Season 5, Episode 7: “Father Knows Bets”

You know it’s bad when the cast look just as unenthused about this final season as I am. It’s like they’re saying, “Let’s just coast along for a few more episodes and collect our checks until this show and our careers end.”

Tony comes in and breaks up the monotony with more monotony. His shtick this week is he’s in charge of some stupid senior awards something or other, so he wants the others to kiss his ass in order to be considered for an award. Of course, because everyone in the band is so easily manipulated, they all instantly start bowing at Tony’s feet, except for Jake, whose shtick this episode will be not giving a shit.

Sly and Mark arrive from a Winkle family reunion, which I’m imaging would either make me want to kill everyone present or bore me with its blandness, depending on which side of the Winkle family is dominant there. Sly says their cousin is UCLA’s towel boy but has the flu, so he’s gotten his cousin to give the whole team the flu so they suck when they play tonight and he can bet against them because Sly is just such a sympathetic character. Jake has access to a bookie so the entire band joins in because why the hell not.

After Sly leaves, Mark reveals that Sly’s bummed because his father didn’t show up to the reunion. You mean that out of the blue lesson a couple episodes ago was actually foreshadowing, or the Engel-verse’s clumsy attempt at it? That’s like unheard on these shows! In any case, the rest of the band start judging Sly’s dad without ever actually showing him to us before because that’s just what these shows do!

At school the next day, everyone won after Sly’s bet, and everyone proceeds to clumsily talk about how sorry they are that Sly’s dad didn’t show up to the family reunion, and he’s all, “It’s no big deal because the script isn’t ready for me to have a redemption over it yet!” He says they’re going to a basketball game tonight, and he wants Jake to bet money on it for him. Jake says he’s out, though, as it was a one time thing and it’s time for everyone to go into their best judgmental modes for the rest of the episode.

Tony shows up and reveals that Sly won an award for fundraising or some shit. Yeah, it doesn’t make much sense given all we know about Sly, and it really won’t even play into the plot that much. It’s just kind of there and shit.

Everyone else, except Jake of course, wants to know who the other awards are going to. Well, none of them are going to the band so names won’t be named, leading the rest of the band to be pissed off that they kissed Tony’s ass for nothing. Of course, there’s still the final award for the “most unique senior,” the Johnny Himalaya Award. I swear, the writers are really pulling out the obscure references from previous seasons this year since they have nothing else to go on. Tony says the identity of that particular award winner won’t be revealed until the awards banquet because he knows how to keep a secret and shit.

Of course, that means the plot point is Tony doesn’t know shit about keeping secrets and first tells Sam and then, at Sharkey’s, Tiffani, because it’s opposite day I guess. Tony says it’s Jake getting the award since you can’t get much more cliched than the guy who doesn’t give a shit winning it.

Mark reveals Sly’s father cancelled on him again, but he comes in and says he doesn’t give a shit about his dad and scalped his ticket and won another bet. If it weren’t for the audience giving us a heartfelt “aww,” one could believe that Sly was being genuine, but, no, we need more conflict than that!

Back at school, Tony tells Lorena and Mark that Jake’s winning the award so we can round out this dumb subplot.

Sly comes in and reveals he lost a bet for $500, and says he knows he can count on the band, so they all give him money to get him through the week. Because they are naive about the world, they all give him money even though I’m not sure they even like Sly most days.

And, at the loft, Sly shows why you shouldn’t trust him as he comes in and tells the band he used their money to bet on a long shot and won. He gives the band their money back, but they’re all pissed he used their money to gamble. He doesn’t understand why they’re mad but says he’s going to invite his father to the awards banquet.

So we meet yet another Winkle, and he’s a stereotypical stockbroker who thinks only of money apparently. He doesn’t have time to come to the awards banquet as he’s flying to Zurich because it’s a city some people who don’t understand the financial world might associate with money, and Sly looks bummed that he gave his hopes up and shit.

At Sharkey’s, the band play a gig and everyone gives Jake googley eyes all through the song. If this were any other show, I’d think they all want to fuck Jake after the gig and shit.

Sly comes in with a couple of stereotypical goons, and says he lost another bet. Turns out he doesn’t have the money to pay off this one, so he bet the band’s equipment as collateral. Jake points out it’s their stuff, not Sly’s, but the goons say that, if they can’t collect the equipment, they’ll beat the shit out of Sly. Though this sounds acceptable to me, they have to pretend to like him so they all give up their equipment.

At the loft, though, this doesn’t prevent Jake from wanting to beat the shit out of Sly as Jake does an impression of Yosemite Sam. They all kick Sly out, and everyone’s ready to fire Sly as their manager, as I’ve been saying they should do for five seasons. Tiffani jumps in, though, and is all, “Rainbows and unicorns and pixie dust!” She feels sorry for Sly, pointing out the obvious that his gambling was somehow connected to his father’s neglect because shut up. I assume they’re trying to make it out that Sly wants to impress his father, but that motivation really makes no sense to me. We’re going with it, though, because.

Of course, that’s not before Jake calls Sly’s father and tells him his son is in trouble.

At Sharkey’s, the band lie to Jake that Tony is winning the award to get him to stay at the awards banquet because awards banquets are stupid and shit. Of course, if I hadn’t been reviewing Peter Engel shows for so long, I’d be asking why they’e having an awards banquet at a restaurant and not at school, but I’ve long since stopped expecting this universe to make sense. It’s a wonder the band’s not playing a gig while Sharkey runs out and pulls chickens out of his pants.

Sly comes in and says he sold his car to get the band their equipment back. His father proceeds to come in and finds out everything, and Sly’s pissed that he’s there.

They go outside, and, for a split second, I thought this show was going to do something interesting, like not have Sly’s father be redeemed in the end. Of course, they instantly make up and love each other and bond over money because everything works itself out in the end in the Engel-verse!

Sly and his father return to Shakey’s and our episode ends with Tony finding out he’s the real winner of the award, the committee having lied to him that it was Jake because they knew he was incapable of keeping a secret. My, what a twist ending. I’m so shocked at this turn in a subplot I didn’t care about to begin with that I’m sarcastically shocked this show never won an award. I guess they were all going to Baywatch and The New Class that year.

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

You know, there used to be a time when I could watch this show and be guaranteed an original song almost every week. Sure, I might not like the songs sometimes, but at least it was clear the producers were putting effort into the show and really trying. They might use an old song on occasion, but that would be the exception and not the rule. This was the Peter Engel series that was really trying to be different and stand above the fray.

Boy, are we long past those days now. Third and final time we’ll hear this song.

Season 5, Episode 6: “Reel Teens”

We open to apparently watch as Jake has a wet dream. No, seriously, he tosses around in bed, calling out Tiffani’s name, until he falls out of bed ad wakes up and says how much he loves that dream. How else are we supposed to interpret that?

Anyway, we’re greeted to weird text announcing who Jake is, as if we haven’t spent the last four seasons getting to know his extremely contradictory character. Turns out he and the band are being followed by a reality show called Reel Teens for a week, and he announced how much he’s never stressed out about anything until he realizes his alarm that’s clearly unplugged didn’t go off and he’s late to meet Tiffani. Jake, if you learned how a clock works you wouldn’t have this trouble.

Also, we never get an explanation why Jake was picked for this show or why they’re also chronicling the rest of the band if it’s supposed to focus on him.

In any case, we go to Tiffani, and we’re going to be doing this the entire episode so better get used to it. Not much happens except she explains the shallow characterization the show’s managed to give her over five years, including surfing and environmentalism and Jake. Yeah, it’s like the writers are seeking to draw attention to how shallow their creations are on this show.

Another helpful subtitle, in case this is your very first episode, announces that this is Pacific Coast High, and Tiffani goes off on Jake because he missed his appointment to fix her car before school, and she tells him no more poon until he gets it fixed. He promises he’ll do it after school because he wants his dreams to come true.

So now the camera goes to Lorena and Mark. Mark hides from the camera because he doesn’t want the world to see how lame he is, and Lorena worries about looking fat and shit on television because she’s apparently headed for an eating disorder.

Tony and Sam show up…in this…because I guess they’re hoping the turn-of-the-century cosplay society sees them and invites them into their great organization? Damned if I know why they thought dressing like my grandparents would impress anyone, but that’s just the name of this episode, isn’t it?

Sly, of course, uses the camera as an excuse to try and get women, and none in their right mind will fall for it.

Even the extras try to get in on the action, tired of only being seen in shitty Engel-verse shows, as the camera moves to anthropology class and shit.

We get Tony’s subplot as he admits on camera he was flirting with another girl, apparently forgetting the camera was even there and filming everything, and has to worry about what Sam will say. Um, two seasons ago she told you she was fine with it as long as it was just flirting. Am I supposed to believe she’s changed her mind since then? Why are you contradicting shit that’s already been established?!?!?!

Anyway, Jake’s forgotten his paper that was due today, and the teacher says he can turn it in tomorrow for a letter grade off. Now Jake starts complaining, trying to convince us this is unreasonable, even though most every teacher I had in high school or college had virtually the same policy and it was seen as quite reasonable. Yeah, I’m not sure the writers of this episode understand how grading works. Where he becomes unreasonable is when Sly makes a smart-ass comment and he declares he’s giving them a quiz over the entire class tomorrow. He does this, knowing he’s being taped and there will be no consequences since apparently every teacher in the Engel-verse has blackmail on their superiors.

Well, it’s Mark’s turn and he whispers shit in Sly’s ear to say since he’s not worthy of being recognized on this show. I blanked out while he was being described but I want to think he was talking about how women all laugh at him and he’s ashamed to change in the locker room because his penis is so small.

So, we go to the loft for some music, and Mark’s got his back towards the camera since he’s not really singing anyway.

Jake’s overloaded and needs to do homework, but Tiffani reminds him he promised to fix her car because dating him means having a personal mechanic. He promises he’ll get to it tomorrow and shit so we can draw this out further.

Sly comes in and announces he’s booked the band for a gig at Sharkey’s on Friday because they never ever ever play at Sharkey’s on this show! That’s a plot point that was worthy of that big announcement. Oh, but he contributes to Jake’s stress by telling him he should write a new song for the show since he hasn’t yet this season and in twenty-years there might be a cynical internet reviewer who’s tired of how lazy this show has gotten.

That night, the stress and shit keeps Jake up, and apparently Reel Teens installed microphones in Jake’s brain because we hear the rest of the bands’ voices echoing about all he has to do.

At school, Jake reveals he stayed up all night and organized his motorcycle magazines because he couldn’t sleep. Turns out he forgot Tiffani’s damned car again because she needs an excuse to complain some more this episode because it’s not getting annoying already.

Meanwhile, Lorena has a zit and I’m supposed to feel sorry for her!

No, seriously, that’s her entire shtick for this episode: she has a god damned pimple and I’m supposed to sympathize with her. This is what we like to call “first-world problems.” Cry me a river!

Jake promises he’ll make the time for Tiffani’s damned car, but then every teacher in PCH decides to assign an unreasonably large amount of homework all due the next day.

So Jake completes one of the assignments, sewing a wedding dress, by practicing on Tony because what the hell kind of home ec class do they have where an assignment is to sew a god damned wedding dress! Jesus, this universe! Oh, and Tony talks about flirting with the other girl on-camera again because this is something we’re going to stick with.

And Tony’s interview ends up being about love and commitment and shit.

At the loft, Jake’s about to go crazy because people won’t let off him. Sam says Jake needs to do what she and Tony do when they’re stressed out and, though Tony initially assumes she means fuck their brains out, she clarifies that he should get organized because that will solve everything.

Sam’s interview ends up being about what it’s like to come to America when all signs point to the idea you were always there to begin with. Seriously, I’ve never bought her as a Hong Kong exchange student. Was that part of her personality really necessary?

So, in Jake’s room, all the band take turns tutoring Jake in different subjects, apparently none of them having to complete the same amount of ridiculous work he does. Also, he seems to have so much to do that he doesn’t have enough time to thoroughly study anything. As a result of this overblown stress, he decides to quit life.

At the loft, the exposition reveals that Jake skipped school and stayed up all night again, and he’s stressed out because he has too much to do. He’s tired of feeling like a loser like a Winkle, but Sly tells him he’s being a quitter and shit.

So Sly’s contribution is to be the voice of reason, completely contradictory to his usual character, and he tells Jake he took on too much. Jake decides he just has to prioritize, and tells Sly to stuff his new song because they have plenty of old songs to play for the next season, and Tiffani to fuck off with her stupid car because he’s got to focus on school and shit.

Lorena’s pimple subplot comes to an exciting close at Sharkey’s when she has a date and tries to hide her pimple. She reveals her pimple when she thinks he has one as well, but turns out she’s dating an idiot because he glued his hand to his face.

Tony tells Sam about flirting and she’s all, “We went over this two seasons ago. I don’t care if you flirt as long as you come back to me!” She tells Tony she flirts as well, and Tony shows how hypocritical he is when he doesn’t like the idea she flirts.

The band play one more rerun song…

…and our episode ends with Jake declaring he guesses he gets stressed out after all, and he’s learned the valuable lesson not to take on too much until next week when the writers will decide he has infinite time to do lots of shit again. Seriously, this might be the first time in the Engel-verse when it’s acknowledged just how much time all the shit these teens do would really take if they were real. I’m sure Jake’s lesson will be soon forgotten next week when he gets a job as a shark tamer, marries Tiffani, and makes the honor roll all in one episode.

“Take It Higher”
Mark singing

A snippet of an old song for the show to film. Not a lot to say that hasn’t been said before, other than I realized this time around this is probably one of the band’s better songs.

“Stand Together”
Mark and Jake singing

Another old song that sounds goofy as ever. Remember, this is the song that supposedly made a rock star want to plagiarize the band. Yeah, I’m still not buying it. The tune isn’t bad, but the lyrics are stupid as fuck, full of cliches and really dumb metaphors. Oh, California Dreams, no wonder you’re not really remembered for your songs.

Season 5, Episode 5: “Diss-Honored”

We open at school as Mark announces that Sam’s been voted the new president of the honor society. This is strange to me because I never pictured Sam and Mark would be the honor society members out of the group If you’d ask me, I would have picked Tiffani. Apparently, though, they decided throwing random attributes at two of the least developed characters on this show in its final season would work.

And it’s time to welcome back Harvey Kramden to the show. You may remember him as the guy who ran against Jake for student body president way back in season two’s “Vote of Confidence.” Well, he’s back, and he still looks way too old to be in high school, though his rich snob thing has toned down in favor of being just an overall jackass.

He’s here because he’s apparently been president of the honor society since he started at PCH back in 1968, and he’s none too happy that a more likable person than him was able to be democratically elected. He’s determined he’s going to bring down Sam by finding her soft spot. She swears she doesn’t have one, but Harvey thinks he’s spotted Sam’s when Tony walks up and they started doing disgusting baby talk that would make Hanson look butch by comparison.

The rest of the band need a subplot, too, so, when Sly gets excited about a potential $500 prize for some random photo contest that’s seeking to capture the human spirit, they all decide to enter because what else are they going to do?

Sam cancels a date with Tony, and this prompts Harvey to return and give Tony some bullshit about how he was a nice guy with a girlfriend as well before he was elected honor society president during colonial times and broke it off with his best girl, turning him into a jerk. Harvey starts planting bullshit in Tony’s mind that, now that Sam is the honor society president, he might as well say goodbye to her. Yeah, who’s she going to date? The only people in the honor society are a bunch of extras and Mark, and god help us if some poor girl ever dates Mark.

At Sharkey’s, Jake bemoans the fact he’s the only one that hasn’t been able to shoot a photo yet, and Sly reveals that all you have to do is yell some random girl’s name at a bunch of dumb jocks and you have a photo. Yeah, that’s the way it works.

Meanwhile, Tony starts talking about his insecurity with Sam, and it intensifies when she comes in and says the honor society are taking her out to see a movie tonight to celebrate her victory. She says he can’t come because the honor society at PCH is apparently as secretive as the Masons. Tony decides the only way for him to keep Sam is to get into the honor society, and that means getting an A on every midterm, which just happen to be in a few days.

At the loft, the band come in to find Tony studying for his midterms, but he just can’t get trigonometry. Turns out math is Tony’s worst subject, and he needs an A+ to get into the honor society.

Tiffani comes in with her photos and, coincidentally, took a picture of the trigonometry teacher. Somehow, the photo just happened to catch him holding the answers to every question on the midterm, which I call bullshit on. Unless his midterm is only one page and he was holding the questions towards the camera, there’s no way that’s even a possibility. Initially, Jake, Sly, and Lorena want to cheat, but Tiffani chastises them for thinking of something devious. She shames them and rips up the photo and drops it in the trash can as the four of them go to Sharkey’s, leaving the answers there for Tony to advance the plot.

Sometime later, Sam announces Tony got an A+ on the midterm, which means he gets to be in the honor society. The bell rings and everyone but Tony scatters because he needs to have a nervous breakdown. No, seriously, it’s time for the weird part of the episode as Tony apparently has such trouble committing a dishonest act he had a complete mental break.

Yes, it’s time for Tony’s conscious to manifest, represented by Tiffani, as well as his devious side, represented by Sly. I would like to believe that this makes it cannon that Sly is Satan incarnate given they chose to dress him in red shit. In any case, it’s the usual cliched sitcom device where Sly tells Tony he has nothing to feel bad about as Tiffani tries to make Tony feel guilty and want to make amends and shit. Tony flees the scene as he wonders if he’s completely lost it between this and the season two episode where he hallucinated he was in the wild west.

At Sharkey’s, Lorena gets a picture of a couple breaking up as Jake cries about still not having taken a good photo.

Meanwhile, Tony’s brush with insanity continues as Sam tells him there’s going to be a special meeting to induct him as a member because apparently PCH has such poor academics they can only admit one new student after the midterms. And, yes, Satan and the angel try to make Tony feel alternatively guilty and shitty because that’s how this cliche works. Jake and Lorena are even on hand to witness Tony’s break with reality as he starts arguing with himself.

Sam inducts Tony into the honor society in a way that’s much more formal than I ever remember it being.

And, yes, Tony’s insanity continues as Tiffani tries to make him feel bad about allowing Sam to swear him in while Sly tries to alleviate his guilt. Ultimately, Tony lets her swear him in.

Harvey comes in, saying he can’t believe Tony’s smart, especially when it comes to trigonometry. He challenges Tony to a “Smart-off” and, if they’re all so intelligent, why can’t they think of a better name for this shit. Sam says she’ll stake her reputation on Tony not cheating, and Tony accepts Harvey’s challenge, but then takes Sam in the hallway and tells her the truth. She gets mad at him for lying and storms off.

At the loft, Sam refuses to talk to Tony, and he tells the others about his cheating, and they act in about the same judgmental way you’d expect, telling him that the Tony Wicks they know wouldn’t cheat and shit. Wait, what do you base that assessment on? That came the fuck out of nowhere because we needed to hammer a message down the audience’s throat.

They march off in judgment, leaving Tony alone with Sly, who confirms he is Satan by telling Tony he’s okay for cheating and shit. Sly says Tony can’t tell anyone lest he get an F on his record. They decide the way to get around this shit is to cheat at the Smart-Off, and Sly gives Tony a lumberjack’s hat with an ear piece in it so he can hear Sly give him the answers. This sounds like a really bad idea. I wouldn’t trust Sly to ever give me the right answers.

Well, the rest of the band is pretty much continuing to judge Tony and shit, making him feel bad…

…and we get to the Smart-Off, which starts with Mark reading Tony and Harvey a question about trigonometry.

Tony wrestles with Satan and the angel as to whether to wear the hat or not as all of Sharkey’s sits there and witnesses the mental downfall of Tony Wicks. He ultimately comes clean and confesses to everyone that he cheated.

This leads to Harvey gloating that he was right and declaring that this means he should be president of the honor society again, because Sam dating a cheater somehow makes her not qualified. The rest of Sharkey’s agrees that this is shitty logic and, instead, vote Harvey off the show, saying it’s about time he graduated after all these decades.  With Sam and the rest of the band instantly forgiving Tony, it looks like we’re just about wrapped up with less than a minute to go.

At school, Tony comes from a meeting with Principal Blumford to reveal that he’s getting an F but, since he came clean, they’re going to let him retake it and average the grades. None of what I just typed makes any sense. If he got an F, how does he get to retake it and what does it mean to average the grades? I don’t understand! Also, Tony’s father is an employee of the school. Why isn’t he there? In any case, it’s all stupid and we get our stupid moral: being in the honor society has nothing to do with being honorable.

And our episode ends with Jake revealing he took a picture of Tony confessing, a picture of honor, and he gloats that his photos are better than any of Sly’s. Whoa, there, Jake. You didn’t win the contest yet, unless bad writing means they forgot to tell us that. In any case, I’m not sure why we ended on the subplot since it was barely in the episode, but what are you going to do when this show has sunk this far into the cliches?

No song this week.

Season 5, Episode 4: “Mop n’ Pop”

We open in the hallway at PCH as Tony, apparently tired of being in a relationship that doesn’t seem like a relationship half the time, prepares to shoot Sam. Maybe we’re about to go back to whatever that weird court was last season that facilitated the clip show episode.

Before he can, though, Sam sees him and shoots first. I’m sure one day George Lucas will rectify that. Now, I know that this is silly string she’s firing. Between the poor quality of the video and Tony’s reaction, though, I thought we were witnessing the return of the Oozinator:

So it turns out this entire display is an advertisement for our subplot, in which Sly somehow thinks he invented shooting silly string out of a gun and that game where you get a person’s name, try to shoot them with a harmless gun, and see who’s the last one standing and shit. But I guess putting two things together makes them original, ind of like how The New Class was completely original because they mixed up the prefab characteristics of the original six.

In any case, Sly wants everyone to play, and, when they aren’t enthusiastic about the prize being a date with him, he agrees to let the winner keep the guns, because you totally couldn’t just buy a damned gun in the store. Mark says Sly just wants to sell the guns, and I’d say he’s going to have some patent infringement lawsuits in his future but this is the show where Jake refused to sue a guy for blatantly stealing his song because he didn’t care about the money.

Oh, and, of course, Sly calls his game “Baboom,” and shooting someone is called “babooming” them. I’m not sure the writers fully thought through the possible sexual implications of this name.

Speaking of Jake, we meet his father, Al. Through some exposition, we find out Al was laid off from his job as an airline mechanic and has been looking for work. Well, he’s found a job and it’s convenient enough to create conflict for this week’s plot: Al is the new janitor at PCH! Naturally, since Jake is all heutey teutey since about this second, he doesn’t like the idea of his father doing menial shit like being a janitor.

Jake and Al eat lunch in the classroom for some reason as they have a father/son bonding moment.

This is convenient, as it allows them to see two Stingray ripoffs come in playing Sly’s game and, as Tony and Sam get them out, they make it a point to flail about the room and make as big a mess as possible, scattering shit everywhere because they were obviously given direction to create one of the most ridiculous falls in the history of television. On top of that, they’re all, “We’re not cleaning up our shit because we’re better than that and want to create as much conflict between you and your father as possible,” so Al cleans up the shit while Jake looks horrified. Meanwhile, I’m thinking that all Al would have to do in a competent school is find Principal Blumford and those idiots would have to clean up their shit. This is the Engel-verse, though. I’m not sure why Al is so laid back about people creating work for him.

At Sharkey’s, Al comes in to let Jake know he’s going to be late coming home because he has to stay and clean toilet bowls, because that’s such difficult work he has to work all through the night I guess.

Sly makes a smart ass comment, and Jake’s ready to pound him.

But then Jake proceeds to start tripping on those mushrooms he took and imagines the entire band making fun of him for having a janitor as a father. Really, I’m less concerned about Jake’s embarrassment at this point as to whether he’s about to OD. He decides the magic mushrooms are telling him the truth, though, and he has to find a way to get his father to quit being a janitor.

His brilliant solution is to set up the band, who each happen to have the name of someone else from the band in an amazingly contrived twist, to have some epic showdown in the hallway. And, since this is the week of ridiculous falls, they proceed to throw shit around everywhere…

…meaning Al has to clean up the mess because Jake’s friends are a bunch of messy assholes. Except the band offers to help Al clean up, but Al, apparently being resigned to misery as his fate, tells them he’s all too happy to lean up after them.

Oh, the game? Yeah, it was so stupid I forgot it was still going on. Tiffani, Mark, and Lorena are all out, in case you gave a shit.

In the classroom, turns out Jake didn’t have lunch with his father today, and Tiffani worries Jake is being disrespectful and shit to his father.

Sly comes in “disguised” as a janitor so Sam can’t get him in the game, and she pops out of the trash can and gets him. She finds out Tony is her next target.

Since we need some more stupid conflict, Jake assumes that Sly’s idiocy is being disrespectful to his father, and Sly proceeds to do nothing to make himself look good by cracking a bunch of jokes about Al. So what do we end up with?

Why, it’s a rip-off of the Saved by the Bell episode “The Fight,” of course! Except that episode worked because Zack Morris and Slater shared a common conflict and had been shown to have built a friendship over the four seasons of the show. Jake and Sly have no common conflict, and Jake’s been shown to hate Sly on more than one occasion. We needed a stupid fight to push the plot forward, though, and we got it, right up to the teacher coming in and taking Jake and Sly off to see Principal Blumford.

In the hallway, Al asks Tiffani what the fuck happened, and she tells him he should ask Jake. Al realizes Jake’s ashamed of him and lies to him, telling him the airline brought him back on and he’s quitting as janitor. Jake’s overjoyed because now his family can have money that won’t conflict with his classist tendencies.

At the loft, Tony shoots the last extra to be in the game, and is shocked for some reason to find out Sam is his next target. Um, Tony, you’re not too bright are you? If you and Sam get everyone out, you’re eventually going to be the last two left. Why is this such a shock? He wonders whether he can shoot Sam but Mark says she’s going to fuck up Tony’s shit and he decides he can.

The rest of the band also lets Sly know he was a piece of shit, as normal, for how he pushed Jake’s buttons.

Sly and Jake instantly make up, but then comes one of those conflict resolving moments the Engel-verse occasionally has that just comes so out of left field it makes me laugh hysterically. See, Jake finds out his father lied about getting his job as a mechanic back and Sly proceeds to tell Jake he’s a piece of shit for how he treated his father. Yes, Sly’s father, who’s never been mentioned on this show before, apparently works so much he doesn’t have time to be interested in Sly’s life. Um, show, you did this exact same plot last season when you didn’t have the guts to portray a suicidal teen. Why wouldn’t Sly use this to empathize with the caller in that episode? Why would he just pull this out of his ass now?

The only answer I can reasonably come to is that Sly’s a lying piece of shit like he always is and he did that to manipulate Jake, who runs out to find his father and apologize.

Meanwhile, Sam comes in, and she and Tony use Sly and Mark as human shields to keep the other from shooting. No, no, no. That’s not how you do it at all! You need live ammunition first if you’re going to use those two as your human shields.

In Jake’s room, Al apologizes for not being the father Jake wanted and Jake apologizes for being a piece of shit son. They makeup, but Al is still unemployed I guess. I was distracted by the fact they acknowledged Jake has a brother as that’s something that hasn’t been talked about since season two.

At Sharkey’s, the band plays a song, a novelty for them nowadays.

Sly announces Tony and Sam are both winners and get to keep their guns because apparently everyone at Sharkey’s gives a shit about the random antics our band was up to this week, and they say they just love each other so much they can’t shoot the other. I call bullshit on this, not because of the sappy ending, but because Sly would have used this as an excuse for no one to win and no one getting to keep the guns. But, never you mind, our episode ends with Sam shooting Tony, because love doesn’t mean shit to her when she has an Oozinator war to end!

And, yes, that’s really the end. No better resolution for the plot with Jake and Al. Oh, Al is randomly in the audience during their song, but I guess we’re lead to believe that Al’s just unemployed for the rest of the series now because Jake couldn’t get over his fear of being working class even though that’s totally his image and shit.

Mark singing

Another repeat song. I’m beginning to wonder whether the show had run out of songs at this point and was just recycling whatever might loosely fit with the them of the show. It still sounds like they’re trying way too hard to be UB40, and its just odd for a band that purports to be rock-inspired. It’s also continuing proof that Mark is not needed in this band. Sam’s on keyboards this week and Jake could have easily been on drums. Remind me again why he’s a character on this show when he barely ever does anything?

Season 5, Episode 3: “Honest Sly”

We open with Jake, Tiffani, Lorena, and Mark watching Sam drive erratically because it’s fun to watch your friends nearly kill themselves and random homeowners cutting their grass. In the Engel-verse, the California BMV is apparently so incompetent they let just anyone have a drivers license, even if they nearly kill pedestrians.

Poor Tony. At this point, he probably wonders why he can’t cut a break on this show and keeps getting plots that nearly kill him.

In any case, they all tune in to a channel Sly had told them to watch, only to see he’s become a used car salesman with the nickname “Honest Sly,” because that’s your first clue this lot is going to sell you crap. If Sly’s boss looks familiar, it’s because we’re welcoming back someone I’ve covered before. Yes, this is Gem Diamond. You may remember him as the piece of crap that sold Zack Morris a bunch of crappy class rings in the Saved by the Bell season four episode, “Class Rings.” Well, apparently Peter Engel thought this was the character people were begging for more of so here he is, back and now selling crappy used cars instead of crappy rings. What’s next: is he going to be back on Hang Time hawking encyclopedias door-to-door?

Well, in any case, the rest of the band decide that used car salesman is the perfect job for a piece of crap like Sly. My sentiments exactly.

At Sharkey’s, Sly gives everyone a business card just as Sam finds out her uncle is giving her $1,000 to buy a used car. Gee, I wonder what the plot of this episode is going to be.

Meanwhile, we find out what the subplot is going to be this episode: Mark is in love with yet another woman who doesn’t want him to touch her, and who can blame her? Lorena tells Mark that he needs a girlfriend so women will think he’s actually desirable and, since she’s not doing anything else this episode, she’ll pretend to be his girlfriend if he does her homework, because we might as well find some kind of use for Mark.

At the car lot, Sly does the predictable and immediately tries to sell Sam a piece of crap car that Gem can’t get rid of with promises of double commission. He pressures Sam not to wait for Jake to check the car out and, instead, Tony shows his fragile masculinity by pretending to know shit about cars. Sam ends up buying it on the spot because everyone’s taken leave of their senses and think Sly is trustworthy now.

At Sharkey’s, Sam’s acting quite the diva over owning a piece of crap car but everyone’s surprised she didn’t have Jake check it out first. Sam agrees to have Jake check it out after school because they suddenly realize Sly’s an untrustworthy piece of crap.

Meanwhile, Sly’s bragging about selling four more cars and shit and has money now.

And Lorena’s continuing to let Mark do shit for her like polish her boots, and, somehow, the girl Mark likes is taking notice because she now thinks Mark is touchable.

At the loft, Jake reveals that, surprise, surprise, the car has a ton of problems. Jake suggests she go and get her money back from Sly while everyone else follows behind so Tiffani can try to tell Mark that his subplot is stupid and he shouldn’t be doing Lorena’s dry cleaning.

At the lot, Sly and Gem refuse to give Sam a refund, pointing out the “all sales final” small print. Yeah, I looked it up. This is complete bullshit as, in California, a used car lot is required to take back a car within ten days of purchase. That wouldn’t make for nearly as goo stupid drama, though, so we’re going with it because plot. Sam and Tony drive off in a huff…

…and Sam almost immediately hits a telephone pole, the result of faulty brakes on the car. Gem still won’t budge and the gang leave, giving their best “you have a lesson to learn” face to Sly as he begins to process the message of the week.

See, Sly claims he didn’t know anything was wrong with the car, despite the fact that he seemed to be fully aware of how much of a piece of crap it was when Gem said he couldn’t get rid of it. I’m calling bullshit on this entire plot: Sly’s just hi usual piece of crap self, and I’m sure the plot’s about to try and convince me otherwise.

At school, Mark continues to do shit for Lorena, and the girl he likes tells him she’d like to date him. He pretend breaks up with Lorena and she immediately gives him chores to do because she’s as smart as Lorena is. There’s only one use for Mark, and that’s as a lackey slave. Yeah, there’s no real resolution to this subplot. Mark just keeps acting as her slave through the end of the episode and never learns a lesson. I’d like to think he’s still doing shit for her to this day.

Sly wonders why he’s feeling like crap, and Jake says maybe it’s because he is crap. They have a heart to heart, and Sly says he knows what he has to do to bring some sort of educational lesson to this episode.

At the loft, the band watch Gem’s new commercial, and it’s a good thing commercials are shot live in the Engel-verse because otherwise nothing Sly’s about to do would make any sense. Sly, along with Tony and Sam, confront Gem on TV and get him to agree to give Sam a full refund. Afterwards, Gem is impressed by Sly’s scheming and wants him to stay, but he decides to go be a piece of crap elsewhere rather than continuing to sell cheap ass cars.

Tony and Sam are impressed that Sly came through like he did and this resolution totally makes up for him being a piece of crap through the rest of the episode. And our episode ends with one more jab at Sam being a bad driver, because women just be bad drives, right guys? Come on, someone give me a high five, or it means I can’t count on the stereotypes of the Engel-verse to be reliable in any way whatsoever!

No song this week.

Season 5, Episode 2: “Shaken, Rattled, and Rolled”

We open with Sly dumping trash all over the floor of the loft. As Lorena freaks out and says she’s calling 9-1-1, no doubt to soon appear in a YouTube compilation of people who overreacted to annoying but relatively minor circumstances. Sly explains that this is the trash of a famous record producer named Joey D’errico, and Sly’s hope is to find something in his garbage to blackmail him into giving the band an audition. Eh, it seems solid as any other plot on this damned show.

He soon finds a pony tail wig among the garbage, and decides to blackmail Joey for being…bald? Okay, not the most solid plan after all I guess. In fact, it’s quite stupid the more I think about it, but we need something to get our plot going.

Tiffani shows up and gives us her minor subplot for the week: she’s now working for the animal shelter and shit because cute animals.

While Tony’s playing the drums in celebration of this weeks dumb subplots, suddenly, an earthquake happens and, since California so rarely has earthquakes, it means no one knows what to do! Tony gets up to retrieve a cymbal right as an amp falls on his chair. Oh, god, The New Class copied this plot really badly, didn’t they?

At school, Tony’s yelling about how thankful he is to be alive. Come on, Tony, Sly dropped an amp on you last season and you survived. What makes you think this would have been anything more than “Operation Tony, Part 2”? But, seriously, yeah, Tony has PTSD now, and I bet it’s not going to be a serious examination of the subject knowing the Engel-verse.

Tiffani brings a bunch of animals to school since there seems to be no rules about that at PCH, and says they need foster homes after the earthquake. Jake takes a bulldog, Sly an iguana, Tiffani a larger mutt, and Tony a cute little beagle that I just want to hug and kiss and pet. Can you tell I like beagles? None of these animals play a role in the plot. They’re basically there to give the producers an excuse to bring in cute animals.

Tiffani tries to get Lorena to take a rabbit, but she’s all, “EEEW! ANIMALS AND SHIT!” so Sam says she’ll take the rabbit and hide it in her room from Lorena since they need a minor subplot.

Also, Sly arranges the blackmail for Joey to come watch the band play.

At Sharkey’s, Lorena’s mad because something ate her hat because that subplot is so important and going places. There’s also a cute beagle trip even though Lorena rightfully points out that dogs shouldn’t be in restaurants. They shouldn’t be in school, either, but that didn’t stop this show!

Sly comes in with Joey, who watches the band try to play. Tony’s terrified of playing drums now, though, because he was playing drums when the earthquake happened and shit. Rather than breaking into one of their songs that don’t involve drums, the band just sit there, and Joey takes his wig and goes home, telling Sly they blew their chance.

At school the next day, Tony’s now afraid to come inside because shit might fall on him, and Jake pointing out that shit can fall on him outside doesn’t phase him because this show is set in the Engel-verse. The band’s teacher give them a lesson on earthquakes and shit but only seems mildly concerned that Tony is suddenly so freaked out he can’t come inside and is basically having a nervous breakdown because, you know, California has so few earthquakes this is the first he’s experienced.

At Sharkey’s the next day, Sly reveals he used the iguana to scare Joey last night into running outside in his bathrobe, and took pictures of him with no wig on. So now Sly has more blackmail on Joey and the band get a second audition.

But Tony’s still freaking out about earthquakes an shit and now wearing lots of stuff all over him He’s even put shit on the beagle just because they want me to go, “AWWW!” along with the studio audience. When he can’t even be intimate in public places with Sam, he says he admits he has a problem and doesn’t know what to do. It’s then that the most brilliant member of the band declares he has a plan to help Tony. Yes, I’m sure Mark will definitely be the one to save the day like he usually does!

At the loft, Lorena finds out Sam has the rabbit through a complicated series of interactions involving Sam not liking carrots. Yeah, I’m not quite sure what I just witnessed either. In any case, Sam says she’ll keep the rabbit in the garage, putting a stop to that useless subplot

The band then put Mark’s idea into action: simulating an earthquake while Tony plays drums by having Jake and Sly jump up and down on a wobbly stage prop while everyone else throws shit around the room. You know, if I didn’t know I was watching an actual episode of California Dreams, I’d think I had stumbled across a really bad satire of Peter Engel shows. This episode is fucking ridiculous. In any case, as one can expect, Mark’s idea sucks and sends Tony running straight into a wall as Sam says she’ll call his parents.

The next day, we get some dialogue about the animal shelter being fixed so everyone gave back their animals. Tony comes in, saying he adopted the beagle and is taking him to Ohio. Turns out Tony’s decided to move to Ohio to live with his aunt so he can get away from earthquakes, except that Ohio does have earthquakes, just not as many as California. Don’t tell the writers that. I mean, did we actually expect them to do research and shit?

As they’re talking, there’s suddenly an aftershock. Now, it’s been at least three days and, technically, an aftershock can occur that long after the original earthquake. It’s extremely unlikely, though, especially given how small the original earthquake was this time. Don’t tell the writers that, though. They needed an excuse to have Tony freak out even more as he stands in the doorway and exclaims how he can’t wait to get the fuck out of LA.

At Sharkey’s, Tiffani reveals she quit her job after she found out she’s working for a kill shelter, and Lorena adopted all the animals to keep them from being killed because she suddenly had a miraculous change of heart during the commercial break. How much you want to bet we never hear about any of her many new animals again?

Tony comes to say goodbye to everyone as Joey comes in to hear the band play again, this time with a drum machine. Tony suddenly realizes that, during the aftershock, he stood in a doorway as he was supposed to and everything is fine. This instantly cures Tony’s PTSD as the writers took this serious condition about as seriously as I expected, and he convinces the rest of the band to let him play. Seriously, this pisses me off. All it took was thirty seconds of Tony being all, “I DID GOOD!” and PTSD…cured! Maybe Tony should go treat returning war vets if he’s that good.

The band play a song…

Joey nods in approval, and our episode ends with another filler episode out of the way, the results of which I’m betting won’t change anything for the rest of the series. Wow, this episode was all over the fucking place, like it couldn’t decide which of these asinine plots it wanted to focus on. The only good part was the beagle. If they had just showed the beagle on-screen for twenty minutes and let me ooh and aww at him, it would have been a much better episode.

“She’s Not You”
Jake singing

Another repeat song, and not much to say about it over the last two times it was used. It’s obvious they picked this song for one reason: it has a gratuitous drum solo from Tony that gives him the opportunity to prove he’s successfully overcome his PTSD erely by thinking about it. It’s not a bad song. I just wish we could have a few more original songs, or was Steve Tyrell just phoning it in by this point in the series so they figured they might as well get as much use out of the music he’s previously composed as possible?

Season 5, Episode 1: “Stand By Your Man”

I should give a note about season five at the outset. This is the only season of California Dreams that’s never been released on DVD. As a result, I’m dependent on whatever quality I can find the episodes in online. As can be seen from my screenshots, that may not always be the best, so I apologize in advance, but know there’s really nothing I can do.

We open to discover Jake dressed as a pirate and doing some really horrible stereotypical rendition. Turns out Jake has a job at what I assume to be a seafood restaurant since they seem to be trying to plagiarize Long John Silver’s gimmick. It’s never quite explained why he’s doing it, whether for a television commercial or if the restaurant is that stupid and makes him greet every customer like that, but he’s there and he’s doing it god damn it!

Turns out the tape belongs to Sly and Tony, who have a stupid subplot this week about looking for a video to send in to an America’s Funniest Home Videos rip-off, and they’re sure Jake dressed as a pirate will win! I would say this is idiotic and nobody would find this funny, but, in the Bob Saget era of the show, this might have been considered hilarious.

In any case, Jake comes in and makes them hand over the tape, which will send them looking for a new subject the entire episode.

Jake tells Tiffani he quit the job because he doesn’t like to do stupid shit even though he frequently participates in the antics of the band. He needs a job, though, because he suddenly doesn’t have enough to pay for his motorcycle insurance even though this has never been an issue before. Lucky for him, Tiffani anticipated Jake would be no good at acting like a pirate and found Jake a job to apply for: as a motorcycle mechanic.

And Sly and Tony decide that Mark will be their target the rest of the episode as he pretends french fries are walrus tusks. No, guys, Mark isn’t funny. He’s just pathetic. You’d be better off tracking down Dennis Garrison and getting him to wave at the camera for a few minutes than to get Mark to do anything. This is what the producers thought would make a good subplot, though, so we’re stuck with it for the duration.

Jake, Tiffani, and Mark, for some reason, all visit the garage, where Jake finds the manager is a beautiful woman named Mel. She doesn’t want to hire Jake at first because Mark’s practically drooling all over her (another reason not to take Mark within the proximity of any woman), but she changes her mind when Jake knows exactly what’s wrong with the motorcycle he’s working on and hires him.

At the loft, Sly and Tony try to plan a trap for Mark that will get him wet because getting Mark wet is sure to be hilarious enough for them to win money and shit. Yeah, I guess there may be enough people like me out there who take pleasure in Mark receiving pain. Unfortunately, the sink backfires and drenches Sly instead. Somehow I see where this subplot is going.

Jake’s cancelled on a date to work late so Sam and Lorena decide to be shitty friends and insist that Jake is cheating on Tiffani with Mel, because it’s that kind of episode. I don’t understand this at all. Jake’s never shown a proclivity to cheating. This is some of the worst writing I’ve seen on this show. Jake’s cheating because of pretty girl? Give me a break. Tiffani thinks it’s equally stupid and tells them she trusts Jake and shit, which will probably last about through to the next commercial break.

At school, another of Sly and Tony’s hilarious traps for Mark backfires and sends confetti all over them because that’s funny and shit.

Jake apologizes to Tiffani for missing the last date but insists he’ll be there for their date today.

Sam and Lorena continue to be shitty friends, rinse and repeat. I swear, this plot is so predictable. What’s worse is Lorena dated Jake. She of all people should know their suspicions are completely out of character. After all, he broke up with her rather than cheat on her with Tiffani. But we need an excuse for a contrived plot so there you go.

At Sharkey’s, another stupid trap doesn’t work in the bathroom and this is the result. Hell, did they throw some dynamite in there? And what was there plan if someone used the toilet before Mark? There’s just too many variables in this stupid Wile E. Coyote rip-off plot.

Sam and Lorena continue to be shitty friends by putting a lie detector cushion on Jake’s chair that will send a jolt through when he lies because that’s totally a thing. Apparently, Jake thinking Mel is pretty meas he’s fucking her and shit. This means that it’s time for a ridiculous costume plot, which we haven’t seen on this show in a while actually.

Yes, the girls show up at the garage dressed as ZZ Top, because that’s what all bikers look like apparently. They literally wander around the garage until Mel asks if she can help them, and, I have to admit, their voices aren’t terrible for once and they do pass for old motorcycle people, so it might be one of the better dress-up plots to come out of the Engel-verse.

In any case, Tiffani’s about ready to give up when Mel falls and Jake catches her in his arms. This is obvious proof they’re fucking, so Tiffani confronts him and Mel fires Jake for having dumb ass friends. Jake storms out, saying he can’t believe how stupid this has all been.

At school, Sam and Lorena apologize for being really shitty friends, and Tiffani says she’s to blame as well even though she wasn’t having those thoughts until Sam and Lorena started whispering them to her. In any case, they want to come up with a zany scheme to get Jake his job back, but Jake won’t talk to Tiffani, saying she just doesn’t get it.

Also, yet another of Sly and Tony’s traps apparently backfired, as Sly gives some advice to Tiffani: that Jake’s not mad about the job but about the lack of trust. Besides this being out of character for Sly, which shouldn’t surprise me given how many characters are acting different from normal this episode, I’m calling bullshit on the advice: it’s possible for Jake to be mad about both the job AND the lack of trust. People can be mad about two different things at once you know.

At Sharkey’s, it’s revealed that Mark re-rigged all of Sly and Tony’s traps to get them so he could win the contest, which I call complete bullshit on. First of all, it’s Mark, and I don’t believe he’s smart enough to do that. Second of all, how did he re-rig the sink in the loft if Tony was adjusting it right before Mark came in? This entire stupid subplot makes no sense, but what’s new for the Engel-verse?

Meanwhile, Jake’s still avoiding Tiffani, but she reveals she figured out about the lack of trust, and Jake gives the moral of the episode: they’re just going to have to trust each other that they won’t fuck every person of the opposite sex they see, which…wow, really shallow moral there, guys. I think everyone who doesn’t abuse their significant other learns that lesson at some point but, you know, I guess some people needed Peter Engel to give them that bit of wisdom.

In any case, the reset button is pressed, the band sings plays a song so Jake can sing to Tiffani (once again highlighting how superfluous Mark is in this show since he’s playing guitar this time with Jake singing), and our episode ends with me thinking that, even though this was a really dumb episode, it’s at least a better start to the season than many of the episodes in the last season.

“Whenever I Think of You”
Jake Singing

A repeat from a previous season, this is just as easy listening-tastic as it was the first time around. I mean, it absolutely sounds like one of those bad early nineties love songs that were bound to end up on horrible compilation records from Time Life Music, so I guess it does what it set out to do. What else can one say that I didn’t say before, other than that this is what’s passing for a rock band’s song well into the era of grunge, pop punk, and adult alternative. Yeah, I’m not sure the producers were actively listening to the radio at this point.

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.