California Dreams

California Dreams is an American teen sitcom that aired on NBC. It was part of the network's Saturday morning block, TNBC, premiering on September 12, 1992. 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,[1] 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. The series ran five seasons, airing its final episode on December 14, 1996. The series featured 40 original songs performed by the band throughout the show's run, primarily written by Steve Tyrell.

California Dreams
GenreTeen sitcom
Created by
  • Brett Dewey
  • Ronald B. Solomon
Theme music composer
Opening theme"California Dreams"
Ending theme"California Dreams"
ComposerSteve Tyrell
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons5
No. of episodes78 (list of episodes)
Executive producerPeter Engel
  • Franco Bario
  • Ronald B. Solomon
  • Brett Dewey
  • Noah Taft (seasons 3–4)
Camera setupMulti-camera
Running time22–24 minutes
Production companies
DistributorRysher Entertainment (1994-1997)
Tribune Entertainment (2001-2005)
Original networkNBC
Original releaseSeptember 12, 1992 (1992-09-12) –
December 14, 1996 (1996-12-14)


SeasonEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast aired
113September 12, 1992 (1992-09-12)December 5, 1992 (1992-12-05)
218September 11, 1993 (1993-09-11)February 5, 1994 (1994-02-05)
317September 10, 1994 (1994-09-10)January 7, 1995 (1995-01-07)
415September 9, 1995 (1995-09-09)April 6, 1996 (1996-04-06)
515September 7, 1996 (1996-09-07)December 14, 1996 (1996-12-14)

Season 1Edit

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) and his younger sister Jenny (Heidi Noelle Lenhart). The remainder of the Garrison family included father Richard (Michael Cutt), mother Melody (Gail Ramsey), and their youngest son, Dennis (Ryan O'Neill). Matt and Jenny's band, the California Dreams, drove most of the show's storylines and plot points; Matt was the group's leader and Jenny was its pianist and vocalist.

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. The show's primary settings were the Garrison home, the fast food restaurant Sharkey's, and Pacific Coast High School.

Beginning with the pilot, entitled "The First Gig," Season 1 featured cut-away music videos for the songs "California Dreams," "Rain," "Everybody's Got Someone," and "This Time." This narrative style was not continued in future seasons, as songs were typically performed at Sharkey's or the band's rehearsal space. The songs performed on the show are abbreviated versions cut for time, usually excluding the song's second verse.

Season 2Edit

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 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.

Seasons 3–5Edit

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 had moved away). In Matt's place, the band hired Mark Winkle (Aaron Jackson), Sly's shy cousin from New York City. Also added as a series regular was Lorena Costa (Diana Uribe), the privileged daughter of a wealthy family who takes Sam into their home after the Garrisons' departure. Jake took over as leader and main songwriter of the band from Matt. Songs from seasons 1–2 that were performed again in seasons 3–5 featured Matt's vocals replaced by either Jake or Mark.

Series finaleEdit

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 starting 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. Jake is able to negotiate a record contract for the entire band, which they refuse. 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 solo offer. Long-time couples Tiffani and Jake, and Sam and Tony break up due to their different paths. The episode ends with the California Dreams playing their final gig, before giving their tearful goodbyes to one another. Their last song, "So Glad I Was There," was the only original song written for the show's fifth and final season. It was also the only song the band performed on the show that featured vocals from all 5 members.



The Garrison familyEdit

  • Brent Gore as Matt Garrison (1992–1994) – The eldest Garrison sibling and the group's original guitarist and lead vocalist. Matt's sole passion and identity center on music. His storylines primarily focus on ideas to gain the band more success and acclaim. Matt and Jenny's plans are often obstructed by their little brother, Dennis.
  • Heidi Noelle Lenhart as Jenny Garrison (1992–1993) – Matt's younger sister, who served as the original rhythm keyboardist of the group. Jenny is the more assertive, feminist presence in the band compared to Tiffani, who is more passive. Jenny often turns down the advances of Sly, who pursues her for the entirety of her time in the series. She departed from the series in the season two episode "Ciao, Jenny" to attend a musical conservatory in Italy; Jenny had initially served as Jake's love interest upon his introduction in "Jake's Song."
  • Michael Cutt as Richard Garrison (1992–1993, regular; 1993–1994, recurring) – The father of Matt and Jenny, a school teacher.
  • Gail Ramsey as Melody Garrison (1992–1993, regular; 1993, guest star) – The mother of Matt and Jenny.
  • Ryan O'Neill as Dennis Garrison (1992–1993) – Matt and Jenny's younger brother.

The bandEdit

  • Kelly Packard as Tiffani Anne Smith – The band's bass player, whose primary hobby outside the band is surfing. Many episodes depict Tiffani, while having a childlike, innocent personality, as a stabilizing force for the group, often seeing the good in people and being more understanding of others' faults. She has an on-again/off-again relationship with Jake during the series, first for most of season two (beginning with "Surfboards and Cycles" and ending with their breakup in "Indecent Promposal") and again starting in season four (in "Two Two Much") until the end of the series. Tiffani lives with her single father, after her mother left the family to pursue a career on Broadway when Tiffani was a child.
  • William James Jones as Antoine Bethesda "Tony" Wicks[2] – The band's drummer, who originally hailed from Los Angeles' South Central neighborhood. Tony is a waiter at Sharkey's, the band's frequent hangout and performance space. He is the son of the football coach at Pacific Coast High. Tony's personality is characterized with long winded insults and compliments, which are often rhyming or alliterative. When Tony is featured as a vocalist, he uses a drum machine to substitute. After the two are haphazardly set up on a date by an online chat room in "Blind Dates", Sam and Tony become a couple and stay together for much of the remainder of the show's run. Sam and Tony briefly become engaged in the episode "My Valentine," in an attempt to gain citizenship for Sam, but they later decide not to get married. Tony and Sly share the catch phrase "Goo-ga-moo" which is used in various grammatical forms to describe beautiful women.
  • Michael Cade as Sylvester Leslie "Sly" Winkle – The band's manager, who utters the catch phrase "ba-boom!" in most episodes, and routinely concocts schemes to make easy money one way or another. Sly and Matt Garrison were friends since early childhood, establishing Sly's relationship to the group. Many episodes involve Sly's attempts to get girls, having attempted to win the affections of Jenny (in season one), Sam (in season two) Lorena (from season three onward), and other guest characters through manipulative means. While Sly and his cousin Mark often joke about the Winkle family as consisting of liars and other unscrupulous characters, Sly has a very strained and distant relationship with his father.
  • Jay Anthony Franke as Jacob Samuel "Jake" Sommers (1993–1996; singing voice performed by Barry Coffing) – The lead guitarist and "bad boy" of the group, who is regularly seen wearing a leather jacket. The jacket, along with his Harley-Davidson motorcycle, are his 2 most prized possessions. When first introduced in the season two premiere "Jake's Song", he is depicted as tough and intimidating, although that episode and a few others reveal that he has a sensitive soul. Jake is in a relationship with another character for nearly the entirety of his run on the show, dating Jenny (Season 2), Tiffani (Season 2), Lorena (Seasons 3-4), and Tiffani again (Seasons 4-5).
  • Jennie Kwan as Samantha Woo Deswanchoo (1993–1996) – Becomes the group's keyboard player following her introduction in "Wooing Woo", in which the Hong Kong native moves to America as a foreign exchange student with the Garrisons serving as her initial host family; she subsequently moves in with the family of Lorena Costa in "The Unforgiven". Sam often talks excessively to the point of exhaustion for her friends. Although she is in a relationship with Tony for Seasons 3–5, she often acts boy crazy for surfers, jocks, and the model Samson (played by Dan Clark). As an exchange student, she is overly enthusiastic about American pop culture icons, namely the singer Sting. Sam is also the most academically successful member of the band, graduating as class valedictorian. She is the descendant of several historical figures throughout Chinese history, such as the architect of the Great Wall of China.
  • Aaron Jackson as Mark Edward Winkle (1994–96; singing voice performed by Zachary Throne) – The 2nd keyboard player of the group and Sly's cousin. Mark differs from Sly in that Mark is depicted as less of a schemer and manipulator, and exhibits more of a naivete. A running joke in the series is that he is "The Good Winkle." In his introductory episode "The Unforgiven", it was revealed that despite his musical talent, he had a bad case of stage fright that prevented him from performing; the band helps him to overcome this fear and he joins the group. Given that he is a musical prodigy, Mark plays every instrument in the band throughout the series, filling in when other members are featured as vocalists. Mark is the only main character in Seasons 3-5 who is not placed in a relationship with another series regular. Many of his storylines revolve around his unrequited love for other girls.
  • Diana Uribe as Lorena Marina Costa (1994–1996) – The daughter of a wealthy land developer, who becomes affiliated with the band when her family becomes Sam's host family in Season 3. Lorena is often the source of financial support for the group, given her wealth, and eventually becomes the group's co-manager. Beginning with season three's "Budget Cuts", she becomes the girlfriend of Jake. The relationship lasts until season four's "Two Too Much" due to their inability to find anything in common. Sly and Lorena become a couple in season five's "Love Letters" and remain together for the rest of the series. Several episodes feature Lorena referring to herself in the third person by her full name, usually whenever she is faced with some sort of challenge or has an idea when deceived. She also speaks in Spanglish when she is overly excited or irritated. Lorena's home serves as a secondary hangout and performance space for the band, so much so that characters sometimes gather there without Lorena or Sam present.


Guest starsEdit

Throughout the series, notable guest stars included Eddie Mekka, Christopher Hewett, Richard T. Jones, Elise Neal, Fergie, Joseph Reitman, Nikki Cox, Dot-Marie Jones, Robert Pine, and Tara Reid.


Reruns 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.

Home mediaEdit

Shout! 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.[3]

DVD Name Ep # Release Date
Seasons 1 & 2 31 March 31, 2009[4]
Season 3♦ 17 May 18, 2010[5]
Season 4♦ 15 January 18, 2011[6]

♦ - Shout! Factory Exclusives title, sold exclusively through Shout's online store


Critical responseEdit

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."[7] Los Angeles Times reviewer Lynne Heffley considered the show nothing more than "a Saved by the Bell clone set in an upscale beach town".[8]

Awards and nominationsEdit

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 California Dreams


California Dreams had a self-titled studio album on CD and cassette. The songs on the soundtrack are as follows:

  1. This Time
  2. Castles on Quicksand
  3. Everybody's Got Someone
  4. Rain
  5. Let Me Be the One
  6. If You Only Knew
  7. One World
  8. If You Lean on Me
  9. If It Wasn't for You
  10. Love Is Not Like This
  11. Heart Don't Lie
  12. 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.

Cast reunionEdit

The main cast members from the first two seasons of California Dreams reunited on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon on March 4, 2010, and played the show's theme song. The version they sang was a unique mash-up that featured both Heidi Noelle Lenhart and Jennie Kwan, who replaced Lenhart in Season 2. While present, Jay Anthony Franke was not a featured vocalist in the performance, given that he did not perform the singing voice of Jake Sommers. Aaron Jackson and Diana Uribe were not present.[9]


  1. ^ Greg Braxton (November 27, 1992). "'Bell' Hearing the Sounds of Success : Television: With a TV movie, foreign broadcasts, syndicated reruns and a plethora of merchandise, 'Saved by the Bell' intends to be noticed". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 18, 2021.
  2. ^ Brenda You (June 28, 1994). "Beat It, Bad Guys". Chicago Tribune. Tribune Publishing. Retrieved October 18, 2010.
  3. ^ "Best of California Dreams". July 19, 2011.
  4. ^ "California Dreams: Season Three". Shout! Factory. March 31, 2009. Archived from the original on April 19, 2015.
  5. ^ "California Dreams: Season Three". Shout! Factory. May 18, 2010. Archived from the original on 2015-04-19. Retrieved 2015-04-18.
  6. ^ "California Dreams: Season Three". Shout! Factory. January 18, 2011. Archived from the original on 2015-04-19. Retrieved 2015-04-18.
  7. ^ Rebecca Ascher-Walsh (October 2, 1992). "California Dreams". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved February 5, 2016.
  8. ^ Lynne Heffley (September 12, 1992). "TV Reviews Cartoon-Free Lineup No Improvement". Los Angeles Times. p. F9.
  9. ^ Tanner Stransky (March 5, 2010). "'California Dreams' on 'Jimmy Fallon': Who needs 'Saved by the Bell' anyway..." Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved March 18, 2016.

External linksEdit