s like they threw this entire episode together in five minutes because they remembered that, even with the out of season episodes, they needed one more. As a result, there’s not a lot to talk about.

But, oh, Andre comes in, and he can dance again because the doctor taped his ankle up, which is totally a thing I guess. She gets Sly to feign an injury to the heart, which the judge decides is totally a real thing and makes Lorena eligible to switch partners to Andre.

After a commercial break, Lorena and Andre have made it to the final round, but the band chew her out for being shitty to Sly and repeating a plot from earlier in the season. They say they didn’t tell her about his crush to act like a moron. Lorena says she doesn’t believe Sly has feelings until flowers arrive which he ordered yesterday. Lorena realizes she needs to resolve this plot, and drops Andre to go find Sly.

Yeah, if a girl just hurt me, I’d rush right to her house to commiserate, but, stupid as that sounds, I guess it’s necessary when a show only has a few sets to use. Lorena apologizes to Sly and says that, though she doesn’t reciprocate his feelings, she realizes he’s a human being despite not acting like one most of the time. She asks him back to Sharkey’s to finish the contest with her.

Back at Sharkey’s, Tony realizes he doesn’t like being leader of the band, thus resolving that stupid subplot. Meanwhile, Lorena and Sly end up one of two finalists based on Lorena’s stupid little stripper dance, but she tells Sly to start dancing as well, and Sly’s horrible dancing gets them disqualified, meaning they lose the contest.

Lorena tells Sly she learned a valuable lesson all about how friends are more important than dance contests and shit, and our episode and season ends with foreshadowing of what’s to come next season as we move into the home stretch of California Dreams.

On one hand, this was one of the better episodes of the season. It utilized Sly and Lorena in ways they seldom are. On the other hand, not much happened, which may be a strong point of the episode. It’s making me realize that the episodes I tend to like are the ones which are simplest. After all, I remember how frustrated I got with the fact that the majority of episodes from The New Class had way too much going on. At least that’s not a problem this series really faces…yet…

Onward to the final season!

“Let Me Be the One”
Tiffani and Sam singing

I reviewed this one before and don’t have much more to say about the actual song. As a dance piece, it’s actually quite perfect. I’m surprised that it passes very well as an eighties dance song. Maybe the band missed its true calling as a dance group from the previous decade. They would have fit in very well with eighties pop music: very artificial and electronics based, lots of synth beats that our band couldn’t possibly be producing unless Sam or Mark are using the preprograms on their keyboards on overdrive.

“He’s So Funky”
Tony singing

Another rerun song? Well, nothing more to say about this one either, although I seem to like it better this time around. It’s always nice to see Tony have an actual musical role in the series, and no big surprise that, with Tony’s seeming hip hop inspired style, this would make a good song for the dance contest.

“I’m There”
Tony, Mark, Tiffani, and Sam singing

Another rerun song. I’m seeing a trend here. At least this is one we haven’t seen since Matt was on the show, and it continues the theme of actually working well for the dance theme. I have to admit: I was skeptical going in whether the band could pull off a dance-themed episode, but they’re actually doing a pretty decent job of it.

“Take It Higher”
Mark singing

And a fourth rerun song. Where they just out of songs, it being the season finale and all? It seems like Steve Tyrell was just tired of writing new shit so he just went through his back catalog and found a ton of shit he could use without having to do anything like write a new song. This one doesn’t work quite as well as the others as a dance song, but it is what it is.

Season 4, Episode 14: “Lorena’s Place”

We open with Tiffani arriving in the loft to find Lorena and Sam hiding. Now, my first assumption would have been that Mark’s got a subplot where he’s after them again, but it turns out he’s barely in this episode, only featuring in a couple of really stupid gags, making this the BEST EPISODE EVER!!!

No, it turns out that Lorena’s mom is driving Lorena and Sam crazy by constantly talking about some poem her husband wrote for her when he first met her, and he had it framed for their anniversary because no one eve gave a shit before now? She quickly starts driving Tiffani crazy with the thing as well, and tells the girls to have a good time on their slumber party because she’s going away to fuck her husband for a week and leave her teenage daughter unsupervised because that’s the way stuff works in the Engel-verse. Of course, she gives the standard, “NO PARTIES!” lecture, which is nearly guaranteed to be met with parties.

This brings up a side issue. For a minute during all this, I had to genuinely ask what Sam had to do with the Costa family. Having them as her exchange family is so selom bought up that it’s very easy to forget it’s even a thing. I mean, at least she interacted with Richard and Matt as a single unit on occasion. Here, it’s like she barely knows the Costas because she’s out partying with Tony and shit.

So we go to the obligatory ripping off of the Saved by the Bell boys dancing in their underwear. Yeah, we don’t get anything that exciting this time around and, whereas Zack Morris and company got to dance to a real song, the girls dance to something that I can’t figure out if it’s real or not. Seriously, searching for the lyrics, the closest thing I could find was a Coolio song, and I’m pretty sure Peter Engel wouldn’t allow such filth on his show given he did an episode against his picture of gangsta rap on The New Class.

The boys decide that, since this is the longest they’ve ever had to wait to be in an episode, it’s time to come in and dance with the girls and shit. When the girls ask why they’re just walking in like they’ve lived there the past two seasons, Sly’s all, “We want to have a party and charge people and shit!” Lorena’s all, “No! I must be responsible for at least a few more minutes until I suddenly change my mind for a stupid reason!”

And here’s our idiotic reason. Meet Allen, who will be serving as Lorena’s crush this episode, recently transferred to PCH from Generic High School in San Francisco. He’s here pictured turning down a hot but dumb girl because she doesn’t understand poetry. Yeah, this guy has a poetry fetish, and he wants nothing to do with anyone who’s not as much into poetry as he is.

At this point, the Engel-verse is grasping for straws, isn’t it? Seriously, I knew teenagers who loved poetry, but the idea they would turn down dates because someone didn’t share their enthusiasm…they would have become an outcast. But here’s a guy everyone wants because he’s so picky? Please…

The rules of high school don’t apply in the Engel-verse, as Lorena decides she’s up to the challenge of doing the standard “lie to get the opposite sex” plot. Here, at Sharkey’s, she has the band pretend she’s an expert on poetry so Allen will like her. Naturally, he buys it hook, line, and sinker, and starts whining about ow there isn’t anywhere in all of LA to read poetry. Yes, the second largest city in the United States has no place where aspiring poets can read their work. Where the hell is he looking: up his own ass?

This gives Sly an idea, though, and he convinces Lorena to hold a poetry slam/coffee shop thing in her loft, because teenagers will pay tons for shitty coffee and even shittier poetry.

So we get our coffee shop, which features really shitty poetry, Jake reading the lyrics to the theme song (which I’m pretty sure counts as plagiarism since Matt wrote that song, not Jake), and everyone thinking Tiffani’s reading some deep shit when she tries to tell everyone there’s a car out front with its lights on, because modern art, am I right, guys?

Allen thinks everything sucks and wants to get the hell out of there, but Lorena stops him.

She reads her mother’s poem, telling Allen she wrote it for him. He’s so touched he grabs it and keeps it without asking because we need some conflict.

At Sharkey’s, Lorena tries to figure out how to get the poem back, and Tiffani and Sam are all, “Tell the truth because that’s guaranteed a positive outcome in the Engel-verse!” So she does, but not before kissing Allen because that’s apparently what kids nowadays are into: big, juicy kisses. He’s outraged that he’s the pawn in a stupid plot, and promptly tears up the poem, saying he wishes he could also erase it from his memory since he’s so anal he stayed up all night memorizing it.

At school, Lorena’s freaking out about what she’s going to tell her mom about the poem. Nobody has any good ideas, and, thankfully, we aren’t going with the suggestion of “a thief broke in and stole the poem!”

Tiffani taped the poem back together, but it’s not exactly in mint condition. Amazingly, the only thing missing is the first two lines, so Lorena can retype the poem if she can only remember them! None of the band can remember because they don’t give a shit about poetry, so she’s going to have to convince Allen to tell her the lines. Jake suggests they have another coffee house and invite him, saying he’ll make it work even though it means cutting it close to Lorena’s parents returning.

At the loft, Sam tells Lorena her parents called and said they’re coming home early, in like less than five minutes, which, in Engel-verse time, is hours.

Allen comes in, having been lured by lies that Sting was going to recite poetry that night because he’s got plot contrivance idiocy disease. Sly and Tony throw him up on stage as a replacement, and keep nudging him towards other poems until he finally reads Lorena’s and she gets the first two lines she needs.

Lorena sends Sam to retype the poem as Allen tells Lorena he can’t stop thinking about her and her lovely kisses and he’s sorry he overreacted to something like a bold-faced fucking lie. Lorena’s parents will be back any moment, though, so she kicks him and the other guests out. But what to do about all these props on set?

Why, it turns out Tony’s like Popeye, except for coffee instead of spinach, so he downs enough coffee to give him an overdose and conveniently cleans up the loft…

…in time for Lorena’s mother to get back. Sam sneaks the poem back in just in time, and all looks like it’s going to work out.

But then, as her mom is about to complain about fingerprints on the frame, Lorena assumes that she’s on to them and starts spitting out some good ‘ole diarrhea of the mouth as she confesses to the coffee house and the poem and all that shit. And our episode ends with Lorena grounded because, for once, the actions of one of our characters have consequences.

What I really wonder about is Allen and his weird poetry fetish. Seriously, does he recite poetry when he has sex? Would he demand his wedding be done in iambic pentameter? These are things I now want to know, and I demand an answer I’ll never get. It’s comforting to know Allen’s actor went on to such great roles as “Motorcycle Gang Member” in Batman & Robin, the critical and box office failure that was one of the worst superhero films of all time. We’ll always remember what’s his face, even as he never shows up in the series again as he realized his poetry fetish really needs to be satisfied, and Lorena just wasn’t doing it for him.

No song this week.

Season 4, Episode 13: “We’ll Always Have Aspen”

Why the hell are we back at the ski lodge suddenly? Wasn’t that location so last season? Wasn’t it enough we had to put up with the stupid plot we had last season that we really don’t need to revisit it this season?

In any case, we open to some exposition to explain why Lorena’s father isn’t there: he’s off in Denver “on business,” because that’s the go-to explanation if you’re not clever enough to think up anything else. As such, Lorena’s had a season to mature, so surely he wasn’t out of his mind to put her in charge while he’s gone!

But wait…Tony’s chasing a random girl? And Sam’s not punching him the fuck out? This is another god damned out of season episode, isn’t it? Why, oh why, do the gods hate me so? Which means everything I just said about Lorena possibly being more competent is right out the window since that means this episode immediately follows the other. Damn it, Peter Engel, why do you keep doing this to me?

Everyone spots some girl named Jenny Stevens who’s supposed to be an Olympic skier. While Mark runs away, no doubt peeing his pants that a pretty girl is nearby, Lorena runs up to greet her. She’s all, “I don’t give a shit about any of you. I just want to ski unless I get caught up in some out of the blue plot!” and runs off.

We’re introduced to some idiot who likes slipping on ice to entertain kids. Yeah, it doesn’t make much sense to me either. Even slapstick requires some variety, and slipping on ice just isn’t that funny for very long, unless you’re a huge moron. In any case, Jake accidentally hits the guy with his skis, causing him to start performing a really bad German accent and decide he’s a psychiatrist and doesn’t want to do this shit any longer. Since Jake lost the guy for her, Lorena bribes him with sex to be the new children’s entertainer, giving Jake a stupid subplot that goes nowhere.

I swear, in this screenshot, it looks like Tony’s coming up to tell Mark how he really feels. But, no, turns out Mark’s watching Jenny out the window, and he tells the others the story: Mark met Jenny a couple years ago, fell in love, and told her he loved her, but she went and became an Olympic skier to get away from Mark because who the hell wants to be with Mark anyway? She’s the only girl who’s ever touched him I guess, and she left without saying goodbye, only leaving a note.

The rest of the band decide they need to get them back together since Mark obviously misses being touched so they push him outside to talk to her, where she instantly tells him she missed him because I guess she was really desperate as well. Jenny apologizes for leaving him but says she couldn’t face to say goodbye, and, as her coach comes to tell her it’s time for bed, she asks Mark to meet her in the lounge at 11.

In the lounge, Tony continues trying to chase his girl but can’t stand the cold, and Sly acts sleazy towards girls. Tiffani and Sam decide to fuck with him and get him to try yodeling c, saying it’s sure to attract all the ladies because yodeling is totally what kids in the nineties liked.

Meanwhile, Jenny’s late and Lorena delivers another note saying she can’t make it. Oh, Mark, she’s already tired of touching you! No one will ever suck on this show as much as you!

In the lobby the next day, Jake’s dressed as a snowman because that’s what all the kids enjoy: giant snowmen. Don’t worry: that thread goes absolutely nowhere and will not be mentioned again!

Meanwhile, Tiffani and Sam convinced Sly to enter a yodeling contest as he does a really horrible Swedish accent. Seriously, the Swedish chef on The Muppet Show sounds more convincing than Sly’s accent.

Meanwhile, Jenny finds Mark and tells him she’s sorry but the coach caught her before she could sneak out. She decides to ditch practice that day because she loves Mark so much and wants to spend the whole day with him.

What we get is a montage of them enjoying watching the rest of the band in pain as they play out their various subplots and shit. It must be love because nineties montages always end in love!

We suddenly cut to a viking woman yodeling for some reason. I swear, Peter Engel shows are up on all the national stereotypes.

Sly, Tiffani, and Sam perform as Hansel, Gretel, and Gretel, and Sly starts asking where all the hot action is from his wonderful performance. Turns out the only one who wants him is the viking woman and, since this is before the episode where Sly learned his lesson about looks on women, 

Meanwhile, Jenny tells her coach she doesn’t want to ski any longer because Mark is more important and suddenly finds him sexy and shit.

God damn it, what the fuck did I do to deserve a Mark-centric episode, only the second in the series!

After a commercial break, Jenny’s coach barges into Mark’s room and lectures him about Jenny being great and deserving to ski and blah blah blah! All I keep thinking is it’s a good thing Mark wasn’t masturbating in there. That’s a sight that cannot be unseen!

Oh, and Sly’s still running from the viking woman but distracts her with food because fat women gotta eat I guess?

Later, Mark sees Jenny watching skiing and shit instead of paying attention to him and decides that must mean skiing is more important than him. Of course, watching paint dry is more important than Mark, but we’re pretending like he’s a main character people like and would really get bummed about if he left.

In the lounge, the band gets ready to play a song so Mark and Jenny can dance. The coach comes in and gives Jenny a ticket in case she wants to go home, but says she’s welcome to leave with them for the championships in fifteen minutes. I don’t know why the coach is bothering at this point. Jenny’s being a little asshole. He should just say fuck all and let her do what she wants.

Tony finally catches up to his girl and realizes she talks like a Muppet, instantly turning him off. What was it with the Engel-verse and sexy people who talk like Muppets?

Mark and Jenny go outside, and Mark tells Jenny she shouldn’t give up skiing for someone like him. After all, if she settles, she’ll never know what could have been had she not ruined her life by being with Mark. He tells her to go, telling her he’ll find her a third time if she’s still desperate for a charmless, uncharismatic loser like him.

They go back inside, the band plays a love song, and we get reaction shots of Jenny watching Mark sing. She walks out, and our episode ends with Mark realizing that, once again, he does not have a woman willing to touch him voluntarily.

Well, that episode was a mish-mash of pointless subplots, but none of them were as unrealistic as the idea that there’s a girl out there who wants Mark’s hot body and personality. I mean, what girl wouldn’t want the worst actor on a show that plays second fiddle to The New Class?

“Born to Love You”
Mark singing

This is your standard California Dreams slow song. As usual, Mark’s singing actor sounds phenomenal, much better than Mark himself will ever sound. It’s not a bad song; there’s just nothing to distinguish it from the many songs we’ve already seen on this show and will see in the future. Really, it sounds like something that might have made the top forty, but that doesn’t make it an interesting song. I know, I know: what do I expect out of music on a Peter Engel show?

More effort. I expect more effort.

Season 4, Episode 12: “Woo-ops”

We open directly in the middle of a song, and I’m grateful that, at least, the writers of this show occasionally remember it’s supposed to be about a band.

They’re interrupted in the middle of their song by Sly, who’s got some super important news that just couldn’t wait for the band to finish this song they’ll never play again: he’s got a line on tickets for the beach bash for only $100! Yes, Sly just caused the band to possibly lose out on money for the night by interrupting them in the middle of a concert, but the rest of the band doesn’t seem to care because beach bash must be some holy, mystical experience I’m unfamiliar with.

Sam doesn’t have $100 to buy a ticket, though, because it’s established that as of just now she’s really bad at managing money. She also owes money to both Lorena and Mark to back this up, so no one wants to loan her money for the tickets because of this sudden character trait.

Tony does the cliched thing of telling Sam he’ll miss the concert as well if she can’t go, and she tells him to go and he’s all, “Good! I didn’t want to spend time with you anyway!” He says they’ll find a way for her to get the money, though, and reminds her that, through the magic of plot convenience, her father just happens to be coming into the country on business tomorrow. It’s nice when bad writing leads to the perfect set of circumstances for a plot.

At Lorena’s loft, we get our subplot of the episode: Tiffani really wants Jake to make out with her Barbie doll, except it’s not a Barbie doll for fear of possible trademark infringement: it’s a Bambi doll! I keep expecting to hear it came with Thumper. Either that, or this version is a stripper. When Tiffani won’t leave him the hell alone about it, Jake kisses it, to the laughs of everyone around, and we find out Tiffani has been searching for this particular doll forever and just happened to find it at a yard sell next door.

Sam and her father come in and, after some genuinely funny banter in which Tony basically implies he wants to bone Mr. Woo’s daughter in a parked car, everyone but Sam and her father fuck off so she can advance the plot. Sam starts to ask her father for the money for the concert, but he’s all, “You need money again, don’t you?” He says they agreed she’d manage her money and, although she’s shown no indications prior to this episode she hasn’t, the contrivance of this episode is enough for him to say no. He does reluctantly give her a credit card, though, saying it’s for absolute emergencies since her parents can’t always be with her.

At school, Tony and Sam look ready to get it on once he finds out her father is off to San Francisco on his business. She says she didn’t get the money, though, but did get a credit card, but she vows she’s going to be responsible this time around and not spend frivolously. But then Sly comes in and tells them three acts have been added to the beach bash: Sheryl Crowe, the Gin Blossoms, and Sting. How nineties of them. It’s especially funny in retrospect that Sam thinks the Gin Blossoms are so good since pop audiences didn’t seem to agree and made them a one hit wonder. I guess that explains a lot about the writers and who they think the kids these days like, though.

In any case, Sam practically thrusts her credit card at Sly to buy the tickets.

Back at the loft, Jake reveals he lost Tiffani’s Bambi doll, possibly to hunters Tony, Sly, and Mark tell him Tiffani’s going to kill him, and, when she comes in and says a collector is looking to buy that doll and Tony says she could get hundreds of dollars for it. Jake makes excuses and rushes out to go find the doll before Tiffani can kill him.

Sam and Lorena come in with a bunch of shopping bags, and Sam reveals she bought them all on her credit card. Tony’s concerned she went a little overboard, and she insists no way, even as the limo she hired to take them to beach bash pulls up.

At Sharkey’s after beach bash, Sam’s purchased the entire band a bunch of merchandise and food and shit, but Tony comes back to the table and tells her the credit card has been declined. Turns out Sam’s reached her $1,000 limit, and I’m actually kind of impressed that she bought all the shit she did for only $1,000. She runs off, saying her father is going to kill her, and Tiffani and Lorena follow after her to comfort her in what will no doubt be an over the top consequence.


Meanwhile, a random extra tells Jake some guy named “Snake” says he has his Bambi doll. Of course, it’s played up for laughs, with the entire diner laughing at Jake’s femininity of owning a doll. I’m more concerned about how a random person knew to call Jake on the pay phone at Sharkey’s at that very moment.

Sam comes up with a great plan to go to the bank that issued the credit card and ask the manager to randomly forgive the debt she ran up.

The bank manager has about the same reaction I would if I was asked to do something so absurd. Really, I’m wondering how Sam’s father, a Chinese national who doesn’t even have permanent resident status, got a credit card from an American bank. I couldn’t even get a credit card when I was legally living in a foreign country, much less if I was just passing through!

Back at the loft, Snake shows up and turns out to be a prepubescent who analyzes Jake down to a T and demands $50 for the return of the Bambi doll. Really, I expected to hate this subplot, but the banter between Snake and our main characters is pretty damned funny. Plus, I mean the kid is the original voice of Eugene Horowitz, Arnold’s bully on Hey, Arnold, so maybe he was typecast into the role of smart mouthed kid. Jake gives Snake the money just in time for Tiffani to come in and reclaim the doll to take to the collector.


After the failure of Sam’s less than brilliant plan, she decides she has to call her father and tell him what happened. He proceeds to yell lots of stuff in what I hope is really Mandarin (I can’t speak it so I don’t know for sure), and tells her that he’s going to make her go back to Hong Kong.

This…seems excessive. I get that he’s pissed about the money on the credit card, as he should be, but he’s denying his daughter the opportunity to study abroad, all because he was dumb enough to give a daughter who already had a history of mismanaging money a credit card. Don’t get me wrong: there should be consequences. I’m just not sure forced deportation should be one of them.

In any case, the rest of the band rallies, sans Sly, who thinks Sam must be just as disposable to the show as Jenny, and they decide they have to help Sam find a way to stay. Tony says he’ll get her a job at Sharkey’s, and Sam says she’ll sell her clothes to help make the money to pay back her father before he comes back to L.A.

At Sharkey’s, Sam’s doing well making back the money, selling boots randomly to customers instead of food, and says she may have a real chance of paying the money back. Her father calls Sharkey’s, though, and says he’s coming back early, perhaps the only time on the show when it’s shown Sharkey’s has an actual business line and not just a payphone, and Sam accepts her fate that she’s going to have to go back to Hong Kong.

Jake gets mad when he finds out Tiffani gave the Bambi doll away to a collector, and prepares to tell them off for taking advantage of her, but finds it’s a nun who wants the doll for the kids at an orphanage. Um, is that really a collector, then? Seriously, collectors don’t want dolls for kids to play with. They want them for the prestige of owning one. In any case, thus ends that subplot.

At the loft, Sam’s father berates her for charging so much on the card. She apologizes, giving him the money she raised, $500, and promising him she’ll find a way to pay the rest back


Her father is impressed that she raised such a large amount of money, and so am I, saying she learned a valuable lesson in managing money. And our episode ends with Sam’s father saying she can stay as long as she pays back the rest of the money. I guarantee this means the reset button is pressed, and we never again hear about Sam’s irresponsibility wen it comes to money.

“Tell Her I’ll Be Waiting”
Mark singing

This is actually not bad for a nineties slow song. It’s well paced, the lyrics aren’t any more vapid than any other song that actually made the pop songs, and the melody is very listenable. Mark’s vocals on it are great, well-matched by background vocals from Jake, and it actually works very well for the band, proving Mark really has nothing to contribute but vocals on some songs.

What’s puzzling is that this is apparently the only time on the show that this song was showed. Yet, Sly’s interruption means it never got to play its complete lyrics despite complete lyrics being readily available on the net. Is there something I’m missing here? Was this song on a soundtrack CD so it became an obligatory include in the show?

Season 4, Episode 11: “Heal the Bay”

We open with the writers once again not understanding surfer culture so they resort to stupid gimmicks that sound plausible hoping for a cheap laugh. In this case, Tiffani blows through a shell to let people know the rain has stopped and it’s safe to go surfing and shit because that’s totally a thing surfers do and not some Jean-Luc Goddard-esque absurdity that makes no sense.

Lucky for her, the whole band’s ready to go to the beach and go swimming. Lorena’s bringing lots of shit because she’s Lorena, Mark’s bringing his guitar hoping some girl will take pity on him and take away his cursed virginity. Jake’s bringing his leather jacket because…Jake.

Sly’s bringing some binoculars to perv at all the girls on the beach.

And Tony’s bringing a towel so he can wrap girls up in it, including Celia here, whom he flirts with. Wait, what the hell is going on? Why isn’t Sam slapping the ever loving shit out of him for cheating? Life doesn’t make sense right now!

Stingray and another idiot show up in Stingray’s final appearance on the show so they can talk about how polluted the beach is and how it’s closed for swimming and shit today because they apparently went swimming within five seconds of Tiffani blowing her horn, and the authorities closed the beach in an equally short period of time. Really, are we going for absurdist time in this episode as well? How does any of this even work?!?!

Tiffani and Mark are disturbed by such plot contrivance, Tiffani because that’s just part of her character and Mark because he needs something to do every once in a while that doesn’t involve the endless quest to lose his virginity. They vow to stay behind and figure out what to do about single-handedly saving the environment, while the others mock them, especially Tony, who’s excited to get it on with random girls not Sam. I don’t understand! Did something happen and I fell asleep?!?!

Back at the loft, Jake’s mad that Lorena painted his toenails or some shit while he was asleep. Meanwhile, Tony and Sam spot what they believe is a hickey on Lorena’s neck and decide that Jake must have given it to her while she was asleep despite Lorena insisting it’s a sunburn. What the fuck is going on here? People think Jake likes Lorena? Sam doesn’t seem to give a shit that Tony’s cheating on her? It’s like I’ve stumbled on some alternate universe where Jake and Lorena and Sam and Tony never dated…


…shit, this is an out of season episode, isn’t it? This was suppose to air near the beginning of season three to set up a future romance between Jake and Lorena, thus why it seemed to come the fuck out of nowhere, wasn’t it? Well, damn it, NBC, you did it again. It must have been so confusing when this aired in its first run and people tried to figure out why it was no one seemed to know Jake and Lorena had dated for a full season.

Tiffani and Mark come back with all kinds of ideas for cleaning up the Earth and shit, and say they signed the band up for a charity gig Saturday for a clean-up the beach party. Sly’s cynical of a gig where they won’t get paid and Tony says he doesn’t give a shit as long as Paradise Cove is open because that’s where he goes to get it on with girls, but Mark tells him they closed Paradise Cove, concerning Tony about his potential to get laid and shit.

We cut to Tony’s bedroom, where he’s fast asleep and having a dream sequence…

…a dream sequence where Tiffani’s a mermaid who can’t live in the water at Paradise Cove because it’s too polluted.

…and people make out with gas masks on because the smog is so thick. Not sure how smog got involved since we were talking about garbage the entire episode, but I’m sure the writers will ties it up in a nice little bow like they always do.

The dream, combined with Tony hearing a report the next morning about smog at the beach, naturally leads to an instant conversion to the merits of environmentalism and shit, and Tony decides he has to do something.

At school, Sam insists that Jake and Lorena are secretly dating, but they both insist that’s ridiculous because they would never date each other for the better part of a season. Also, Lorena talks about getting a first down in baseball, making me wonder if she’s fucking a bunch of baseball players.

Meanwhile, Tony has a book and he’s here to spend most of the rest of the episode being judgmental about environmental stuff, like yelling at Sly to recycle an aluminum can and talking about the evils of driving cars and Mark to stop using Styrofoam and Lorena to stop using hairspray. He also says he’s going to let the air out of everyone’s tires who didn’t carpool because that’s not excessive or anything!

At Sharkey’s, fun with environmental judgmentalism continues as Tony says he volunteered the ban to play charity gigs every Saturday for the rest of eternity. For once, I’m on the same page as Sly with this: Tony’s instant conversion went overboard the minute it happened. Then Tony sees Celia, though, and he’s about to go lecture her about the dangers of napkin usage when Jake tells him he better cool the fuck down if he ever wants to get laid and demonstrates his way of being smooth on Lorena, leaving her hot and bothered without even a reach around.

At the loft, Mark finds Tony’s marked all the aluminum cans “Recycle or Die” and Sam finds he’s cut the wires on the amps.

Nothing is evil as tagging Jake’s leather jacket “Cow Killer” though. Look, guys, I get what you’re doing, but the cow killer reference is probably lost on your target audience. I know dairy cows produce a ton of methane gas, but kids are wondering at this point what vegetarianism has to do with environmental shit. In any case, Jake wants to kill him but Tiffani wants to find a way to get even that will allow him to stay on the show until the end of the series since that would make Mark get more exposure, and no one wants that.

They find their opportunity when Tony comes in, ecstatic because Celia agreed to go on a date with him. Tony’s ideas for a date don’t sound very environmentally friendly, though, so the rest of the band decide to help Tony be green!

At Sharkey’s, everyone keeps talking about Jake and Lorena and hickeys and shit, and this leads the two to banter about how they don’t understand each other.

Lorena gives Jake a boner-inducing massage and leaves him with blue balls for revenge about all the shit that’s going on this episode.

Tony and Celia show up after a bicycle ride to Sharkey’s, and everyone does everything they can to sabotage the date, including making the two sit on the floor, not allowing use of Styrofoam cups, and serving them seaweed, algae, bean curd, and fungi for dinner because, n the minds of the writers, those are apparently the only completely environmentally friendly foods in the world. Celia finally gets fed up when Tony pours a glass of water on her by accident, because the rest of the shit wasn’t enough to make her run as fast from this group as possible…

…but not before Jake pantses Tony in revenge for his leather jacket since Tony’s wearing a leather belt.

Back at the loft, Tony apologizes for being an idiot, but wonders how to stay environmentally sound and not be a complete jackass. This leads to the whole group giving us nice and easy tips on how to be environmentally sound and shit and decide everyone needs to pitch in and all.

At the concert, Jake and Lorena seem to talk nicely to each other, and Sam notices the “hickey” is peeling, meaning it’s now officially a sunburn. Sam says it’s fucking ridiculous to think of the two of them together, and that would absolutely never happen and shit.

And our episode ends with the band playing a song to encourage everyone to do shit about shit, and I’m sure this episode single-handedly convinced every nineties kid to be a better, more environmentally conscious consumer, which is why we’re not still dealing with environmental issues today!

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

Ah, another rerun we just saw earlier in this season, except this time, this was the first time we were supposed to have seen this song. I still find it an irritating song. There’s absolutely no reason to have five vocalists on it. At least with the theme song, multiple vocalists sound good. This just sounds like they were looking for something for the whole cast to do.

Season 4, Episode 10: “Community Service”

We open at school to find Sly bad mouthing volunteering and shit because this week Sly thinks helping people sucks ass. He convinces the entire band sans Sam that, when Tiffani comes in, they’re going to resist her urges that they think of more than just themselves and do something with their lives.

Of course, she comes in and gives them all puppy dog eyes which makes everyone but Sly decide that volunteering is awesome. Sly stands firm, ready to protest the idea that he should ever be made to do anything for anyone despite the fact we know good and well he’ll be singing the praises of volunteering by the end of the episode.

Of course, Sly being Sly, what convinces him is a bunch of pretty girls who proclaim loudly they’re volunteering for a teen help hotline or something, making him decide that volunteering is awesome if it might mean he gets laid.

Meanwhile, Sam has some stupid subplot about wanting people to donate blood, and no one wants to donate blood because needles and shit. It’s really not important but they’ll keep bringing it up on occasion over the next twenty minutes.

We cut to the teen hotline, where we learn that there’s an entire classroom set up for use by this group and it just happens to look exactly like every other classroom the band uses. Oh, and every volunteer except Sly is a girl because boys don’t like talking about their feelings and shit.

Tiffani’s incredulous as Sly keeps using hotline shit s an excuse to hit on girls, but what does she expect? I mean, it is Sly, and he is a piece of shit. I figured that out four seasons ago.

At Sharkey’s, the rest of the cast get minor subplots. Tony’s cooking really fancy sounding meals for sick people that Jake is supposed to deliver but he thinks is delicious. Lorena’s learning to donate shit because why not. Really, I could have done without either of these subplots, but the third really makes me happy. See, it’s now canon that Mark stinks. Seriously, that’s Mark’s subplot for the week: he apparently doesn’t take showers after environmental clean-up because he figures he has no one to impress anyway, so he stinks. I’m glad the writers of this show can finally admit this. Now maybe he’ll be off by next season, right? Surely they wouldn’t make me go through another season with this idiot…

Also, everyone runs out when Sam shows up looking for blood again, but who the hell cares about that subplot. Seriously.

Back at the teen hotline, Tiffani’s more and more annoyed with Sly because, rather than helping people, he’s ordering pizza and shit. Seriously, if people stopped expecting Sly to act like a decent human being, we could skip half these episodes.

The adviser for the hotline comes in with bad news. Now, say it with me:

The school is having unexpected budget cuts.

They can no longer afford to run the hotline.

They have to close this Friday.

I know what I won’t miss: these predictable crisis plots out of the Engel-verse that call on our main characters to save the day since schools in this universe seem to suck ass at creating sustainable budgets. Yes, Sly decides it’s his duty to save the hotline since he can’t sexually harass so many women in one place otherwise, and he offer the band to play a benefit concert.

Of course, Tiffani’s upset about Sly’s obvious lack of sincerity, but the rest of the girls in the room were born yesterday so they want to have his baby because they believe he’s so selfless and shit.

At Lorena’s loft, after we get an update on the subplots where Lorena’s continuing to give stuff away and Jake’s eating Tony’s meals for the sick (exciting stuff I tell you!), Sly comes in to ask the band to do the fundraising concert. Even though Tiffani says that Sly’s obviously still being a piece of shit, Jake points out that even pieces of shit can have a good idea, so of course they’ll do the concert because it’s for a good cause.

Sam decides her subplot needs an update, so she basically jumps on Tony’s back to convince him to give blood, telling him he’d do it if he loved her. He finally gives in with obvious bad acting in his voice meaning we’re about to witness shenanigans.

At school, Jake eats a lot of shit hoping that will keep him from eating Tony’s meals because he apparently needs Overeaters Anonymous I guess, and Tony tries to run away from Sam wanting blood, but she catches him, and Mark still stinks despite wearing clean clothes this time because I guess he just doesn’t shower. Also, Sly brags about having girls and shit because these girls are apparently dumber than a box of rocks since they can’t see through his bullshit.

At Sharkey’s, Sly shows up with a bunch of girls on his arms again, and Tiffani has to remind him that he’s not the only one who did shit.

We wrap up a couple of subplots with Tony having not enjoyed giving blood and Jake eating Tony’s food again because why the hell not. Also, Mark continues to stink because I guess he really doesn’t shower.

The teacher praises Sly for actually coming through, and says he had a trophy for him but forgot it. When a couple of the girls imply that trophies make them horny, Sly decides to rush back to school to retrieve it in hopes of getting laid since schools in this universe keep their doors unlocked just in case students want to have a plot after hours.

At school, Sly retrieves his trophy, but the phone rings before he can leave. Though he initially tries to ignore it, he decides to answer the phone, where a boy tells him he won’t be here tomorrow. For a minute, I thought the Engel-verse was going to actually tackle the topic of teen suicide, but, no, this is the Engel-verse. The kid is upset because his dad didn’t wish him happy birthday so he’s going to run away, making me want to scream at the incompetence of yet another lost opportunity to address something meaningful. Sly actually puts the guy on hold to run back to Sharkey’s and get someone to help the guy, which must mean Sharkey’s is like across the street from the school I guess.

Back at Sharkey’s, the band plays a rerun song…

…and Tiffani announces they raised enough money to save the teen hotline even though I bet it will never be mentioned again.

Sly rushes in and tries to get the teacher to help, but the guy stood too close to the amps while the band was playing so he’s now got permanent hearing loss from too much bad music. Sly says fuck this shit and rushes back to school.

Sly initially tries to help the guy with a script but it’s so transparent even an Engel-verse character can see through it, so he admits he doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing but will learn with the guy if he’ll let him.

The band sans Mark come in as Sly convinces a whiny privileged kid not to run away from home, and they express their love for Sly that his heart grew three sizes today as the writers really like to make Sly look as good as possible in the end so it’s not obvious how much of a piece of shit he is.

What will we end on, though? Why, the fact that Mark continues to stink so much he’s no longer allowed in the same room as the rest of the cast, and that’s seriously how every episode from here on out should go. I might start liking Mark if the rest of the cast are always this critical of his hygiene. Seriously, this is what his character was born for!

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

Well, a repeat of a song we just had a few episodes ago. Not a thing changed about it since we heard it a few weeks ago, so there’s not really anything new to say. What I do wonder is if this is a sign they’re running out of money to create new songs. I mean, at least previous song reruns at least waited a season or two before rerunning a song in its as the main song of the episode.

Season 4, Episode 9: “Operation Tony”

We open at Sharkey’s, and go directly into the sole song of the episode so that we don’t have to worry about starting this episode for another few minutes.

Even though it’s a song that’s been previously featured, Tony has a new over-the-top drum solo to remind us that this episode is about him. He’s also full of himself when Jake introduces him but none of the rest of the band when it’s time to end.

Meanwhile, Tiffani was a little late due to her continued volunteer service as a candy striper, which hasn’t been mentioned for at least a season now but is suddenly a thing because we need an episode in a hospital. Lorena makes fun of Tiffani for wanting to volunteer with old and sick people and shit, which makes me think Lorena was comatose during last week’s episode.

But then a doctor with sparkly teeth comes in to give Tiffani her bag that she forgot at the hospital, and Lorena suddenly wants to become a candy striper so she can find out what sort of toothpaste he uses to get those fake sparkles, and thus we have our subplot.

Tony and Sly move an amp, but Sly suddenly drops it to go chase after a shiny nickel, causing Tony to shriek in pain. I was right! It has been “Sly is a shithead” month! Now Sly’s trying to kill Tony because they’re such good friends according to that one shitty episode last season!

At school, Tony’s arm is still hurting, so Tiffani uses her vast knowledge of medicine to twist Tony’s arm above his head to confirm it’s still hurt. Geez, that’s healthy to twist shoulders that are hurt! With that bedside manner, Tiffani should absolutely go into medicine! In any case, she wants Tony to go see a doctor and, when he expresses fear of medicine, she continues twisting his arm above his head until he agrees.

Meanwhile, Sly’s not feeling any remorse about being a jackass, so Jake decides to remind him that Tony can sue him and shit, and gets Mark to back him up since Mark is easily convinced to do whatever will advance the plot. Sly, realizing he could lose all his money, decides a subplot about kissing Tony’s ass is in order.

At the hospital, conveniently reused from sets from The College Years and The New Class, Lorena whines about the candy striper outfit and about being expected to actually work during volunteer service, reminding me why I hate her as a character despite her having less of a role this season. She runs off, trying to woo the affections of the cute doctor, hoping against all hope that he’ll tell her about his toothpaste.

Meanwhile, Tony’s doctor tells him that he tore some cartilage and needs surgery. Yeah, in that case, I’m sure Tiffani twisting his arm was great for his condition! Maybe she should worry about being sued and shit!

He promptly faints because he’s afraid of doctors and medicine this week and need an excuse for conflict.

After the commercial message, we find that Lorena bought a sexy candy striper uniform off, hoping it will make her doctor notice. All he notices, though, is how unhealthy the angle of her heels are for her feet, leading her to wonder if this doctor is gay or something.

Jake and Mark continue to mess with Sly’s head because he’s such a shithead, and convince him he needs to do nice shit for Tony to avoid being sued.

That nice shit apparently includes casual racism and stealing flowers from some poor woman on the floor because Sly will never be redeemed.

Sam’s crying as if Tony passed away…

…but it turns out that Tony’s just so paranoid about dying he’s making Sam practice her mourning. Yeah, Tony’s hospitalized overnight before his surgery, which honestly seems a bit excessive considering it’s just an arm injury and not anything serious, but this is the Engel-verse so maybe a moderate shoulder injury is life-threatening here.

With Tony completely losing his shit, Tiffani chases everyone out of the room so he can get some sleep.

We have a dream sequence to pad out the episode even more where Tony imagines himself at his own funeral, in Sharkey’s of all places, and I always find it amazing that this dream sequence only includes currently appearing regulars and a few extras, not his parents, and apparently the Garrisons don’t give a shit about Tony’s death either.

Tiffani reads some fake surfer shit, and they prepare to take Tony out for a burial at sea to be eaten by sharks or some shit.

Sly replaces one of the extras as a pallbearer, and, naturally, drops Tony’s body to go after some money. This wakes Tony up and makes him realize he has to get out of here before the writers drop him from this show in the most cliched means possible.

Lorena, meanwhile, has dropped her sexy candy striper uniform and fakes appendicitis to get the doctor to notice her. He rushes off to get a surgeon, though, telling her that he’s merely a foot doctor so he’s not qualified to treat her. Lorena wonders what she has to do to attract the attention of this doctor, and Tiffani tells her either grow a penis or do some work, that the doctor finds both sexy, and, since they don’t perform sex reassignment surgery at this hospital, Lorena vows to be the best damned worker she can be, starting with Tony.

She soon finds Tony’s room empty, though.

Turns out he’s made a clean escape by hiding the Looney Tunes way: in plain sight were anyone with functioning eyeballs should be able to spot him.

At the loft, the band reveal they’ve searched all over town for Tony, but can’t find him anywhere.

But then Jake spots Tony’s ass and points it out to everyone else. They start talking about how they’re going to divy up his shit since he’s obviously dead, but the last straw for Tony is the revelation that Mark’s going to get Sam, because no girl should have to go through that indignity.

Mark convinces Tony he needs to stop this shit because they’re almost out of time and says that Tony’s his best friend in the world when it’s convenient to the plot. This convinces Tony to go back to the hospital and get this episode over with.

Lorena apparently went running with ravaging elephants for her volunteer service, and such dedication makes the doctor notice her. She tries to invite herself to dinner with him, but he says he doesn’t date people he works with. No, doctor. See, you’re in your late-twenties or early thirties. The correct answer is you don’t date underage girls. Are you trying for an appearance on To Catch a Predator or something? In any case, that subplot’s wrapped up.

So we wrap up the main plot with Tony’s surgery going find because it was just fucking minor shoulder surgery. He thinks everyone for sticking by him, and our episode ends with Tony saying he couldn’t have done it without them, because, in the world of the Engel-verse, shoulder surgery is such high stakes drama that it really had me on the edge of my seat whether Tony was going to make it out alive or not.

“She’s Not You”
Jake singing

Another return of an old non-favorite from season two, this time with Jake singing instead of Matt. I won’t say much about this since you can always go back and read what I had to say about it the first time around, but I will say that I feel like there’s much more of a rock edge to this song with Jake on vocals than there was with Matt. The strange thing is that there’s only one keyboard on stage, so Mark and Sam are standing at the same keyboard, both acting like they’re playing it, but Sam really just standing around doing nothing, another clue that there’s one too many people in this band, and Mark really just needs to go.

Season 4, Episode 8: “Old”

We open to discover that Sam and Lorena have suddenly gotten really old and changed ethnicities. Man, Tiffani must really moisturize to stay looking so good! No, it turns out this week Tiffani’s hanging out with a group of senior surfers who travel the world, looking for the gnarliest waves and shit because that’s the plot we’re going with this week.

Sly starts making fun of them for being old because he’s Sly. Mark tries to stop him, but everyone thinks Mark sucks ass so it has no effect. One of the surfers, Hank, does hear Screech, though, and kicks Sly’s chair in order to make him spill water for revenge. No, what Hank should have done is slap the shithead upside the head with a surfboard.

At school, Sly continues making fun of the old people despite it being Tiffani who needed lifeguard assistance. Sly continue spouting every prejudice about old people as the studio audience laughs nervously as if they don’t know whether they’re supposed to find this funny, and Sly reveals his grandfather once lived with him. I wouldn’t mention this at all except it does turn out to be a plot point later. Sam and Lorena spout some ethnic stereotypes about respecting your elders, but Sly continues spouting as many ageist prejudices as he can.

Tiffani decides the band should play for the seniors tonight, and Sly makes fun of this too and tries to forbid the band from playing this gig…

…which they promptly ignore because Sly’s a piece of shit.

Hank comes in with his date, Rose, as Sly makes fun of old people for wanting love and shit. The band look on and wonder why they hang out with Sly…

…as he continues aping old people and walks out the door.

So sly decides to go back to Lorena’s loft for a nap…

…and wakes to find someone’s applied really bad old people make-up to him. Seriously, I can see the wrinkles in the bad wig they have him in. Sly seems to think this is one big joke, which it is, but he soon discovers he also has old people pains and can’t get the make-up off. The funniest part, though: as we go to commercial break, they play the really dramatic commercial break jingle, as if someone watching thinks this is real and not some stupid extended dream sequence, especially considering they showed us Sly falling asleep.

After the break, we see that everyone else is their normal age. Ah, so it’s not a Rip Van Winkle scenario. More like Big, but with an old person, and really bad make-up. Also, it sounds like the Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood music is playing. In any case, no one understands what’s going on, but they insist he’s not dreaming. Also, he’s a cannibal as an old person and tries to eat Mark’s arm, because Mark doesn’t need it anyway.

Lorena says it’s not make-up, which makes me think she has no idea what make-up looks like, and they decide they need to get to the bottom of it.

Jake, as the one present with the most number of brain cells, suggests they take Sly to a doctor, who says he’s in great shape for a 75 year-old. What did they do: carbon date him?

At Sharkey’s, the senior surfers help Sly learn to appreciate being old and shit because they have experience, which makes no sense because, in this scenario, Sly’s still a teenager with a stupid, warped ageing disease of some sort, which means Sly doesn’t have that experience and completely negates the lessons Sly is about to learn.

Back at the loft, the gang fire Sly as their manager because he’s old and shit now and Sly’s really taking it to heart. Also, they’re planning on putting him in a nursing home because we’ve got to push this Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come shit as far as we can.

He wakes up right on time to reveal what was obvious to anyone with a functioning synapse: it was all a dream and he’s not old, which, in the Engel-verse, is more than enough to solve a minor, pesky problem like holding prejudices. Fortunately, he’s not like me and forgets his dreams almost instantly upon awakening.

He gets to Sharkey’s but finds it abandoned. Sly apologizes to the band for being a prejudiced jackass yet again, and Tony reveals Hank had a heart attack.

Being that Sly and Hank were so close in the one scene they shared, Sly rushes to the hospital, and Sly apologizes to Hank and reveals his motivation: apparently, his grandfather felt sorry for himself because his father had to support him and felt useless. That was apparently enough for Sly to hate all old people since no one told him about depression. Sly convinces Hank not to give up, and a doctor reveals it was just a minor heart attack and shit so there’s bound to be a happy ending for this episode. Also, the doctor assumes Sly is Hank’s grandson and starts instantly vomiting personal medical information, which I’m pretty sure violates HIPPA.

A week later, the band decide to have a second concert to celebrate Hank not dying.

Sly gives a short speech about how he’s learned his lesson yet again about being a prejudiced moron. The band sings a new song as Hank and Rose & Sly and Lorena dance, and I couldn’t help but laugh hysterically at how corny this shit is. Seriously, Sly’s proving he’s not prejudiced any longer by dancing with Rose, and Hank probably thinks he’s hit the jackpot when Lorena is his new dance partner. Good lord, this show!

And our episode ends with Sly learning a lesson yet again about prejudices. Seriously, was May “Sly is a Fucking Asshole” month and someone forgot to tell me? We started with the band prosecuting him for being the biggest douche in the world, continued with Sly thinking fat people don’t have feelings, and concluded with Sly thinking old people should die. Is next week going to be all about how black people aren’t all gangsters or women aren’t all in existence for Sly’s pleasure? No, that latter is a lesson Sly will never learn as the producers will never have him give up being a sexist ass.

In any case, we hit the reset button yet again.

“Never Give Up”
Jake singing

It’s not a bad song this week: a little slow and reminiscent for me of Steve Tyrell’s actual hit song, “How Do You Talk to an Angel?” I could easily see this being performed by the band from The Heights, which I guess is what our band has become since that show was around for less time than their theme song. It’s all about following your dreams and not giving up and shit. Typical California Dreams shtick and definitely not the worst song they’ve ever done on this show.

One thing I did notice: Jake sounds sort of constipated on this song. Is it just me or does he sound like a proto-Nickelback here, really nasally and without emotion in his voice? I don’t know: I’ve been listening to bad pop song reviews a lot lately so maybe it’s just transference, but Jake’s vocal definitely do not make this song; the melody does.

Season 4, Episode 7: “Secret Admirer”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

“Way We Are”
Mark and Sam singing

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