American Dreams – Season One – Extended Music Edition


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Rating: Not Rated

Gail O’Grady as Helen Pryor
Tom Verica as Jack Pryor
Brittany Snow as Meg Pryor
Will Estes as JJ Pryor
Sarah Ramos as Patty Pryor
Ethan Dampf as Will Pryor
Vanessa Lengies as Roxanne Bojarski
Jonathan Adams as Henry Walker
Arlen Escarpeta as Sam Walker
Keith Robinson as Nathan Walker
Virginia Madsen as Rebecca Sandstrom
Rachel Boston as Beth Mason

Special Features:
Commentary by Dick Clark, producer Jonathan Prince and cast members on three episodes

7-disc set includes all 25 episodes from the 2002-03 season with extended episodes featuring complete musical performances and time capsules

Brian Williams Hosts “Timeline” 1963-64

“Back to Bandstand” featurette

Music video

Other Info:
Full Frame (1.33:1)
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
French and Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: 18 Hours 14 Minutes

This DVD set includes the entire first season of American Dreams which aired on NBC in 2002.

American Dreams tells the story of the Pryor family from the early 60’s. Against a backdrop of a nation changing from the innocent 50’s to the turbulent 60’s, the dramatic events of that era are seen through the eyes of each member of the family. Vietnam, the JFK assassination, the Civil Rights Movement, Beatlemania and more are all recreated.

The series primarily centers on Meg Pryor, a young teen whose dream of appearing on American Bandstand is not only fulfilled, but exceeded when she becomes a regular dancer on the show. Through her we also get to re-experience the music and pop culture of the era as well as an interracial romance.

American Dreams is not rated.

The Movie:
I had never seen an episode of American Dreams on TV before, so seeing it on DVD was my first exposure to it. I was impressed with the production itself, but I couldn’t ever get into the show. The event recreations (like the JFK assassination) seem contrived and overly dramatic. It came across as a series tailored for Baby Boomers than other viewers. And since the show is primarily told from the point of view of Meg, it seemed more like a “chick flick” than something I could really get into. It’s just not my kind of show.

I was impressed with how the recreated the 60’s, though. From the settings to the clothes to the props, it all has that retro feel. The addition of the vintage footage from the 60’s also helps to solidly plant audiences back in that time. The real gimmick of the show is the musical acts from American Bandstand. They take original footage from the show, new dialogue from Dick Clark, and recreated sets to make it seem like they’re really on the show. This is supplemented by recreations of the performances by new pop artists dressed as old singers. Third Eye Blind plays The Kinks. Nick Carter plays Jay of Jay And The Americans. Also look for Usher, Ashanti, Michelle Branch, Vanessa Carlton, Kelly Rowland from Destiny’s Child, and more. In this particular edition of the show, their musical acts have been expanded from what was seen on TV.

Brittany Snow is excellent as Meg Pryor. She’s cute, energetic, and very convincing in her role (though she probably should have had a beehive hairdo and horn rimmed glasses to be more accurate). She and Vanessa Lengies as Roxanne Bojarski make a great team of best friends. They are supported by Gail O’Grady as matriarch Helen Pryor. Tom Verica is also good as Jack Pryor, the tough patriarch of the show.

This series is primarily for those that grew up in that era and those that are fascinated by the 60’s. It’s an interesting way to spin a history lesson as well for some viewers. However, this series just wasn’t for me.

The Extras:
There are a fair number of extras included on the DVD:

Commentary by Dick Clark, producer Jonathan Prince and cast members on three episodes – There are a ton of commentaries to choose from here. The pilot episode alone has three separate commentaries. There’s one by Dick Clark and the executive producers, one by the two lead girls, and one by the rest of the cast. Each one has a bit of a different flavor. The commentary with the young girls is more geared for younger viewers while the Dick Clark one is more geared for older viewers. Needless to say, you’ll find one to your tastes somewhere here if you’re interested.

Time capsules – The episodes feature “time capsules” which are text summaries of the events that happen on the show. If you want to learn more about the events shown, this will come in handy.

Brian Williams Hosts “Timeline” 1963-64 – This 30 minute documentary highlights historic events from 1963 – 1964, the time this show takes place. If you like historical documentaries, you’ll enjoy this.

“Back to Bandstand” featurette – Here and there on the DVD you’ll find the “Back To Bandstand” features. They show footage from the original American Bandstand. Dick Clark interviews The Beach Boys, Leslie Gore, and Marvin Gaye.

Music video – Meg and Roxanne are the backup dancers in this performance of “My Boyfriend’s Back”. If you like the music on the show, you’ll enjoy this.

The Bottom Line:
Women and Baby Boomers will enjoy American Dreams more than other viewers. However, if your favorite pop band has a cameo as one of the 60’s bands, you may want to check it out.