One hopes that at the annual HBO characters Christmas party, Larry Sanders, Carrie Bradshaw, and Tony Soprano make a point to raise a toast to Martin Tupper, the hapless hero of Dream On
. This groundbreaking 1990 sitcom from future Friends
creators David Crane and Marta Kaufman ushered in a bold new era of original cable programming not bound by broadcast network content restrictions. Hence, the profanity and nudity (you didn't see that on Knott's Landing
!), which distinguished the series and helped put HBO on the pop culture map. Brian Benben stars as Martin, a New York book editor still reeling from the breakup of his marriage. The show's gimmick is that baby boomer Martin, a member of the first television generation, flashes on vintage TV clips that express his innermost feelings and desires. When his wife, Judith (Wendie Malick), visits Martin in "The First Episode," he fantasises reconciliation, but she wants him to sign the divorce papers so she can remarry. The scene is punctuated by clips (from an old Twilight Zone
episode, perhaps?) in which boxer Lee Marvin is pummeled in the ring and knocked out. But the clips and the language and the sex would get old fast if we didn't like the characters.
Benben has the Everyman charm of a young George Segal, and he wears his anxiety to hilarious effect. He is devoted to his young teenage son, and still loves Judith, who is marrying a paragon, never seen, but described at one point as a "Ghandi for our times." His dating relationships spectacularly crash and burn (cue clip of disabled aircraft). In one episode, he comes undone when he discovers his new lover was a porn star. At the office, he is at the mercy of his caustic secretary (Denny Dillon). Dream On is of more than prurient interest. This was one of those lightning-in-a-bottle series blessed with a fresh vision, a seamless ensemble, and smart writing. To finally have it on DVD is a Dream come true. --Donald Liebenson
All 14 episodes from Season 2 of the 1990s HBO comedy series produced by John Landis and the future 'Friends' production team of Kevin Bright, Marta Kauffman and David Crane, which featured snippets of imagination coming to life long before 'Ally McBeal' appropriated the concept. Martin Tupper (Brian Benben) may go on a never-ending series of dates, but he still finds time for his family, his best friend Eddie Charles (Dorien Wilson) and his ex-wife Judith (Wendie Malick) - an amicable relationship, although her unseen 'perfect' new husband annoys Martin. Episodes are: 'The Second Greatest Story Ever Told', 'And Your Little Dog, Too', 'The 37-Year Itch', 'Calling the Kettle Black', 'Futile Attraction', 'No, I'm Just Happy to See You', 'What I Did for Lust', 'Play Melville for Me', 'To Have and Have and Have and Have Not', 'Pants On Fire', 'The Charlotte Letter', 'The Name of the Game is Five-Card Stud', 'So Funny I Forgot to Laugh' and 'Toby or Not Toby'.