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Dream On aired on HBO and FOX from 1990 until 1996.
A middle-aged man's vivid's fantasy life was the center-place of this racy comedy. Mild-Mannered Martin Tupper ( Brian Benben), was a book editor for a Manhattan publisher and recently divorced from pyschologist Judith ( Wendie Malick), the one real love of his life. He had to cope with the sexually liberated dating scene of the '90's and with the fact that Judith waas now married to the incredibly perfect Dr. Richard Stone? How perfect? Richard was so perfect that he seemed to be receiving a Nobel Prize, or being nominated for sainthood almost every week.
Martin on the other hand, was constantly reminded of his shortcomings-by almost everyone. He was a weekend father to his son, Jeremy (Chris Demetral), who gave him little respect, and got questionable dating advice from his longtime friend Eddie ( played by Jeff Joseph and later byDorien Wilson), the womanizing host of a Geraldo-style talk show. At the office he was regularly put down by his sarcastic secretary Toby( Denny Dillon), and intimidated by his new boss, Gibby( Michael McKeon), whose taste in literature ran toward the salacious.
Two things distinguashed Dream On from other tv comedies: it's sexual frankness ( including on HBO, frontal female nudity), and it's inovative use of old tv and movie clips to illustrate Martin's musings and reactions and to serve as punch lines for jokes. Martin's fantasies were filled with everyone from Ozzie Nelson to Jack Benny, William Bendex, Bette Davis, Charlton Heston, and Joan Crawford, in glorious black and white. Two versions of each episode were filmed, with and without nudity and strong language, and it was the latter that aired on FOX. Sex was still the focus of most episodes, however.
The last original episode premiered on HBO on March 27, 1996. During the intervening period, Judith's second husband Richard had suffered kidney failure and was cryogenically frozen. In the finale, the following happened: Judith, who had started seeing Martin again, remarried him. At the wedding, pregnant Toby's boyfriend Irwin Bader ( Larry Miller), proposed and they got married in the ambulence in which she delivered their baby girl on the way to the hospital. Martin's buddy Eddie, who had himself gotten married five months earlier, found out from his wife ( Dawnn Lewis), that he was going to be a father.
A Review from The LA Times
TV REVIEWS : 'Dream On' a Sexy, Urbane Comedy Series on HBO
July 07, 1990|HOWARD ROSENBERG
HBO's 13-part "Dream On" is just that--a sexy, urbane, sneaky, funny little comedy series whose 10 p.m. Sunday premiere jump starts the summer TV season. This is a rare TV union where cast, writers and directors appear to be of a single comedic mind; the humorous results speak for themselves.
Against his wishes, book editor Martin Tupper (Brian Benben) is about to become a single parent after stalling his wife (Wendie Malick) on signing the divorce papers. It's going to be an amicable split, however, allowing her to re-enter his life each week as they share his dilemmas and the custody of their son (Chris Demetral).
After beginning slowly, the premiere ignites at its midway point, soaring from tepid to torrid when Martin has a series of nervous dates--first with a married woman, then a neurotic, then a kinky masochist who wants him to smear her body with whipped cream and lick it off. Martin: "I'm a little concerned about the cholesterol."
Dialogue in the clever opening scripts (written by producers David Crane and Marta Kauffman) is accented by Martin's flashbacks to ancient TV shows that comically parallel his life. Although overworked in the premiere--directed by executive producer John Landis--this device is just a howl in the wittier, bawdier, better-directed (by Betty Thomas) second episode, which finds Martin on a health kick after suffering symptoms of a heart attack while writhing in bed with an anxious-to-please student.
"I'll do anything you want," she says. "9-1-1," he gasps. "I've never done that," she says.
It's a good cast, with Benben's easy way perfectly suited to the adult material. And also check out scene-swiping Denny Dillon as Martin's acerbic witch of a secretary/assistant in this enormously likable series that deserves to dream on indefinitely.
A Review from The New York Times
A Modern Life Lived in 50's and 60's Images
By JOHN J. O'CONNOR
Published: July 10, 1990
Some marketing expert seems to have taken a look at the enormous film and television library owned by Universal Studios and wondered why it wasn't doing more to generate income. Hey, how about a show in which the hero's behavior and attitudes are counterpointed with black-and-white clips from all those shows and old movies he watched on television while growing up in the 1950's and 60's? The supporting cast could include everybody from Bette Davis to Peter Lorre to Jack Benny. As they say in the business, what a concept!
Enter ''Dream On,'' which can be seen tonight at 10:30 on Home Box Office. The series was created by David Crane and Marta Kauffman. The executive producers are Kevin Bright and John Landis, the director whose credits include the film ''Coming to America.'' Brian Benben (''Clean and Sober''), a kind of short and almost pudgy version of Scott Bakula (''Quantum Leap''), is Martin Tupper, a mid-30's New Yorker who is not terribly happy about the nonnegotiable demands of his wife, Judith (Wendie Malick), for a divorce. The prospect of re-entering the dating game is understandably daunting, especially as he has a 12-year-old son, Jeremy (Chris Demetral), to worry about.
Talking with his wife about the divorce, Marty tries to be reasonable and mature, the way he remembers a scene starring Anne Baxter and Ronald Reagan. But Judith is adamant. ''I want to marry Richard,'' she says. ''You know, the man I live with.'' Marty's head begins to fill with images of bruising punches from an old Hollywood boxing match. Richard, Judith assures him, is caring, sensible and sane, a prominent physician who also runs a shelter for the homeless. Pow! But what about their son. Richard, Judith says, is wonderful with Jeremy. Pow, pow! The knockout.
With ''Dream On,'' Home Box Office is moving into familiar commercial-television territory of the standard sitcom. The pay-cable service has already dabbled in regular series, from ''First and 10'' and ''Not Necessarily the News'' to anthology collections such as ''The Hitchhiker'' and the current ''Tales From the Crypt.'' But in terms of concept and execution, those were at least superficially different from ordinary network fare. ''Dream On'' isn't, except for, as might be expected, the more freewheeling language and treatments of sex. HBO clearly covets a piece of the great big and profitable sitcom pie.
In tonight's pilot, directed by Mr. Landis, Marty is a reasonably promising specimen of your average New York neurotic. At the office, his secretary and assistant is a heavyset young woman (Denny Dillon) who when asked why she wants to take a personal day off, merely sneers that ''it's personal.'' Marty's best friend is a television talk-show host specializing in standard titillation. ''Lawyers in Lingerie'' is the title of one program. When Marty is finally persuaded to start dating again, his intimate dinners at home turn into disasters. When one woman finds a take-out receipt in the fettuccine marinara that is supposedly homemade, Marty mumbles something about ''an old family secret - my grandmother used them instead of bay leaves.''
But what happens after Marty realizes still once again that life is not as tidy or predictable as a movie starring Joan Crawford and Zachary Scott? By Episode 3 of ''Dream On'' Marty is already becoming just another nice bachelor father, not all that different from the one John Forsythe played on television several decades ago. This particular concept could already use some re-tooling.
DREAM ON - THE FIRST EPISODE
Created, co-produced and pilot written by David Crane and Marta Kauffman; pilot directed by John Landis; produced by Robb Idels; presented by Kevin Bright Productions and MTE for Home Box Office; Bill Sanders, supervising producer; Kevin Bright, co-executive producer; Mr. Landis, executive producer. Tonight on HBO at 10:30 P.M.; rebroadcast on Thursday at 1:40 A.M. and Friday at 8:30 P.M.
WITH: Brian Benben, Wendie Malick, Denny Dillon and Chris Demetral.
A Review from Entertainment Weekly
HBO, SUN., JULY 29, 10-10:30 P.M.
B+By Ken Tucker
When HBO runs commercials touting its ''sexy'' new comedy series Dream On, you know the network means exactly one thing: Someone will be naked in it. And indeed, each episode of Dream On has a moment when a lissome young woman doffs her clothes for a few seconds; some feeble jokes are made and then the camera turns away with the visual version of a sigh of relief. Cable or not, American TV just doesn't seem comfortable with this nudity thing, and doesn't do it well. All of which is too bad, because Dream On is an above-average sitcom about a New York book editor named Martin Tupper, played by Brian Benben, and his relationships with various women. Foremost among them is his ex-wife, Judith, who's on the verge of marrying her new boyfriend but sees Martin regularly to discuss the joint custody of their 12-year-old son (Chris Demetral). As Judith, Wendie Malick sports the most imperious eyebrows on TV and manages to be frosty and sexy at the same time. (Would it be taken as good reporting or creepy wistfulness if I pointed out that Malick hasn't done the nudity thing to date?) Our hero Tupper is also saddled with an amusingly hostile secretary, played by Denny Dillon of fleeting Saturday Night Live fame. Here, Dillon is beguilingly obnoxious, refusing to answer the phone if she thinks Tupper isn't too busy to answer it himself. When Tupper asks her why she's taking a personal day, she snarls, ''It's personal!'' Dream On is coproduced by film director John Landis (Coming to America) and features one small innovation: Tupper's thoughts are often represented onscreen by clips from old black-and-white movies. Thus, when Judith says she's remarrying, there's an abrupt cut to a boxing movie in which a fighter is being hit smack in the jaw. These juxtapositions can be amusing, but they also throw off the rhythm of many of Dream On's perfectly good jokes. B
An Article from The New York Times
TV Weekend; 'Dream On' and Some Other Games People Play
By JOHN J. O'CONNOR
Published: August 2, 1991
Steadily gaining a sitcom audience for Home Box Office, "Dream On" may well be television's flakiest series, as becomes evident with further samplings. Martin Tupper, whose psyche was molded by television when he was growing up in the 1950's and 60's, is offered as a contemporary Everyman: divorced, trying to maintain a connection with a son in his early teens, struggling to salvage a smidgen of dignity as an editor of questionable romance novels, all the while being bombarded with flashes of black-and-white scenes from the television shows and old movies of his childhood.
Martin's best friend is his ex-wife, Judith, who has married a candidate for a Nobel and countless other prizes. Coping with a sneering secretary and a string of beautiful but out-of-kilter girlfriends, Martin does a lot of nervous smiling. Brian Benben has an amiable stranglehold on the role.
This Sunday at 10 P.M., in an episode titled "Futile Attraction," Martin confesses to Judith (Wendie Malick), who is a psychiatrist, that he has developed a sexual-potency problem. She suggests that he see an analyst named Dr. Klein (Martin Mull), who turns out to be a compulsive smoker and is not amused when Martin says he objects to smoking during their sessions. Martin pours out his heart. Dr. Klein, surrounded by bowls of hard candy, begins puffing frantically on his pen.
Leaving the doctor's office, Martin meets Elaine (Gina Hecht), and after using the Heimlich maneuver to save her from choking on a sourball in an elevator, falls in love. As it turns out, Elaine is going through analysis with Judith, who knows that she is a borderline schizophrenic with a history of violently attacking her sex partners. Should Judith tell the truth to the smitten Martin? Would he simply dismiss it as a jealous ploy? The ball is in motion and the game is played out to its wacky conclusion, which includes a glimpse of Ronald Reagan intoning in a rotten movie that "each day is too good to waste being afraid."
With John Landis and Kevin Bright as executive producers, "Dream On" enjoys venturing into offbeat, often sensitive territory. This week's episode, "Calling the Kettle Black," showed Martin finding a joint of marijuana in his son's bedroom. Dad was distressed, of course, giving the boy a stern lecture, but then Martin ended up smoking the marijuana with an old friend as the two shared an uncontrollable giggle over the good old days. The son had the final lecture: "I'm not going to yell at you. I just want you to know I'm really, really disappointed."
The show has its weak spots, most notably in a pointless tendency to be smarmy. "Futile Attraction" is dotted with scenes of Martin in bed with topless women. (This may be the first series to proclaim publicly almost every week that it has a breast fetish.) And a good many of the old television clips are used for double-entendres that are sometimes less witty than painfully obvious. But "Dream On" takes unusual chances and has a habit of turning out to be refreshingly original. 'Carmen' Channel 13 Tonight at 9
No, not the Bizet chestnut, but this 1983 film from Spain, directed by Carlos Saura ("Blood Wedding"), updates the same source: the Prosper Merimee novella first published in 1847. The dancer Antonio Gades plays Antonio, a choreographer seeking a Carmen for a new ballet based on the famous opera. The music of Bizet is blended skillfully with traditional flamenco music, giving Mr. Gades and his co-stars ample opportunity to pound the scenery. There are English subtitles. Pan American Games ABC Tomorrow at 1 P.M.
Telecast live from Havana, this is the quadrennial event's 11th gathering. Expected through Aug. 18 are more than 6,000 athletes from 39 nations of the Western Hemisphere. Only the Olympics, traditionally held a year later, are bigger in scope. ABC will cover the daytime competition on weekends; TNT will offer evening coverage Mondays through Fridays, in addition to Sunday broadcasts after ABC. Tomorrow: men's basketball and men's and women's marathons. 'Paul Rodriguez:' 'Behind Bars' Channel 5 Sunday at 10 P.M.
The bars belong to the cells in San Quentin prison in California. Mr. Rodriguez performs his stand-up comedy act and then interviews some of the prisoners, who talk about how they wound up there and offer some advice on how to stay out, stressing education. Also on the entertainment bill are Ice-T, the rapper, and James Stephens 3d, another comedian. Dream On Produced for HBO by Kevin Bright Productions in association with MCA Television Entertainment; story editors, Jeff Greenstein and Jeff Strauss; producers, Robb Idels and Ron Wolotzky; supervising producer, Bill Sanders; executive producers, John Landis and Mr. Bright; co-executive producers, David Crane and Marta Kauffman. Sundays at 10 P.M on HBO. Martin Tupper . . . Brian Benben Judith Tupper . . . Wendie Malick Jeremy . . . Chris Demetral Toby . . . Denny Dillon
An Article from Entertainment Weekly
Published on June 19, 1992
Pop Culture News
MIXING SOMETHING OLD WITH SOMETHIN NUDE, HBO'S 'DREAM ON' SERVES UP THE SAUCIEST SITCOM ON TELEVISION
By Benjamin Svetkey
There are no bare breasts on the set of Dream On today. No bare buttocks. No naughty naked bits of any kind. ''Sorry about that,'' apologizes series star Brian Benben. ''We shot tons of nude stuff last week. You just missed it.'' S Bummer. The nude stuff is one of Dream On's specialties-along with smart scripts, superstar guests (David Bowie, Eva Gabor, Sylvester Stallone), and campy cutaways to vintage black-and-white TV clips-all of which have helped the HBO ''adult'' sitcom draw kudos from critics and over 5 million viewers every week. S Now in its third season (this year's third new episode airs June 20 and 22; see review on page 59), the racy series has been smashing TV taboos not even Geraldo dares to contemplate. In an episode about dating anxiety, for in- stance, a near-naked female character was tied (voluntarily) to a bed and smeared with whipped cream. Another episode showed hhhhhhhh two characters smoking-yes, inhaling-marijuana. As Dream On cocreator David Crane puts it, ''Cosby it's not.'' Here's the show's nifty retrofantasy premise: Benben (36; married to actress Madeleine Stowe; last seen as the geeky FBI agent in 1990's alien thriller I Come in Peace), plays Martin Tupper, a shnooky New York book editor who's such a repressed, television-sedated child of the 1950s that he expresses his thoughts through snippets of old TV dramas (when he thinks about, say, sex, up pops a clip of Jane Wyman churning butter). Martin's best friend is his jittery ex-wife, Judith (Wendy Malick), who's now married to Mr. Perfect, a doctor with two Nobel prizes, a Grammy, and a nod from People magazine as the Sexiest Man in the World (he's never shown on screen). Martin also has to cope with his sneering secretary (Denny Dillon), a sleazeball boss (Michael McKean), his stuck-up pal Eddie (Dorien Wilson), a maturer-than- thou teenage son (Chris Demetral), and an endless string of girlfriends-of- the-week, who provide the show with its trademark jiggle. Dream On's vintage video bites come from MCA Universal's vast library of ancient B dramas-more than 400 hours of Schlitz Playhouse, Kraft Theater, and other cheesy '50s anthology series. In 1988, Universal president Sid Sheinberg asked feature film director John Landis (Animal House) to find a way to squeeze money out of these old shows. Landis, Dream On's executive producer and occasional director, asked various writers to brainstorm. ''I got proposals for game shows, for splicing the old shows together, for redubbing them,'' he says. ''But the only idea I liked was using the clips as 'thought balloons'''-a concept dreamed up by Crane and co-executive producer Marta Kauffman, both New York playwrights. HBO was instantly intrigued: The pay channel snapped up Dream On's first 13 episodes and put them on the air in the summer of 1990. Critics raved, viewership climbed, and last January the show led the ACE Awards (cable's Emmys) with five trophies. From the beginning, the most painstaking part of putting the series together has been choosing the vintage clips. Dream On has a three-member staff devoted to sifting through the MCA Universal video library, computer- cataloging every program's every scene. ''We've found some unbelievable stuff,'' says researcher Marcello Ziperovich, as he spools through an obscure clip of a young Ronald Reagan introducing the 1958 teleplay A Turkey for the President (that bit turned up in the June 6 season premiere, when Martin admitted he never voted). ''There's amazing talent in these films-Henry Fonda, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Charles Laughton-but the strange thing is, most of these shows really suck.'' Another challenge in making Dream On come true was ''finding talented actresses who would take their tops off,'' says Landis. Nudity was part of the show from the start (there's usually one R-rated scene per episode), mostly because Landis, who has full creative control, wanted it. And HBO hasn't objected. ''Cable networks are always looking for what they call 'cable edge,''' he explains. ''They want things viewers can't get on normal networks.'' HBO had already embraced similarly risque original programming-First and Ten (1984-90) and The Hitchhiker (1984-87)-and Dream On offered the channel a chance to sharpen its edge even more. Of course, Dream On's boob tube aesthetic hasn't endeared the series to everyone. A few critics complain that the show is a sexist ''titcom.'' Landis claims not to understand the charge. ''What exactly does 'gratuitous' mean?'' he booms. ''It means we have breasts in the script just for the sake of seeing breasts. Excuse me, but what's so bad about that?'' His two female cast members, who have never undressed on camera, offer answers. ''I don't think it's the nudity that makes the show 'adult' -it's the writing and the clips,'' says Dillon. Malick agrees: ''I think our material stands on its own. Personally, I'd like to see less nudity this year.'' Judging from this season's first few episodes, Malick might be getting her wish-there's hardly an undraped bosom in the batch. Instead, the show seems to be concentrating more on adult plots: The season premiere (guest-starring George Hamilton and Teri Garr, with cameos by scandal queens Rita Jenrette, Gennifer Flowers, and Jessica Hahn) satirized recent political sex controversies. This week's episode stars David Clennon (thirtysomething's Miles Drentell) as a writer with AIDS whose book Martin is editing. Still, coproducer Crane insists there's no cover-up. ''There's just as much nudity this year as in any other,'' he announces. ''We're just trying to spread it around, make it more balanced. We want to include a little beefcake.'' Case in point: Benben's tryst with Teri Garr in the season opener. ''It was a difficult scene,'' says the actor. ''I just wanted to get it over with as quickly as possible.'' He pauses demurely. ''I didn't use a stunt butt.''
An Article from The New York Times
TELEVISION; His Dreams Are Always In Black and White
By RICHARD SANDOMIR
Published: January 17, 1993
Martin Tupper's mind is submerged in television imagery. Viewers may not see him watch much television, but the thoughts of the main character in HBO's sitcom "Dream On" are regularly illustrated with snippets from the programs he absorbed as a child, as if key synapses to his brain had been hot-wired to a 1950's cathode-ray tube.
The gimmick -- having old bits of video interrupt events in the life of an ordinary, sex-obsessed book editor -- works like this: Tupper (Brian Benben) is angry because a childhood friend publicly confessed that his first sexual experience was with Tupper. We see a standard shot of Tupper looking in dismay at his friend. Then we see a character in a moth-eaten black-and-white film asking, "Do you think dynamite would stop him?" Then we quickly return to Tupper.
The show, seen Saturday nights at 10, is in its third season, and in homes that receive HBO it outdraws competing programs on ABC, CBS or NBC more than half the time. Its success is not hurt by the fact that after nearly a half-century of television, the medium in general has become increasingly self-referential. (Nick at Nite, for example, has made a virtue of the fact that its lineup of shows consists almost entirely of reruns from two decades ago or more.) But the people who created the series are quick to say that "Dream On" is more than an exercise in campy nostalgia.
"It was always important for us that the clips be the icing to the show," said Marta Kauffman, the co-executive producer with David Crane.
Mr. Crane added, "They're useful as punctuation, but our rule is: would an episode work without them?"
"Dream On" sprang from a marketing vacuum. Executives at MCA, the parent company of Universal Pictures, wanted to find a new use for Universal's library of 800 hours of television episodes and films from the 1950's and 1960's, many of which included familiar faces like Ronald Reagan and Charles Bronson. This oeuvre was not exactly the centerpiece of television's golden age. No equivalents of "Marty" or "Requiem for a Heavyweight" were found among such anthology shows as "The Schlitz Playhouse of Stars" or "The Hazel Bishop Show."
The shows, it was decided, were too awful to be shown in their entirety, so Universal asked a number of producers for recycling proposals. "They showed us a three-minute compilation of clips and asked, 'What would you do?' " said Mr. Crane.
Ms. Kauffman added: "We said that the only way to make this something you'd watch was if you cared about the story. The clips had to be secondary."
Clips ranging from mediocre to dreadful fit the ethos of "Dream On," acting as a trashy counterbalance to the slickly written script. "It was always better to find some wretched 1950's sci-fi travesty than something where people actually watched the performances," said Mr. Crane. Quality might distract the viewer from Tupper's crisis of the moment.
Using the clips adds a layer of retro irony, an aura of hipness, to what would otherwise be merely another sitcom, albeit a well-written one.
The aged clips are often used in "Dream On" to comment -- from the sidelines, as it were -- on the show's action. In one episode, when Tupper lies to his friend Eddie about plans for his bachelor party, a quick excerpt from a drama called "The House of Truth" shows a Japanese actor commenting, "He is very clever with the propaganda."
When Eddie, egged on by the other party guests' tales of marital woe, bemoans his monogamous future, a clip from a 1958 program shows Art Linkletter saying, "Isn't that the truth?" And after Eddie announces that he's not ready for children, Tupper pauses, prompting the appearance of a 39-year-old clip of children singing, "Here we go loop-de-loo."
Over time, the show's creators have changed the way they use the clips. "In the beginning," said Ms. Kauffman, "we'd watch a lot of them and say, 'We have to use that moment somewhere.' " Now, she added, the script is written first, "and you find out what you think you want to put in Martin's mind."
Because the show is on cable, rather than on one of the major broadcasting networks, it is able to use nudity and strong language -- and does so, to a fault, some critics have said. "It wasn't crucial to us, but it was important to HBO," Ms. Kauffman said of the frequent nudity. "It's not the thing I'm most proud of, but in exchange for doing that HBO gives us enormous creative control." According to HBO's senior vice president of original programming, Bridget Potter, while the network had encouraged the creators to make "Dream On" an adult show, HBO did not insist on nudity.
"Dream On" has tried to use all of Universal's old clips of Mr. Reagan, courtesy of "General Electric Theater," for which the former President was host from 1954 to 1962. In one "Dream On" episode, Mr. Reagan's younger son, Ron, was cast to play Tupper's cousin. When Tupper asked him, "How are the folks?" a clip of Mr. and Mrs. Reagan, waving at the camera, appeared.
Martin Tupper has soulmates of a sort in the staff of Nick at Nite, which has shrewdly created a tongue-in-cheek identity for itself by dotting its promos with goofy clips from old series like "The Dick Van Dyke Show" and "Alfred Hitchcock Presents."
"We're all fond of the shows," said Scott Webb, senior vice president and creative director of Nickelodeon, which operates Nick at Nite. "It's very much the social aspect of sharing a great show or a great moment, like the 'Chuckles dies' episode of 'Mary Tyler Moore.' " Finding the right clips to fit the channel's promos, he said, "is like mining for gold."
When Nick at Nite recently brought back "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" with a seven-day "Marython," the network's promotional staff pored over the more than 200 episodes to create character-oriented spots, like one for Mary's boss, Lou Grant.
In the promo, a voice-over announcer describes Lou, and the clips add the zinger. "He's fair," says the narrator. (Clip shows Lou telling Mary: "If I don't like you, I'll fire you. If you don't like me, I'll fire you.")
"He's profound." (Clip of Lou saying, "You don't have to be a whale to write Moby-Dick.")
Finally, "Some call him Mr. Grant; others just call him Lou" -- followed immediately by a clip of the "happy homemaker," Sue Ann Niven (Betty White), saying, "Dear, cryptic, bashful, dirty-minded Lou."
Along with giving the old shows a contemporary spin, Mr. Webb of Nick at Nite sees another virtue to using them in the network's promos. "Who better to endorse our shows," he said, "than the stars of our shows?"
An Article from The LA Times
A Lusty Show and Tell : HBO's comedy 'Dream On' is highly provocative and sexually explicit. How do they get away with it on television?
June 02, 1993|HOWARD ROSENBERG
Martin and his girlfriend, Kate, are in bed watching something on late-night TV that, judging by their shocked expressions, is not Jay Leno's monologue. It's obviously appalling, terrifying, too scary even to define.
Kate: "Oh, this is disgusting! Tell me when it's over."
Martin: "Oh, my God!"
Is it Hannibal Lecter dining on human entrails? No, something infinitely more startling.
Cut to the TV screen, where a humping, pumping, grunting, grinding-in-unison nude couple are making hot, noisy love.
Her: "OH! OH! OH!"
Him: "OH, YEAH!"
Her: "OH! UH! OH! UH! UHHHHHH! IT FEELS SO GOOD!!!!!!"
Because this is the age of camcorders and home videos, it turns out that the interlocked lovers that voyeurs Martin and Kate are watching on the screen are . . . themselves.
Martin: "Do I always make that face?"
How utterly foul and odious--precisely the stuff of the Playboy Channel. Except this is HBO's "Dream On," one of the funniest comedy series ever, and easily the sexiest. It was R-rated "Dream On" that gave TV the humorgasm.
The explicit sequence with Martin and Kate is from the "Dream On" season opener titled "Oral Sex, Lies, and Videotape," a double-sized episode premiering at 10:45 tonight, following the 10 p.m. season's start of HBO's other stratospheric comedy series, "The Larry Sanders Show." Future "Dream On" episodes air at 10:30 (with repeats Saturday at 10 p.m.).
Directed by executive producer John Landis and written by supervising producers Jeff Greenstein and Jeff Strauss, "Oral Sex, Lies, and Videotape" finds Martin Tupper (Brian Benben) facing a moral dilemma after videotaping a street hooker performing oral sex on the man who portrays Uncle Bouncy, the beloved clown on a popular kids' TV program. Should Martin keep mum about Uncle Bouncy's bouncing or sell his footage to TV for a fancy sum? The episode is typically hilarious, the sex typically vivid.
"Dream On" at times artfully meshes its wit with sober topics (Martin and Kate break up next week after clashing on abortion, for example), and not every episode depicts sex. Yet sex has been cosmic for divorcee Martin ever since the 1990 debut of "Dream On," when a female urged him to smear her with whipped cream and lick it off. Martin: "I'm a little concerned about the cholesterol."
One problem the show has is that it's so crack-up funny that it doesn't get proper due as serious art. That was the side I wanted to explore when I made plans to visit the North Hollywood building where this MCA/Universal series is shot.
As a serious journalist, I naturally disdained the show's vile, sickeningly lewd sex. It was the structure of its humor, its deep themes, that I was burning to investigate. So I did my homework, speaking by phone to Benben himself about his character's philosophical and sociological underpinnings.
Question: Have you ever counted the number of times Martin has had sex?
Answer: I'd be afraid to.
Q: What do you think about when you're doing it?
A: Usually what the hell it's going to look like, especially if I have my clothes off. And if there's an actress who's not wanting to be photographed naked or topless, you have to make sure your arm is in the right place or her arm is in the right place and she is covering you here or you are covering her there.
I arranged with HBO to be present for the shooting of an episode tailored to my specific needs as a serious investigative journalist. Written by Andrew Gordon and Eileen Conn, "Blame It on Reo" is a sweet, tender, thoughtful, delicately evolved coming-of-age piece about Martin's 15-year-old son, Jeremy (Chris Demetral).
In other words, a girl handcuffs Jeremy to a bed and masturbates in front of him with a vibrator.
Hurrying to the set, I arrived to see the actors rehearsing. Demetral lay on crimson satin sheets. Playing that self-pleasuring little lynx, Reo, was Dana Baron, who has worked on "Beverly Hills, 90210" as Jason Priestly's girlfriend.
I was shocked to learn that "Dream On" planned to convey Reo's action only through her off-camera moans and Jeremy's wide-eyed response. Purely for journalistic reasons, I had hoped for something more . . . visual. If only I had been present for one of Martin's adult encounters, to explore in depth his living the average heterosexual male's sexual fantasies.
"His life consists of one relationship after another that starts off fantastic, then flops," said Greenstein. Flop, shmop. It's the fantastic part that's so stimulating . . . intellectually.
No sophomoric winking about sex for this series. "There's no need to wink," Greenstein said, "because we show it."
What won't they show?
No anal sex or people defecating on each other, said executive producer Kevin Bright. No frontal nudity below the waist, said Greenstein. "And we won't show the moment of insertion or someone being exploited or doing anything against their will," he added.
What they do show is highly provocative for mainstream TV. For example, this season Martin will even have sex with a pregnant woman. "Pregnant women are sexual beings, too," Strauss said. The part went to a pregnant actress who gave birth nine days after completing shooting.
"Dream On" is so sexually explicit that alternate versions of some scenes are shot for when the series gets syndicated on regular TV. This is pay cable, after all. Nonetheless, how does "Dream On" get away with material that would earn other series condemnation--to say nothing of economic boycotts--from the religious right?
"For one thing, we have no sponsors to boycott," said Bright, referring to subscription-based HBO. "For another, we're not an erotic presentation."
"This show is not about naked butts," Strauss said. "Now you take the episode that had Martin with a porn star. We could have gone into a prurient direction, but instead we took it in the direction of him having problems with the sex histories of women he's with." Sex "should be organic to the story," Greenstein said.
And it's not just a tad gratuitous? The two supervising producers seemed surprised by the suggestion. "Gratuitous is a very subjective word," Strauss replied. "We do nothing clearly gratuitous."
"We said we would never set a scene in a strip bar," Greenstein said. Then they broke their own rule. "But in that case, the stripper became a character," Greenstein said. "And another time we had Martin watch 'The Naked Channel' only so that we could do a piece of story on it."
Strauss and Greenstein insist that Martin is less into lust than meaningful relationships, and that the series does not slough off the perils of promiscuity. "Dream On" last season had Martin use a banana to teach Jeremy how to use a condom.
"And this season we have Martin putting on a condom," said Benben. "He does it with his eyes closed because he's sleeping with an older woman and he's afraid he won't be able to perform."
The briefly depicted oral sex in "Oral Sex, Lies, and Videotape" is punctuated by an old movie cartoon clip of a woman drooling over a candy cane. Deployed wittily to emphasize Martin's thoughts at crucial moments, clips from old MCA/Universal TV series and movies have been a "Dream On" staple since its inception. Past "orgasm" clips include a train going through a tunnel, a popping champagne cork, a spurting fire hose, a rocket launching and a radiator boiling over.
The spark for using clips came from Landis and "Dream On" creators Marta Kauffman and David Crane, who jotted down bits of dialogue from vintage works--the cornier the better--and fed them to a computer, building a huge data base that could be cross-referenced and called up at any time. Thus, when the show's writers need a clip to augment a particular moment, someone does a computer search for the corresponding phrase or visual.
That someone is head researcher John McKinney, whose office I visited. The maestro of clips was at his desk in front of a computer and monitor. The wall to his left was lined with shelves holding cassettes of some 400 clips ordered for the new season.
Continuing to research the psychosocial phenomenon of "Dream On," I asked about a certain type of clip. McKinney typed a key word into the computer, and voila!
"There are 92 references to sex," McKinney said. He also counted 12 references to "penis" and eight to "orgasm." He popped in an "orgasm" clip, and there on the monitor in a 1941 movie was a singer hitting a high note for five seconds.
"Dream On" uses restraint, though. McKinney mentioned that a clip tentatively designated to run with an upcoming scene depicting breast fondling may not survive. The clip shows a man milking a cow.
Back on the set, Dana Baron was standing on a cushion in front of the bed, readying for a camera shot of Chris Demetral between her legs. "Could you spread your legs a little bit now?" coaxed director Michael Engler. "Right. Now, a teeny bit farther."
I left shortly thereafter. Even serious journalists worry about their radiators boiling over.
An Article from The Deseret News
HBO SITCOM `DREAM ON' IS UTTER TRASH
By Scott D. Pierce, Television Editor
Published: June 2, 1993 12:00 am
Maybe I'm completely out of touch with the rest of television critic-dom.
While there's never a unanimous consensus about anything in the critic community, the majority of my fellow television editors seem to love HBO's adult sitcom "Dream On."Since it debuted, it's been No. 1 or No. 2 in the critics' poll of top cable shows. One critic, whose opinion I value quite highly, says of tonight's season premiere of "Dream On" (11:45 p.m.), "Start to finish, this is most uproarious 45 minutes of TV this season."
Personally, I found the show offensive, tasteless and not particularly funny.
Not to mention that it was the trashiest 45 minutes I've seen on TV this season.
This episode, accurately titled "Oral Sex, Lies and Videotape," opens with the show's lead character, Martin Tupper (Brian Benben) in bed with his girlfriend, watching an X-rated videotape he'd made of the two them.
When Martin takes the camera out on the street, he inadvertently catches the host of a popular kiddie show (Tom Poston) in an illicit encounter with a prostitute in a nearby alley.
As tacky and tasteless as this may sound, it's much more grotesque than that.
Martin is eventually persuaded by a friend who's a talk-show host to sell him the tape for $250,000, and after it's broadcast the kiddie-show host commits suicide. Martin is then sued by the man's daughter for $2 million.
This show is not completely without humor. James Woods and Jason Alexander ("Seinfeld") have their moments as sleazy lawyers on opposite sides of the case.
But "Dream On" has become the "Married . . . With Children" of cable. "Married" began six years ago as a slightly offensive, off-center sitcom about family life that has degenerated into a self-parody of perversion.
And "Dream On" began a couple of years ago as a rather naughty, R-rated sitcom that has degenerated into one big dirty joke.
There's so much wrong with this show it's difficult to know where to begin. To begin with, the "unique" device in the show doesn't work.
To portray Martin as a child of television, his thoughts are displayed at various moments throughout the show with black-and-white clips from low-budget anthology shows from the '50s.
It's supposed to be cute or funny, but these clips just serve as jarring glitches in continuity.
(Not to mention the fact that it seems incredible that he'd remember these obscure scenes as opposed to "I Love Lucy" or "The Honeymooners.")
And, while "Dream On" is supposed to be for adults, it's really quite childish in its prurience - like teenage boys telling dirty stories in the locker room.
Maybe I'm a prude. Maybe I'm narrow-minded.
But, as far as I'm concerned, "Dream On" is utter trash.
LARRY SANDERS RETURNS: HBO's other adult-sitcom, "The Larry Sanders Show," also returns tonight (11 p.m.).
And, while I'm a big fan of Garry Shandling, this is not a particularly good episode of this normally quite amusing series.
It seems that Larry's wife has left him, his show has been dumped by another affiliate, he's got trouble with his eye, and even dating actresses like Dana Delany and Helen Hunt doesn't work out.
But it's all rather flat and unfunny. Too bad.
Like "Dream On," "The Larry Sanders Show" is intended for adults. It's full of R-rated language but is considerably less crude than "Dream."
Still, the R-rated language really isn't necessary and detracts from the series.
COMMITMENT?: KSL-Ch. 5, which has always proclaimed an undying commitment to news, didn't air it's noon newscast on Memorial Day, instead opting for reruns of "Designing Women" and "Cosby."
KUTV-Ch. 2, however, aired its noon news as usual.
WHY TV IS BETTER THAN RADIO: TV doesn't run those awful ads for National Dynamics tapes to learn new languages.
An Article from Variety
Published on June 3, 1993
Dream on Oral Sex, Lies, and Videotape
((Wed. (2), 10:45-11:45 p.m., HBO))
By JONATHAN TAYLOR
Filmed in Los Angeles by Kevin Bright Prods. and St. Clare Entertainment in association with MCA Television Entertainment. Exec producers, John Landis, Kevin S. Bright; supervising producers, Jeff Greenstein, Jeff Strauss, Bill Sanders; producers, Ron Wolotzky, Robb Idels; director, John Landis; writers, Greenstein, Strauss.
Cast: Brian Benben, Wendie Malick, Denny Dillon, Chris Demetral, Dorien Wilson, Michael McKean, James Woods, Jason Alexander, Jack Carter, Phyllis Diller, Iman, Tom Poston, Isabel Sanford, Elisabeth Shue, Tommy Smothers.
Ordinarily so skillful at wringing laughs out of schlocky B-movies and cheesy old TV shows, HBO's "Dream On" stumbles, ironically by succumbing to some of the pomposity it usually ridicules. Show kicks off its fourth season by expanding to an hour, filling the time with needless guest stars and a tedious courtroom plot.
"Dream On" always works best when it focuses on the travails of put-upon book editor/baby boomer Everyman Martin Tupper (Brian Benben). The actor's adept juggling of physical comedy and '90s pathos have been as much a part of the show's success as its hilarious use of old B&W film clips to express Martin's thoughts and its only-on-cable sexual explicitness.
That's where the first -- and funnier -- half of the show concentrates. While Martin is making a video of his son, Jeremy (Chris Demetral, whose voice has changed during the show's hiatus), he inadvertently shoots beloved kiddie show host Uncle Bouncy receiving oral sex from a prostitute in an alley.
When Martin tries to take the high road and give the tape to Uncle Bouncy (Tom Poston), he encounters a foul-mouthed and even fouler-natured jerk. So he instead sells it to his best friend Eddie (Dorien Wilson), who features it on his talkshow. But the day after the piece airs, Bouncy jumps to his death and his grieving daughter (Elisabeth Shue) sues Martin.
What had so far been clever yet silly -- a"Dream On" trademark -- suddenly bogs down as the action moves to an endless courtroom scene. James Woods offers a bad James Woods imitation as Martin's attorney while "Seinfeld's" Jason Alexander doesn't fare much better as the oily Southern prosecutor.
By the time the trial ends, even the most politically correct viewer will be hoping for "Dream On's" usual fall-back: a little gratuitous sex. In some ways director John Landis -- one of the show's co-creators -- indulges in the same needless padding that dragged down his video for Michael Jackson's "Thriller"; remember that?
Otherwise, tech credits are top-notch, notably the skillful interweaving of clips. Best of these is one of Bing Crosby crooning about his romantic mood as Martin frets about being jailed, and another of John Wayne as Genghis Khan as Woods mounts his pitiful defense. About all that's missing is the usual offering from one of Ronald Reagan's B-films.
Oh well, there's always next week.
To watch some clips from Dream On go to https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=dream+on+hbo+full+episodes
For Tim's TV Showcase go to https://web.archive.org/web/20130406174125/http://www.timstvshowcase.com/dreamon.html
For an Interview with Chris Demetral go to https://web.archive.org/web/20041217204027/http://filmforce.ign.com:80/articles/385/385017p1.html
For some Dream On-related interview videos at the Archive of American Television go to https://interviews.televisionacademy.com/shows/dream
� Date: Tue July 11, 2006 � Filesize: 27.9kb � Dimensions: 300 x 375 �
Keywords: Dream On Cast (Links Updated 7/26/18)