back when before there was a tv comedy about musically-inclined teen misfits

... there was this television comedy about these musically-inclined teens.

"Don't wake me up when I'm dreamin' ..."

California Dreams is an early '90s TV series about high school kids juggling school work, coping with growing-up issues and pursuing their dreams.

Bands were big in the early '90s. This group of friends got together to form their own musical group and called themselves (a very cheesy name) California Dreams. They wrote original songs, played gigs and hoped to get signed up to release a recording. Since music was a huge part of the characters' lives, there was a musical number every now and then - no dancing about; just singing, smiling and posturing with their instruments. I think most of the cast members did their own singing for this show.

My friends and I used to watch this as often as we could back then. Saturday afternoons, channel 9. My best friend and I fussed over the limited info we could about the show's cuties (this was of course before the dawn of fansites and widespread internet use, so limited meant very limited). I had scrawled Michael Cade on the top margin of my notebook to remember the name of the guy who played Sylvester "Sly" Winkle, and that was pretty much the only info I ever gathered about him.

I don't remember much of the plotlines but I do remember California Dreams was a positive, feel-good kind of teen-oriented show that promoted good moral values. In true early '90s teen sitcom fashion, the clothes were unrealistically colorful, the songs unbelievably positive and the teens too cute to be true. It was a definitely more wholesome alternative to that other show about high schoolers that made parents nervous, Beverly Hills 90210.

As with most television series centered on the young, the characters had to grow up sometime; California Dreams had to graduate. Which was probably just as well, since viewer tastes evolved in the mid-'90s. The colorful, cute and cheery were soon considered corny because real high school life was no longer just about peer pressure and trying not to get caught running in the halls. Teens wanted something more like 90210 - edgy, allegedly more realistic, honest about life's struggles (i.e., what about those people who don't say no to drugs or premarital sex?), and packaged with an up-to-date pop-rock soundtrack. Moral lessons were no longer valued, and choice became a popular concept. Producers gave in and pretty soon there was an influx of Dawson and Joey types who slept around, got wasted onscreen and had almost-useless parents. It's still pretty much the pattern of the most popular teen TV series these days - including the supposedly "wholesome" one with musically-inclined misfits that break into song every now and then.
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