NBC, helped mostly by the efforts of Peter Engel, launched TNBC in 1992. For the most part, the shows followed the same formula perfected by “Saved by the Bell“: a bunch of high school kids who hung out at a restaurant (The Max), had one ridiculously over-the-top friend (Screech), and went through artificially-contrived circumstances, all while learning a valuable lesson in the end.
“California Dreams” took this formula and ran with it. Lacking a Mr. Belding-style authority figure, the show took the “Zack Attack” premise from Saved by the Bell and turned it up to 11: the kids on “California Dreams” would be in a band called California Dreams.
(Hard to improve on this look)
The kids being in a band provided a great excuse to have them hang out all the time, and left room for the band manager, Sly, to slide into the “Screech” role. Now, there are about 17 implausibilities that run through the course of the series (and frequent each episode): Did every party take place at Sharkey’s? Did the band book gigs anywhere but Sharkey’s or a school dance? Did Jake really fall in love with everyone that quickly? What happened to Matt? How could a show that was ostensibly about the Garrisons in season 1 continue to exist in season 3 when they had all moved away?
But, at the end of the day, the show works best when you take it simply for the cheesiness it provides. I’ve included the link to a great season 3 episode here. It is so choice. Why is this particular episode good at illuminating what the show was? Let’s count the ways:
1. It had a cameo by Mr. Belvedere
2. As per usual, the episode closes with the gang singing (lip-syncing) at Sharkey’s
3. The way she pronounces “Lorena Costa”
4. Sly’s frequent use of “Baboom”
5. A CAMEO BY MR. BELVEDERE. AS A HIGH SCHOOL GUIDANCE COUNSELOR. Yes, this bears repeating.
This man makes everything better.
Most of this cast reunited on Jimmy Fallon in 2012, and the years have not exactly been kind (Jay Anthony Franke….yikes). But you get the sense that the cast always knew what this show was: pure, pop fun for 22 minutes every Saturday morning. “Saved by the Bell” is, for people of my age group, a defining show – everyone’s watched it, everyone knows the words to the theme song, everyone has gotten “so excited.”
Perfect Saturday relaxation, though? “California Dreams” has it over “Saved by the Bell” in spades. Let’s just compare the two theme songs.
“When I wake up in the morning and the alarm gives out a warning and I don’t think I’ll ever make it on time. By the time I grab my books and give myself a look I’m at the corner just in time to see the bus fly by.” Sounds pretty stressful to be a student at Bayside. Compare that to:
“Sky above, sand below, good vibrations, feeling mellow. Don’t give it up, don’t want to stop, don’t wake me up, don’t wake me up if I’m dreaming California Dreams, just let me lay here in the sun until my dream is done.”