"American Dreams" is a show that could have been on the air during the very timeframe in which it was set. In it's entirely too short three season run, it was a standout, simply because it was well written, wonderfully acted, and just plain entertaining - something to which the millions of reality shows and "Law and Order" clones cluttering the airwaves couldn't begin to compare. "American Dreams" captured both the lingering innocence and the burgeoning counter culture of the 60's. Kids spent their time listening to records and watching "American Bandstand", but surreptitiously attended war protests on college campuses. Dads earned a living and handed down advice and discipline while moms cooked balanced meals, but after the children were in bed, they discussed such taboo subjects as women's rights, race relations, and birth control. All of these subjects were addressed intelligently and realistically, but the writers never failed to add humor to the scripts as well.
Much of the show was from the viewpoint of Meg Pryor (played by the wonderful Brittany Snow). We first meet Meg as a sweet 15 year old who realizes her lifelong dream of becoming a dancer on "American Bandstand". The two hour pilot episode finds Meg and her wild child best friend Roxanne scheming to be pulled from the daily lineup of hopeful dancers outside the Philadelphia television studio where "Bandstand" is filmed, for a guest appearance on the show. It takes some conniving on the part of the always hilariously outrageous Roxanne, but one day the impossible happens, and both girls make it onto the show. Meg doesn't believe it could possibly get any better - until she catches the eye of one of the show's producers, who offers her a regular spot. Her ecstasy is short lived when she finds out that not only was Roxanne was not asked to be a regular, but her father will not allow her to be on the show. Meg's determination finally wins her father's permission, but her guilt over Roxanne leads to her decision to quit. A resolution is reached when the producer is impressed by Meg's loyalty and invites Roxanne to be a regular as well, but the pilot ends on a somber note with the assassination of President Kennedy.
This episode is characteristic of the rest of the season (and Seasons 2 and 3 as well). "American Bandstand" features prominently in the series as we follow Meg and Roxanne's daily adventures as dancers and minor celebrities. One of the highlights of the series was the outstanding performances of many 21st century bands playing 60's acts such as Jay and The Americans and The Kinks. However, it also tackles heavier issues, such as the Vietnam War (a major focus of Season 2, which follows the active duty of Meg's brother J.J.) and racism. Many storylines feature Henry, a black employee of Meg's father's appliance store, and his son Sam, with whom Meg forms a close friendship despite disapproval from both families and society in general. Over the course of the three seasons, Meg develops from a starry eyed "good girl" to an intelligent, socially conscious young woman, who challenges the gender roles set for her and always follows the path that she knows is right. But the show never forgot how to have fun as well.
"American Dreams" was one of the finest television shows ever produced. Thumbs down to NBC for not recognizing what they had. If only they'd given it a fighting chance (putting it in a decent time slot and allowing the episodes to be re-run in the off season), it would have been remembered as a legend years from now!