California Dreams Image

California Dreams was an NBC network sitcom series created by Brett Dewey & Ronald B. Solomon.

The show aired from September 12, 1992 to December 14, 1996, lasting for five seasons & 78 episodes.

It was produced by Peter Engel Productions, NBC Productions (for seasons 1-4) and NBC Studios (in season 5).

Plot[edit | edit source]

The series centered on the friendships of a group of teenagers who form a band called the California Dreams and the issues that they face in their lives.

Cast[edit | edit source]

  • Brent Gore as Matt Garrison (1992–1994)
  • Heidi Noelle Lenhart as Jenny Garrison (1992–1993)
  • Michael Cutt as Richard Garrison (1992–1993, regular; 1993–1994, recurring)
  • Gail Ramsey as Melody Garrison (1992–1993, regular; 1993, guest star)
  • Ryan O'Neill as Dennis Garrison (1992–1993)
  • Kelly Packard as Tiffani Anne Smith
  • William James Jones as Antoine "Tony" Wicks
  • Michael Cade as Sylvester 'Sly' Winkle
  • Jay Anthony Franke as Jacob Samuel "Jake" Sommers (1993–1996; singing voice performed by Barry Coffing)
  • Jennie Kwan as Samantha Woo Deswanchoo (1993–1996)
  • Aaron Jackson as Mark Edward Winkle (1994–1996; singing voice performed by Zachary Throne)
  • Diana Uribe as Lorena Marina Costa (1994–1996)

Production[edit | edit source]

Original show format and character history[edit | edit source]

"California 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 2[edit | edit source]

Because 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, 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 3[edit | edit source]

Brent 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 leave the series after the end of Season 2.

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 finale[edit | edit source]

The 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.

Critical Reception[edit | edit source]

"California 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".

Accolades[edit | edit source]

Year Award Result Category Recipient
1993 Young Artist Awards Nominated Outstanding Young Ensemble Cast in a Youth Series or Variety Show Michael Cade, Brent Gore, William James Jones, Heidi Lenhart and Kelly Packard
Best Young Actress in a New Television Series Heidi Lenhart
Best Young Actor in an Off-Primetime Series Ryan O'Neill
1994 Young Artist Awards Nominated Outstanding Youth Ensemble in a Cable or Off Primetime Series Michael Cade, Jay Anthony Franke, Brent Gore, William James Jones, Kelly Packard, and Ryan O'Neill
1996 NCLR Bravo Awards Nominated Outstanding Program for Children or Youth
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