"Maybe it's true, that if you're just patient, the DVD gods will eventually get around to releasing a true buried gem like this one.
It's hard to imagine how a show like "Dream On" could stay under the radar for so long. It was created by David Crane and Marta Kaufman, the creative team behind "Friends." It was produced -- and many of it finest episodes directed -- by John Landis. It had a remarkable cast doing the best work of their respective careers, playing unforgettable characters, and it benefited from some of the best comedic writing on TV. It provided HBO with its first Emmy. And it paved the way for future HBO episodic comedy series, like The Larry Sanders Show, Sex in the City and Curb Your Enthusiasm.
But when it debuted on HBO in 1990, the concept of a pay-cable station qualifying for "appointment TV" was still in the future. TV critics loved it, but a lot of others remember it primarily because, taking advantage of the freedoms of pay cable, it used language not seen elsewhere on the tube. And it showed a little skin, although not nearly as much as people seem to remember.
"Dream On" follows the life of Martin Tupper, a book editor at a small Manhattan publishing house who's closer to 40 than he is to 30. He finds himself dumped into the dating scene of the '90s when his wife (a pre-"Just Shoot Me" Wendie Malick) divorces him to marry The World's Most Perfect Man. His son (Chris Demetral) is at an age where he's beginning to realize his father doesn't have all the answers. His best friend (Jeff Joseph in the first season, Dorien Wilson afterward) is a self-absorbed talk show host. And his grating secretary (a post-"SNL" Denny Dillon) has him on the verge of homicide.
"Dream On" came about because of Universal's desire to get some benefit from the library of early TV shows and B movies of its affiliate, MCA. It was founded on a gimmick: the "Dream On" concept is explained brilliantly without words, during the opening credits, as we see various stages in the life of young baby boomer, a member of the first generation to have TV as a babysitter. His sensibilities have been developed by what he's watched on the tube, and he finds himself relating to situations in his adult life by flashing on snippets of those old programs. The pairing of old clips and modern situations is usually done to good -- and often hilariious -- effect.
But no show would have lasted six seasons and 120 episodies on the strength of a gimmick. Over time, the "Dream On moments" melt into the general landscape. In the end, "Dream On" is less about sex in the city than it is about life at the end of the 20th Century, relationships and getting by with a little help from your friends and family. It tackles a lot of issues in ways that are not overbearing. And the cast creates characters that you'll end up caring about.
First and foremost of that group is Brian Benben as Martin Tupper. After seeing a few episodes, you'll wonder why you haven't seen more of him. Benben is a fine actor, and there is no better physical comedian working today.
This package of all 29 episodes from season 1 and 2 includes some classics, including the pilot, naturally; "Sole Sister," in which Martin has to come to terms with his sister dating his best friend, who is black; a three-episode relationship with an environmentalist, with whom Martin has nothing in common except in bed; "Play Melville for Me," in which Martin gets a late-night gig hosting a book show on public access cable, only to be stalked by Kathy Kinney ("Drew Carey's" Mimi); and "Calling the Kettle Black," in which Martin's "Just Say No" lectures to his son over marijuana use go up in smoke when his discovery of a joint in the apartment leads him to relive his own pot experiences. Early in the second season, Michael McKean joins the cast as the obnoxious Gibby Fiske, an Australian media executive who becomes Martin's boss and nemesis.
But the highlight of the package has to be the second-season opener, "The Second Greatest Story Ever Told," which follows Martin's agony as he visits the set of a film being produced about the life of his ex-wife's new husband, the impossibly perfect Richard Stone. Even worse, through getting involved with the actors in the movie, he finds himself reliving the end of his marriage. For this hour-long episode, director/producer Landis must have called in all his markers; the guest stars include Tom Berenger, Mimi Rogers and Stephen Furst, with David Bowie as the movie's pompous director and cameos by Sylvester Stallone, Ricardo Montalban and Eva Gabor.
This is the first release in any format for many of these episodes. Columbia included the show in its VHS subscription services a few years back, eventually releasing 40 episodes from the first three seasons, but no more. And, thankfully, these are the uncut versions, not the toned-down versions that were syndicated to Fox and Comedy Central.
For the uninitiated, even the Amazon discount price may appear to be more than they'd want to put down for an unknown quantity. But there's little risk here. By the time this is released in October, you may have had your fill of all the new sitcoms that look just like the old sitcoms, or the new reality shows loosely based on last year's reality shows, or the police dramas that are EXACATLY like last year's police dramas. Why not take the plunge with a well-written, well-acted comedy series that may finally get its due? I'll bet that after watching it, you'll be dreaming on of a third-season DVD release."
Why did it take so long to release this series?!!
smccroskey | Vancouver, Canada | 07/16/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Just buy this - buy it now. Somewhen in the early 90s this series appeared. Completely funny & totally original, this series of pure pure entertainment was the highlight of mine and a million friends week. I have crawled the internet and have never ever found a video, download or anything... until now, I live in anticipation of seeing this great series again.The show was genius - Martin Tupper's (Brian Benben)thoughts were shown via clips of old b/w B movies. The supporting cast is excellent and they always had cameos from big stars like David Bowie.How or why this series was forgotten until now is a mystery. Its a masterpiece, far superior to the dross that's around today."
Finally - A DVD Release!!!
S. Mooney | Southampton - United Kingdom | 08/02/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Dream On has been pretty high on my list of DVD purchases for years now! Shown on terrestrial UK television (the first 2 series only!!!) in the early 90's and then repeated later on at some stupid early morning timeslot, this show had too much stacked against the possibilities that it might find a loyal following here; and I don't think it ever did! Why, I had no idea! The series was brilliant. The situations were really funny. This sit-com used an almost abstract way to present the lead characters thoughts of the moment (the Black & White footage of crummy movies!!!) long before producers of Alley MacBeal were trying it; Dream On was also a sit-com playing around with sex long before Sex & the City were doing that also and yet both those younger series thrived in the UK. So, Dream On was certainly original and ahead of its time!
So abused was this series in the UK, I was amazed to discover that the series had charged on for a total of six years!!! Trust me folks, this is a worthy purchase. To watch this show and finish it glum faced will only prove you lack a sense of humour!"
Dreams do come true!
Wayne Klein | My Little Blue Window, USA | 11/03/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"One of HBO's first original comedies "Dream On" chronicles the life of Martin Tupper a book editor who has a difficult time relating to women. Interspersed throughout each episode are clips from old films that Tupper grew up watching as a kid. These clips act as both a metaphor for Martin's true feelings as well as a reference that he uses to help him deal with difficult situations. Tupper copes with dating again after divorce and trying to relate to his teenage son. His ex-wife Judith (the wonderful Wendie Malick) provides him with one of the few touch points with the fairer sex. Unfortunately, Judith not only remarried but did so to someone who is nearly perfect in comparison to the neurotic Martin. His unusual friends and co-workers (among them Toby played by Denny Dillon who gives new meaning to the word evil) keep Tupper's life in a state of upheaval not that he needs any help with that anyway.
Criminally underappreciated in its day, "Dream On" ran for over a 100 episodes and predates many of the other series that garnered much more attention and praise (such as "The Sopranos"). Although "Dream On" was a great comedy during its first three seasons it lost much of its steam by the end of its run. Even during the lesser shows the show was well written and performed with an air of screwball comedy missing from TV when it was being aired. The gimmick of using old movie and TV clips as cultural reference points for Tupper grew tired by the end of the show's run but the lively cast kept the series interesting until the very end.
"Dream On" has the look of a wonderful daydream on DVD. Universal has done a fine job with this transfer with few analog or digital blemishes to mar the picture. The picture does occasionally appear soft during some sequences (most notably during some of the older clips from movies) but that's an unfortunate byproduct of referencing so many older films of variation quality. There are also noticeable analog imperfections in the form of hair, dirt, etc. during the clips intercut throughout the show but, on the whole, the picture looks very good. The show wasn't show with 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound in mind so isn't presented in that format. The stereo sound is frequently impressive although keep in mind that the clips used throughout the show are usually in mono so it does flit back and forth between the two formats.
Sadly, there's not much in the way of extras provided. Executive Producer John Landis does appear for an introduction to the series. Landis briefly discusses the inspiration of the show and his involvement in the series during its run on HBO. The good news is that these episodes are uncut and feature all the nudity, swearing and hilarious sexual situations that fans saw when it was initially run on HBO.
No commentary track although I'm sure star Brian Benben would have been more than willing to provide it (provided there was compensation). My guess is that Universal didn't budget the series for commentary tracks or featurettes hoping that the uncut episodes and the fact that the series has run infrequently since the late 90's might be enough to attract fans to buy it. I'm also quite sure that they weren't sure that the market could justify spending the extra money on these features. It appears that most of the production budget for the DVD went into making sure that the image quality and sound quality was acceptable.
A forgotten pioneer original series on HBO, "Dream On" continues to be funny today because it focuses more on the characters and less on the gimmick of Martin relating to those around him through his experience of watching TV. The gimmick isn't as heavily relied on during the second half of the first season and that's really when the comedy takes flight. Although there aren't any extras to speak of, the picture and sound quality are exceptionally good. "
It's About Time!!!
BRADLEY R HUTSON | Illinois | 07/13/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I'm very pleased to see that "Dream On" is finally making it to DVD! I used to love this show when I watched it first-run on HBO years ago. Brian Benben was PERFECT as the hapless Martin Tupper, divorced from his wife Judith and trying to raise his teenage son Jeremy while re-entering the dating scene in the 1990's. The show contained many clips of old black & white TV shows and movies where appropriate in the story, and they were hilarious! One of my favorite such moments was in the episode where Jeremy went to a makeout party and told both Martin and Judith he would be staying with the OTHER parent. They found out they had been duped when Judith phoned Martin and found out he had a woman with him. She chastised him for doing so because Jeremy was there, but Martin was quick to defend himself and inform Judith that Jeremy was with HER. She said, "No, he's..." and slowly a look of realization comes to both of their faces. Then, it immediately cuts to a B&W shot of two small boys saying to each other "We fell for it! Boy are we dumb!" Hilarious!I hope that there are some special features present on this set, but even if there aren't it will still be worth owning. It's about time that this classic HBO Original Series gets the DVD treatment. Hats off to Universal! Now let's hope that another excellent but overlooked HBO Original, "Tales From the Crypt", gets the same treatment! Everyone please support this release so the rest of the seasons will be released as well! You will not be sorry!"