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Universal Studios Home Video presents
Dream On: Seasons 1 & 2 (1990)

Martin: It's not a good idea, you know? We have a professional relationship.
Toby: Okay. I quit! There. Take off your pants!

- Brian Benben, Denny Dillon

Review By: Jeff Ulmer  
Published: October 21, 2004

Stars: Brian Benben, Chris Demetral, Denny Dillon, Jeff Joseph, Dorien Wilson, Michael McKean, Wendie Malick
Other Stars: Doris Roberts, Gregory-Alan Williams, June Gable, Larry Miller, Roxanne Hart, Tippi Hedren, Steve Forrest, Dedee Pfeiffer, Julie Carmen, Fran Drescher, Tom Berenger, Yvonne DeCarlo, Dan Castellaneta, Martin Mull, Carolyn Lowery, John Landis, Kathryn Harrold, Sydney Walsh, Stephen Furst, Eva Gabor Mark Metcalf, Ricardo Montalban, Lucy Nalle, Mimi Rogers, David Bowie, Catherine O'Hara, Ray Walston, Maggie Wheeler, Kathy Kinney, Curtis Armstrong, Mindy Cohn, Ja'net DuBois, Steven Houska, Jane Kean, Barry Kivel, Larry Linville, Pat Paulsen, Jon Polito, Ron Reagan, Lionel Stander
Director: various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (language, nudity, mature situations, violence)
Run Time: 12h:38m:38s
Release Date: October 12, 2004
UPC: 025192605826
Genre: action

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A+ AB+A D+

DVD Review

When it comes to long-running sitcoms, Friends, Seinfeld or Frasier instantly come to mind, but one of the most original and hysterical shows to come out of the 1990s was the hit HBO comedy, Dream On. The title relates to the unique use of old TV shows and movies clips to punctuate the thought processes of the central character, Martin Tupper, an idea developed by producers David Crane and Marta Kauffman, in response to executive producer John Landis' challenge to come up with a way to utilize Universal's vast 1950s library. The concept is explained in the opening credits, as we see Martin, a product of the '60s, grow up in front of the television, thus his reactions to real life situations echo the TV world he is so familiar with. In the context of the show, these rapidly edited inserts of otherwise harmless dialogue (featuring actors such as Ronald Reagan, Lee Marvin, Tony Curtis, Joan Crawford, Jerry Mathers, Richard Deacon, Ricardo Maltoban, Eva Gabor, Charles Bronson, and Nancy Reagan [nee Davis]) answer, and often contradict, what is happening in reality, and greatly adds to the show's comedic quality. Dream On foregoes the political correctness of network broadcast, opting for plenty of nudity, foul language, and adult themes, which while played for laughs brings a more realistic environment to the show. The series ran for six seasons, and 120 epsiodes in total. After its initial run on HBO, the show was edited to remove the nudity and language for Comedy Central, which would ruin many of the jokes. Fortunately, Universal presents the complete first and second seasons in this uncut 28-episode set.

Martin Tupper (Brian Benben), a 36-year-old book editor, is trying to come to grips with his life. While still harboring a desire to reconcile their relationship, he has been separated from his wife, Judith, for two years and as the season opens, he is faced with finally settling their divorce so she can marry the esteemed Dr. Richard Stone. Their adolescent son, Jeremy, is at an age where he needs some adult guidance, something neither parent is ready to tackle. Martin's life is further complicated by his job, dealing with an array of sordid authors, but especially his saucy secretary Toby, who takes great pleasure in seeing her boss squirm. Martin's best friend Eddie is a womanizing talk show host who urges Martin back into the world of casual dating, and more importantly, casual sex.

The casting is brilliant. Benben was the perfect choice for Martin, able to cover the wide range of emotions and situations flawlessly, and with complete if exagerated realism. Likewise, Wendie Malick (Just Shoot Me) makes the part of the neurotic ex-wife with the angelic new husband her own. Chris Demetral plays son Jeremy to a "T", always ready to point out his father's hypocrisies, and both Jeffrey Joseph with Dorien Wilson hold their own as Eddie. The coup d'etat was the casting of Denny Dillon as Martin's fiery and caustic secretary from hell, with an explosive screen presence and bitingly sarcastic writing, and the always great Michael McKean excels as Gibby. The show also attracted a wide range of high profile guest talent, some of whose earlier work is featured in the flashbacks.

The writers do a great job of giving each of the characters dimension. Where Benben gets the most range, the supporting cast is allowed their time to shine as well—even the grating Toby Pedalbee is given her moments of weakness. The complexity of Martin's life is further aggravated by the off-screen presence of his ex-wife's perfect new husband, who is admired by everyone for his heroic deeds and philanthropic work. While there are a few duds, most notably the Nina storyline, which takes up three of the first season's episodes and sidelines most of the suporting cast, the vast majority of these installments are classic. The first season highlights include Sex and the Single Father, where Jeremy's crush on his teacher (June Gable) forces Martin to have "the talk" with him, only to discover that Jeremy's prior knowledge of the subject leads to some pretty loaded questions. Watching Martin squirm is just priceless, especially when his son learns his father went out with his teacher. ...And Sheep Are Nervous finds Martin at a male bonding clinic, and soon after becomes involved with the perfect woman (Dedee Pfeiffer), while in Doing the Bossa Nova Martin finds the demands of his new boss tiresome, especially when Toby begins distributing photocopies of their adventures on the Xerox machine. The season closer, Premarital Ex has Judith in a tizzy over her pending marriage, leading to an all-too-familiar situation with her ex-husband.

The second season brought a couple of cast changes, the first being the addition of Michael McKean as Martin's new boss, Gibby Fiske, a brash and ruthless Aussie determined to overhaul the company by eliminating any trace of literature from their catalog while revelling in the skankiest material they can find. The second was replacing comedian Jeffrey Joseph with Dorien Wilson in the role of Martin's best friend, Eddie Charles, a change that was executed by Eddie undergoing plastic surgery. Highlights here include the two part opener, The Second Greatest Story Ever Told, where Richard's life story becomes the subject of a movie, and Martin falls for the actress cast as Judith (Mimi Rogers), while Judith falls for movie actor Nick Spencer (Tom Berringer), who is playing her husband. This episode is loaded with cameos, from Fran Drescher to Eva Gabor to David Bowie, who plays the megalomaniacal director. Calling the Kettle Black exposes the challenges of being a child of the 1970s and a father of the 1990s, when Martin finds a joint in Jeremy's room, only to have Eddie convince him to smoke it. All is fun and games until Gibby shows up in The Name of the Game Is Five-Card Stud. The stakes are high, and winner takes all, clothing included. Martin dates a stand up comic (Maggie Wheeler, Friend's Janice) in So Funny I Forgot to Laugh (aka Stop It, You're Killing Me), but finds that the joke is on him when their sex life becomes the subject of her act. Finally, Toby's birthday plans get derailed in Toby or not Toby, where the secretary gets a glimpse of her future—at Martin's aunt's wake.

Dream On may not be for everyone, but for those who enjoy its pointed humor, this set is sure to please.

Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Image quality is quite good, with nicely saturated color, and solid black levels. The image is slightly soft in places, and there is some intereference in highly patterned areas, particularly horizontal or vertical lines, as well as some aliasing and a few sporadic video glitches throughout the set. There is also a bit of minor cross-coloration.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: Stereo audio is clean, with a nice image and decent frequency coverage. Dialogue is clear and easy to comprehend. No technical problems were noted.

Audio Transfer Grade: A


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 112 cues and remote access
Packaging: Digipak
Picture Disc
5 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Introduction by producer John Landis
Extras Review: The first disc includes skippable trailers for Quantum Leap, Magnum P.I. and two seasons of Law & Order.

Universal has included an introduction (6m:52s) by producer John Landis, who tells a bit about how the series came into being, and runs through a list of some of the notable guest stars.

Unfortunately, Universal has provided only four chapter stops per episode, which in and of itself isn't that bad for a half hour show, but their placement means viewers who wish to skip the opening credits (and the Universal fanfare that is placed before each episode) will have to fast forward to the show's first scene.

Extras Grade: D+


Final Comments

Universal deserves kudos for packaging the first two seasons together as one of my favorite sit-coms makes its way to DVD in Dream On. The adult humor may not wash with all audiences, but for those who prefer something a little less sugary than network offerings, Dream On comes highly recommended.


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