California DreamsCalifornia Dreams is an American teen sitcom television series that aired on NBC from September 12, 1992 to December 14, 1996, as part of the network's Saturday morning block, TNBC. Created by writers Brett Dewey and Ronald B. Solomon, and executive produced by Peter Engel, all known for their work on Saved by the Bell, the series centers on the friendships of a group of teenagers (shifting toward a multi-ethnic makeup beginning with the show's second season) who form the fictional titular band.
SynopsisThe show, whose plots combined real-life issues with zany adventures, centered on the lives of the California Dreams, a group originally consisting of four members – expanding to five in the second season – dealing with their attempts to make it big as musicians, as well as learning lessons about life and friendship. Several episodes of the series covered a range of topics such as fear, drug use (specifically, the use of steroids for a competitive edge), racism, falling for scams, letting greed overtake friendship, dealing with a parent dating after divorce, forgiving others for past wrongs, and other general teen social issues.
Original format and character historyCalifornia Dreams originally was intended to be a family sitcom, mainly centering on the Garrison family, who moved to Southern California from Iowa at an undisclosed point prior to the timeline of the series. In the first season, the show's main characters were Matt Garrison (Brent Gore), the band's leader, and his younger sister Jenny (Heidi Noelle Lenhart), who is the pianist/vocalist of the group. The remainder of the Garrison family included father Richard (Michael Cutt), mother Melody (Gail Ramsey), and their youngest son, Dennis (Ryan O'Neill).
The other main characters were bass player Tiffani Smith (Kelly Packard), drummer Tony Wicks (William James Jones), and the band's teen manager, Sylvester "Sly" Winkle (Michael Cade) – all three of which were the only characters who appeared on the show throughout its entire five-season run.
Season 2Because NBC executives did not like the show's original format, Engel, Dewey, and Solomon refocused the show's plotline from balancing stories involving both the band and the Garrison family, to just the teens who formed the California Dreams band for its second season. Cutt was downgraded to a recurring cast member, O'Neill was written out entirely before the season began, and Lenhart and Ramsey were both written out after the season's third episode "Ciao, Jenny", with Lenhart's character Jenny being the first main character to leave the show (the character lands a spot at a music conservatory in Italy).
In the season's premiere episode "Jake's Song", Jake Sommers (Jay Anthony Franke) was introduced as the California Dreams' fifth member, acting as the band's second guitarist. Four episodes later in "Wooing Woo", Samantha "Sam" Woo (Jennie Kwan), a foreign exchange student from Hong Kong whom the Garrisons take into their home (staying in Jenny's former bedroom), was added as a main character. When Sam auditions for the band, their approval of her performance results in her taking Jenny's place as the band's vocalist.
Season 3Brent Gore became more and more frustrated by his diminished role on the show during the second season. Disenchanted by the new direction of his character, he decided to depart the series after Season 2 concluded. By Season 3, the sitcom's original premise was dropped completely when Matt was written out of the show (in the third-season premiere "The Unforgiven", it is briefly referenced that the Garrison family moved away). In Matt's place, the band hired Mark Winkle (Aaron Jackson), Sly's shy cousin from New York, who is the opposite in personality (depicted as nice but naive, compared to Sly's depiction, which is similar to that of the stereotypical manipulative-driven depictions of Hollywood managers). Also added as a series regular was Lorena Costa (Diana Uribe), the privileged daughter from a wealthy family who takes Sam into their home after the Garrisons' departure. Sommers took over as leader and main songwriter of the band from Garrison.
Series finaleThe series finale, "The Last Gig", found the band on the verge of embarking on new crossroads in life. Set months after the characters graduated from the fictional Pacific Coast High School in "Graduation" (which aired three episodes earlier), the episode deals with the band preparing to attend school separately the following week (with Tiffani planning to attend the University of Hawaii to study marine biology, Sam moving to England to study physics at Oxford University, Tony going to study acting at an undisclosed location, Mark planning to move back home to New York to study at Juilliard, and Sly and Lorena both attending Pacific University). While the other members look forward to start their new lives, Jake attempts to keep the band together. When a music producer offers Jake a record contract, he initially refuses, since the rest of the band was not given one as well. Tiffani convinces Jake that she and the other band members have moved past the Dreams and want to discover new things, convincing Jake to take the offer. The episode ends with the California Dreams playing their final gig, before giving their tearful goodbyes to one another.
The Garrison family
The cast who played the band on California Dreams reunited on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon on March 4, 2010, and played the show's theme song.
Critical receptionCalifornia Dreams was not well received critically. Rebecca Ascher-Walsh of Entertainment Weekly gave the series a grade of "F", and stated that "California Dreams can be accused of a lot of things, but originality isn’t one of them", and added that "California Dreams producer Franco E. Bario (who is also behind Saved by the Bell) may have good intentions, but it’s hard to imagine what they were." Los Angeles Times reviewer Lynne Heffley considered the show nothing more than "a "Saved by the Bell" clone set in an upscale beach town".
DVD releasesShout! Factory released the first four seasons of California Dreams on DVD in Region 1 between 2009-2011. Seasons 3 and 4 were released as Shout! Factory Exclusives titles, available exclusively through their online store. As of 2016, Seasons 1-4 and The Best of... DVDs can be purchased on Amazon. It is unknown if season 5 will be released.
On July 19, 2011, Mill Creek Entertainment released a ten-episode best-of set, The Best of California Dreams, a single-disc set that features episodes from the first three seasons.♦ - Shout! Factory Exclusives title, sold exclusively through Shout's online store
MusicCalifornia Dreams had a self-titled studio album on CD and cassette. The songs on the soundtrack are as follows: #This Time #Castles on Quicksand #Everybody's Got Someone #Rain #Let Me Be the One #If You Only Knew #One World #If You Lean on Me #If It Wasn't for You #Love Is Not Like This #Heart Don't Lie #California Dreams
The single "This Time" can also be found on CD format but is very rare to find. There was also a California Dreams Anthology album made but only for the cast members but these have been found on sites such as eBay and Amazon.
Awards and nominations
SyndicationReruns of California Dreams briefly aired on TBS in the late 1990s.
The show aired on The Children's Channel and later Trouble in the UK in the 1990s.