"Jules’s mother suddenly arrives in Odyssey to take Jules back to California. Despite protests from Connie and Buck, Jules decides to leave town … maybe for good." -AIO
For a show whose cast is made up largely of Californians, Adventures in Odyssey doesn’t portray the state of California as a very idyllic place. Its earliest mention can be found in “Connie Comes to Town”, where Bobby longs for the excitement of California but quickly learns that small towns like Odyssey are better (a theme revisited in “Stormy Weather” and “Second Thoughts”). The episode “Connie 1+2” depicts California as the land of partying and discontentment. And “Fifth House on the Left'' -- most critical of all -- depicts California as a place where everyone uses each other to become famous. “California Dreams” revisits these three main depictions of California, showing 1) small-town life is better, 2) there’s much more discontentment in California, and 3) everyone there just uses one another to become famous.
“California Dreams” features a story that feels reminiscent of several Disney channel movies/tv shows about people chasing musical fame. They all follow roughly the same storyline -- a character leaves their small town, gets an agent, ends up on several magazine covers, finds a famous boyfriend, and, by the end, becomes famous enough to sing in front of an adoring audience. Quite a lot usually happens in a short amount of time. Jules’ story arc, likewise, feels strangely fast, over-the-top, and somewhat fairy-tale-ish. In fact, it seemed so unbelievable that I briefly wondered whether it would all turn out to be set inside the Room of Consequence. One’s enjoyment of this episode will certainly depend on how realistic you felt it was for Jules to have become as famous as she did in such a short amount of time.
Personally, I didn’t mind it. One of my biggest annoyances with television shows is when they introduce a storyline where the main character is in the position to become rich (by discovering buried treasure, or winning the lottery), but because they know a sharp increase of wealth would change the character entirely, the writer never actually allows to the character to achieve any fame/success at all. The same thing happens on Odyssey all the time; everyone who had the opportunity to become “big stars” in “A Day in the Life” got recast, Connie’s potentially best-selling book is destroyed in “The Chosen One”, and riches are never found for Dwayne in “No Bones about it”, Isaac in “The Scales of Justice”, or Eugene and Bernard in “It happened at Four Corners.” In the end, I wasn’t bothered by how uncharacteristically over-the-top its premise was because we at least got to experience the satisfaction of hearing Jules become successful for a much lengthier period of time than any other character on Odyssey (much longer than Alex Jefferson’s 15 minutes, at least) -- even though, yes, she too ends up in the same place that she first started (i.e. penniless and back in Odyssey).
The episode’s audaciousness is what ultimately makes it soar. And because it took such a big chance, the audience is entertained by so many fresh and interesting gags. The way that Jules’ simple song morphs into an autotune nightmare. The way that part 1 ends with that hilarious “”you’re dating him” cliffhanger. The way Buck shows up out of nowhere on stage as a cool roadie. The number of new and interesting-sounding characters like Coyote (his casting reminded me of a young Ben Shepherd). Additionally, the way it pokes fun at people’s clothing (“recyclable fashion”), their passions (“endangered species”), and their foods (“avocado toast”), you can tell that the show really had its claws out for a certain demographic: millennials. I’m sure there was something for everyone to be at least mildly offended by.
That said, despite the fact that I laughed out loud every time the episode “roasted” vegans, I also think it goes back to that well a little too often. While I’ll agree there’s a certain pretentiousness to the vegan movement, the dialogue in this episode makes both vegans, and their products, seem much more niche than they really are. For one thing, almond milk -- which is referenced -- has become a pretty normal staple and is used all the time by plenty of non-vegans. The episode also uses confusing terms like “vegan tofu”. I mean, tofu is just vegan. That’s like someone saying they want to eat a “vegan apple”. Look, I’m not vegan -- but can we all admit it was a little funny how the episode seemed pretty confident that zero percent of its listeners were?
“California Dreams'' also addresses the topic of fame in a much more interesting way than its preceding episode, “For a Song”. In addition to covering the usual “fame is folly'' theme, it’s adding in an interesting message about “individuality” -- how one’s definition of one’s “true self”, ironically, is oftentimes shaped and morphed by society’s expectations. My only real complaint about this episode is that, since the “be yourself” message has been overly-done in every other secular show, Connie’s mention of “God’s definition of yourself” isn’t explored nearly enough. That really should have been the main point of the episode -- but the episode treats the theme as a footnote. With the “The Rydell Revelations” and “Millstones” choosing ambiguous messages, and “For Song” leaving out any biblical tie-in at all, I’m finding myself wanting Odyssey to be more overt with its themes.
“California Dreams” certainly wasn’t what I expected. After reading the episode’s description, I thought it might mirror the tone and severity of “Connie 1+2” -- an episode that would lead Jules to becoming a Christian. But I was pleasantly surprised with the light, fast-paced, and energetic episode that was offered instead. Overall, I think “California Dreams” acts as a nice change-of-pace in the Jules and Buck saga. With its foot-tapping music, colourful/eccentric characters, and a few unexpected twists, I definitely could have listened to Jules’ adventures in California for much longer.
Writer: Kathy Buchanan
Director: Dave Arnold
Producer: Nathan Hoobler
Executive Producer: Dave Arnold
Post-Production: Nathan Jones, Luke Guenot, Christopher Diehl
Songs: Warren Sellers
Music: John Campbell
Original Air-Date: 10.31.2020
Episode Reviewed: 10.03.2020