It is difficult to judge AMERICAN DREAMS off of the first episode.
This is a family drama, and like most family dramas, it is about a family which
is fraying at the edges. It is set during the Kennedy administration, in
Philadelphia (a fact that they pound into you with repeated naming of
the local sports teams and with an awkward invocation of the term “cheese
steak hoagie”; one is left wondering whether they are aware that this is
not the same thing as a “cheese steak”, or whether they just included it
because it had the Philly terms “cheese steak” and “hoagie”). The family father watches his
perfect family start to crumble, as his wife starts yearning for unnamed
things beyond middle-class motherdom, his eldest son tired of being the
football star and thus dashes his scholarship chances, and his eldest
daughter aims to appear on American Bandstand. It is the last that
brings the series its gimmick, the integration of old Bandstand footage
with much work put into getting around that they can’t directly show Dick Clark
in the modern footage (as he does look a full 7 years older now than he did
And then, in a startling twist at the end of the episode,
President Kennedy gets killed off, and their world will never be the same!
This first episode is well constructed, the fraying of the family
well documented. But the question is not whether they can fray the family,
but rather what do they do with the family once it is frayed. That’s what
makes a good drama series, and that is something that time will have to tell.
(If they have time to tell it, that is; off the top of my head, I’m having
trouble thinking of any recent successful hour-long primary network dramas set in the past.
The last one that comes to mind is China Beach, and before that I
find myself dredging up John-Boy and Lara Ingalls Wilder.)
It’s been a long day; watching and reviewing Boomtown will
probably have to wait until tomorrow.