Classic TV Cheese: Dream On

I was a devoted viewer of most of HBO’s early original programming, back before they became a prestige network, when it was  instead merely focused on drawing eyeballs to this strange new channel that only played movies.

And “Dream On” was the perfect show. It offered everything that I could have asked for in a TV program as a teenager, that being copious amounts of nudity.

Oh yeah, it was pretty funny too, but I know that most of the jokes went over my head at that point, and besides, that was far less important than being guaranteed a shot at seeing bewbs on a weekly basis.

But I was a devoted viewer through its six-season run – I cringed when they replaced old Eddie with new Eddie, bemoaned the watering down of the series’ trademark (more on that later) and felt a surprising amount of sadness when HBO dropped the axe on the show in 1996.

The show centered around book publisher Martin Tupper (Brian Benben, who has been criminally underused in the years since), a recent divorcee dealing with his life as a father, friend and dating candidate. The hook for the show was simple: as situations occurred in Martin’s life, he would often react to them through clips of random old TV shows running through his head.

Most of the episodes revolved around Martin’s misadventures in dating, and featured a rotating cast of hot women who were willing to disrobe at the drop of the hat. Now, this was great for me, but most critics were quick to dismiss “Dream On” as a cheap example of HBO’s willingness to push the envelope. Of course, this all seems tame in this day and age, but back then it was fairly scandalous.

I guess Courteney must have made an impression on show creators Marta Kaufmann and David Crane, who later cast her on some little show called “Friends.” But I’m not really sure, seeing as how I’ve never seen that one.

“Dream On” featured many guest appearances from stars then and now, partially due to the influence of producer John Landis, but also thanks to the fact that they got to do some things outside of the normal sitcom box. Take this episode, which featured David Bowie, Mimi Rogers (big at the time), Tom Berenger, Ricardo Montalban and others.

If I had a problem with the show, it was that as time went on, the central conceit of the show – guy lives life through past TV experiences – became weaker and weaker. They showed less clips and focused more on Martin’s relationships with his ex-wife (Wendie Malick) and teenage son, which is all fine and dandy, but reduced what was a novelty into something much more traditional.

In 1995, FOX, a network always desperate for programming, ran a season of “Dream On” in primetime, removing all the cursing and nudity. This is the equivalent of hiring Mike Tyson as your nanny. Needless to say, that experiment ended quickly.

The first couple of seasons of the show are available on DVD, but this will likely go down as one of those forgotten shows to most folks; a curio that only teenage boys in the mid-90s will remember fondly (insert wacky TV clip here).

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~ by Elliott on April 28, 2010.

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