American Dreams

NBC (ended 2005)


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This evocative drama, which won two Emmy Awards, is set against the memorable music, the cultural clashes, and the Vietnam war during the 1960s. The third-year drama depicts the American landscape -- as seen through the youthful Pryor family of Philadelphia as they brace for the cultural turbulence ahead that still resonates in this contemporary era.

Seventeen-year-old Meg Pryor (Brittany Snow, “Guiding Light”) is shedding her “good girl” image as she and her outspoken best friend Roxanne (Vanessa Lengies, “Popular Mechanics for Kids”) continue to pursue their dreams of making a difference as they struggle through the transition from teenager to adult. While they continue to dance on Dick Clark’s locally produced “American Bandstand,” they find -- as seniors at East Catholic High School -- that the world around them is growing ever closer with issues of the war, racism, feminism, and even teen marriage and pregnancy.

At the same time, Meg’s mother Helen (three-time Emmy nominee Gail O’Grady, “NYPD Blue”) continues to face the challenge of the era’s modern woman, working and holding the family together. The family’s patriarch, Jack Pryor (Tom Verica, “Providence”), braces himself for the sociological and economic changes as he prepares to run for city councilman, and JJ (Will Estes, “7th Heaven”), a U.S. Marine fighting in Vietnam, struggles to find his way home to his family and his ex-fiancee, Beth Mason (Rachel Boston, “The Andy Dick Show”), who is pregnant with their child. In addition, adolescent Will (Ethan Dampf, “Collateral Damage”) tries to fit in at school after successful polio surgery, and smarty-pants Patty (Sarah Ramos) tries to find a balance between her brilliant mind and social acceptance among her high school peers.

African-American father Henry Walker (Jonathan Adams, “The American Embassy”) remains hopeful that his partnership in Jack Pryor’s electronics store is a sign of positive social changes to come. However, the politics of the time continue to show him that the needs of the black community are not being met. Meanwhile, his son Sam (Arlen Escarpeta, “The Shield”) has mixed feelings concerning the evolving events as he starts his freshman year at the University of Pennsylvania on a track scholarship which forces him on a path of self-discovery.

The drama embraced contemporary musicians as guest stars who portray classic 1960s icons on “American Bandstand.” Last season’s guest stars include Kelly Clarkson (as Brenda Lee), Nick Lachey (as Tom Jones), Alicia Keys (as Fontella Bass), and Hilary and Haylie Duff (as The Shangri-Las).moreless
Brittany Snow

Brittany Snow

Margaret "Meg" Pryor

Virginia Madsen

Virginia Madsen

Rebecca Sandstrom [Ep. 1 - 14]

Vanessa Lengies

Vanessa Lengies

Roxanne Bojarski

Jonathan Adams

Jonathan Adams

Henry Walker

Will Estes

Will Estes

John "J.J." Pryor, Jr.

Tom Verica

Tom Verica

John "Jack" Pryor

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  • LOVE this show with one exception!

    The father Jack Pryor is a complete A**, I can not stand that jackass. It's no wonder Meg runs away from home (final episode). Roxanne is so cool and JJ, well Will Estes is a fine actor. I grew up in Philly, North Philly as a matter of fact. But after I left to join the service (1959) North Philly went down hill quick. So that part of the show I really don't relate to. When I was younger that part of town was beautiful and well kept.moreless
  • A True American Gem

    I started watching American Dreams a decade after it first aired because I was truly intrigued by the early work of Brittany Snow, Vanessa Lengies, and Will Estes. I have to say that I was truly amazed by the storylines and how genuine the show was. From what I read some of the events or music weren't exactly corresponding to the timeline but the historical events took second to the ups and downs of the Pryor family.

    I was happy when Meg got into Bandstand and crossed my fingers every time JJ had to catch a football in his games. I rolled my eyes but smiled at Patty's intelligence and was always happy to see Will happy. I especially enjoyed watching Helen and Jack trying to manage four children in the '60s with the help of friends and Pete, Jack's younger brother.

    It was so interesting to see both the white, Catholic family in the '60s along with the storyline of the Walkers, the African American family who struggled and succeeded with the Pryors. I loved it when Sam got into Penn, he so deserved it!

    As the seasons progressed I bit my fingernails when JJ was in Vietnam and cringed every time Meg got in trouble. I was happy when Helen got a job working at the travel agency and when Will had his surgery and it worked.

    All in all, this was a great show and a great piece of American television. I wish there were more shows like this now, ten years later.moreless
  • One of my all time favorite shows, and in many ways it died way too soon (although it did get three seasons) It was a true family drama that any person of any age could watch and enjoy.moreless

    American Dreams was a one of a kind experience. I was never really into tv gimmicks, and initially I was very wary because of the whole 1960's thing, but actually it worked very well for the stories it wanted to tell. It tackled serious issues like civil rights and political movements, in a family who was right in the middle. The relationships between the character like Henry and Mr.Prior and Meg and Sam exemplify this best. But besides that, it is the intrigue of each character that really carry this show along. JJ with his senior year of highschool then military, and Meg's movement from another self-centered individual who sees a greater purpose in life. Young Will with his polio. All in all, this developed a true family experience, and a one of a kind show that should not be missed by anyone. It weakened slightly in the third season, but not significantly, and then finally was pulled for low ratings, but I would like to thank NBC for giving this great show three seasons despite its less than steller ratings.moreless
  • This is how TV should be.

    As the title tells us, American Dreams is about the good ole days. Think black-and-white TV, record players, phones with cords, plaid skirts. Oh, how I wish I could of grown up in the sixties. In actuality, it's the simplicity and realness of the show that makes it so easy to enjoy. You can imagine that the Pryors are your next-door neighbors, a dysfunctional but lovable family, complete with football star JJ, dancer/music-lover Meg, know-it-all Patty, the adorable but Polio-stricken Will, power freak father Jack, and sweet, compassionate mother Helen. It is incredibly difficult not to love all of them. This is the kind of thing we need to see more of on TV.moreless
  • A wonderful little show, cancelled before it should have been.

    I remember seeing the previews for "American Dreams" and instantly being intrigued; I've always been a fan of shows about historical events, and the setting just seemed interesting to me. I'd never seen a TV show that focused on the 1960s and the turmoil that people went through at the time.

    The show delivered wonderfully. Focusing on the Pryor family, it began with the assassination of President Kennedy and showed the reactions of everyone in the family--from the WWII vet father, Jack, to the youngest child, Will. Confusion, fear, anger, the family went through it all. The characters were fleshed out and took on meaning within just a few episodes--Helen was a caring mother conflicted by the troubles in the world, JJ the star football player, Meg the girl who starred in American Bandstand and talked boys with her best friend Roxanne, smart Patty and adorable Will. They may sound one-dimensional, but as the show went on, they really came to life.

    My favorite storyline from the show was JJ joining the USMC and his deployment to Vietnam, it certainly wasn't original, as almost everyone guessed that would happen when the show first came on the air, but it was still effective. One of the scenes that still sticks out in my mind is when JJ leaves for Vietnam early in the morning, his mother is out getting milk and when she comes inside he's in uniform, ready to go. There's a thick feeling of awkwardness, and I got a feeling of nausea, just like I did the day I left for a deployment back in 2005 (getting up early in the morning still makes me ill, just like I felt the day I left). The reactions from JJ's family were realistic, and the episode where it's discovered that JJ is MIA and most likely not coming home is heartbreaking. The show also dealt with JJ's return home very well, without butchering his character, but still showing us a deeply troubled young man.

    As in any show, it did have it's downs: I never liked the character of Beth, and thought she was incredibly unsupportive and inconsiderate to JJ while he was gone. It also got a bit too preachy when it came to the Civil Rights movement sometimes, while most of the time it handled it nicely. And I wasn't a fan of the bandstand theme, just seemed too "out there" for me, as MOST 15-year-old girls in the '60s didn't dance on national TV.

    Overall, this show was a gem amongst many, unoriginal, dull shows (Law & Order, CSI, Crossing Jordan, etc.), and NBC shouldn't have cancelled it so early. It's a shame that the entire three seasons haven't been released on DVD, I would sure buy them!moreless

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Sitcoms, Historical, Family Comedies