IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Test Pattern: Five-link Friday

‘Star Wars’ script; how lightsabers work; eye-color calculator; "American Idol" Pop-Tarts; talking Trump doll. By Gael Fashingbauer Cooper

Five-link Friday

It's Friday, and time to take a break from the "American Dreams" postings for a day to get back to our five fun links. And be sure to join me here on Sunday night, when I'll be blogging the "Survivor Palau" finale live.

• How Stuff Works is usually pretty serious, so of course their is pretty serious too. I love the photos: "The big advantage of using a lightsaber is, of course, that you can both slice and toast the bagel in one stroke."

• Possible spoiler alert! These are not the droids you're looking for! It's entirely possible that for next week's final "Star Wars" movie, but you know, I can't read past the opening crawl, because I don't want to wreck the surprise.

• This is fun: So I have brown eyes, but a blue-eyed mother, and a blue-eyed husband. According to this , our future children have a 50% chance of having brown eyes. (Have hazel or Liz Taylor-esque violet eyes? Sorry, the calculator doesn't take you into account.)

• I thought were bad, but that was before I saw these .

• I can think of few dolls scarier than a . Be sure not to store him with your Barbies, after all, he's already on wife #3.

You may say I'm a ‘Dreamer,’ but I'm not the only one

Turns out that my entry about “American Dreams” was posted on at least one online bulletin board about the show, so welcome, new readers and fellow “Dreams” fans!

Some of you were excited to hear that the show hasn’t yet been cancelled. Yeah, me too, but I’m wondering if that’s just what they’re telling us. It’s entirely possible that NBC has already made the decision and are just holding off announcing it.

Some wanted to know about online petitions and the like. I know they’re out there (here’s one) but to be honest, I don’t think they do a darn thing. I remember back when people were trying to save “Relativity” and they sent cans of Raviolios to the president of ABC (Doug on the show loved ‘em). It was a funny thought, but the show bit the dust anyway.

Recently, some fans flew a plane pulling  a “Save American Dreams” banner over NBC in Burbank, which is a fun idea, but probably not enough.

Also, if the show does get cancelled, and you just have to know what was in store for Meg and family, Wikipedia has some info on what might have happened. (Scroll down to “Fourth Season Plotlines.”)  I won’t give anything away here on the slim chance the show does return, but the plotlines are juicy enough that it only makes me want to see a fourth season even more.

I’d like to add that I don’t think that there’s a red state-blue state divide on this issue, as some suggested, nor is it a reality TV vs. non-reality issue.

It’s an issue of one good show, that appeals to a wide range of viewers, who may live in red states, may live in blue states (and how much do I hate that distinction anyway?) and may have never watched a reality show, or may be big fans of “Survivor” or “American Idol.”  It’s not a divisive show, it’s a bringing-folks-together kind of show.

Here are some of your thoughts, and I wish I could share them all:

UNDERSTANDING VIETNAM“I totally agree.  I loved watching “American Dreams” on NBC.  I hate that fact that it has been moved and then totally replaced by other shows that aren’t even really relevant today.  “American Dreams” was like getting an inside look into my parents lives when they were the same ages as JJ and Meg.  My dad also served in Vietnam and he wouldn’t even discuss it with me.  This show has given me the chance to understand the values and the traditions that he grew up with in rural North Carolina.  Please bring back “American Dreams”, NBC.”   --Constance

HOW ABOUT A MEG-LIKE PROTEST?“I have enjoyed the show since the first episode and, having grown up in the ‘60s, I can identify with Meg and all the issues the show raises.  I, too, mourn shows cancelled without getting what I consider a fair chance (‘China Beach’ was one of my favorites)to find their audience.  Just about the time folks were finding ‘American Dreams’ on Sunday night, NBC panicked and moved to Wednesday so they wouldn’t have to compete with ‘Extreme Makeover’—a good show but one without the staying power needed to continue for more than a season or two. (Just look at ‘Trading Spaces’ and ‘While You Were Out’—the audience has shrunk considerably since they were the hot new shows.)  I am also concerned about ‘Joan of Arcadia’ since it, too, is under-promoted but truly quality programming.  What can we do?  Would a ‘60s-style protest a la Meg Pryor work?”    --Karyn

INNOCENT DAYS“As a child born in the sixties in an Irish-Catholic family of nine, I can relate to this period drama like no other. Every nuance, feeling, color and note is like I’m at home again when I was oh, so innocent. Every episode makes me ache for what was my early life.  I too would look forward to every Sunday night for my dose of ‘reality’ so that I could carry it through the week and savor each message every single episode delivered. Shame on NBC if they cancel this classic. There are real Americans out here that beg for quality TV.”  --Janet

VIETNAM SCARS TOO FRESH“I eagerly awaited the premiere episode of  ‘American Dreams’ and was elated by it! Having graduated high school in 1963, I broke down sobbing at the wonderful but shocking manner “Dreams” presented the news of JFK’s assassination. The focus on life-changing events of that time — the Viet Nam war, the civil rights movement, rock’n’roll transitioning into R&B, women exploring brave new worlds for them—took me back to a time that now seems so very long ago. I have yet to miss an episode of the program, taping it when I couldn’t be home. That said, I knew the show wouldn’t last. Many of my fellow Viet Nam veteran friends cannot or will not watch the program; some of our scars are still too fresh and deep. Those who can or even want to remember the 1960s are a small group. Kudos to Dick Clark — even if this was a bit of an ego trip for him — and NBC for bringing this quality program to the small screen.”    --Frank

SCHEDULE CHANGE DOOMED SHOW“I think that the move from Sunday nights doomed American Dreams.”  --Sherry

COLLEGE FAN“I looked forward to my Sunday nights all week long to watch ‘American Dreams.’ I am a 23 year old college student and although I am too young to have experienced this era myself, I am so fascinated by the show and all of the characters. It is so different from anything else on television and I love that! I will be absolutely heartbroken (and somewhat bitter) if NBC cancels this show.”  --Gina

ANOTHER THAT ’70s SHOW?“I love when all the Pryors are sitting at the dinner table. It is utter chaos and there are a million conversations going on at once but the key is they are communicating. Todays families rarely have dinner together and if they do a TV is on that keeps communication down. TV was never allowed on during dinner. The TV was in the living room and we weren't allowed to eat there. …I will also buy the box set but I hope with all my heart that I have at least a couple more years of American Dreams. Take it thru at least the mid- 70's and please put it back on Sunday nights.”    --Debi

TALKING WITH MOM“I would be so sad and angry to see ‘American Dreams’ cancelled.  I’ve watched from the beginning, my parents grew up in the 60’s and we watched it together till I went to college.  Then my mom and I would talk about it over the phone! The show is great and I love it.  Not only do you discover stuff about the 60’s, you can still relate to the characters and what they are going through.  My parents can relate to growing up in that time, and to being parents.  I can relate to the children, because the problems they face are still problems we have today.  I really hope NBC keeps this show, it would be terrible if they didn’t.”    --Wendy

TALKING WITH TEENS“This show has given me and my teenagers many opportunities not only discuss some historical events but to deal with issues such as pre-marital sex and recreational drug use...not to mention music. The usual reality crap will never give an opportunity to teach these life lessons.  I mean, if you admit you have drug arrests before the show airs, you can still be an ‘American’ Idol?”    --Michael

ANOTHER CONTROVERSIAL WAR“ ‘American Dreams’ is one of the best shows on television right now.  There are few shows that I absolutely have to watch and this is one of them.  Not only does the show depict fairly accurately a turbulent period in our history that my parents’ generation can identify with; it also has strikes a cord with today’s generation, fighting another controversial war with somewhat murky goals.  If this show is cancelled, not only will I lose a huge amount of respect for NBC but I will finally be convinced that there simply is no talent left in the television writing industry.”    --Mike

BETTER THAN ‘HOUSEWIVES’“I agree completely that American Dreams is one of the best shows on network television. I grew up in Philadelphia—basically this show chronicles my life. It has depth and has touched on some very significant issues—racism, the Viet Nam War, birth control, etc., and the acting is excellent. I’m shocked to learn that none of my friends have ever watched it. Oh right — I think it’s opposite ‘Desperate Housewives’ — a ridiculous show about aging nymphomaniacs which has no redeeming social or, for that matter, entertainment qualities.”    --Beverly

TV TURN-OFF“ ‘American Dreams’ is one of the two best programs on television.  I assure you that if it is cancelled, that will be one more hour that my TV will not be tuned to any broadcast television, it will be turned off.”    --Bill

Is ‘American Dreams’ dead?

It’s not looking good for

NBC hasn’t yet formally said they’ve cancelled the hour-long period drama, but that rumor is definitely out there. An NBC spokeswoman told me in an e-mail “Contrary to what you’ve read, there has been no official decision.  My understanding is that we will know next week.” Yet this fan fears that the show is not coming back, and that would be a shame.

In my job, I get a lot of mail from TV viewers who are angry that there’s so much reality TV programming out there. Over and over again, the same complaint comes up: It’s taking up space that could be given to quality scripted programming, they say.

Yet I admit that I often looked at a schedule filled with the latest boorish sitcom (Hey! Let’s put a fat guy and a beautiful blonde woman together, that’s never been done before) or “CSI” knockoff and thought: What quality scripted programming?

AMERICAN DREAMS -- NBC Series -- \"To Tell the Truth\" -- Pictured: Brittany Snow as Meg Pryor -- NBC Photo: Paul Drinkwater
AMERICAN DREAMS -- NBC Series -- \"To Tell the Truth\" -- Pictured: Brittany Snow as Meg Pryor -- NBC Photo: Paul Drinkwater

In my head, though, there was always one huge exception: “American Dreams.” The show tells the story of the fictional Pryor family growing up in Philadelphia during the turbulent 1960s. Son JJ is a Marine who was injured in Vietnam (a scene of him being held prisoner with other Marines sticks unnervingly in my head still). Daughter Meg, the center of most of the scripts, dances on “American Bandstand,” which of course started out in Philly. Her sister Patty, still in grade school, is the family brain. And young Will began the show using leg braces from polio, but a risky surgery now has him walking without assistance.

Dad Jack and mom Helen are fascinating, too. Jack runs a TV and appliance store, and his work with African-American salesman Henry Walker has opened the Pryor family’s eyes to racism and the civil-rights movement. Since the show’s beginning, Helen has reached outside of her family to see if taking college classes and working outside the home is right for her.

It would have been easy to sketch out these characters, toss in the issues of the era – Vietnam, racism, women’s rights, polio – and go no further than that. Yet every character on “American Dreams” feels fully realized, like people we know. They’re far from perfect. Jack wasn’t thrilled at all about Helen choosing to take a job and changing the old order of things. Even with a brother fighting in Vietnam, Meg still ventured out to demonstrate with friends in the peace movement. With her own son missing in action, Helen had to battle with herself and decide whether or not she would help a young man avoid the draft and flee to Canada. The issues were never clean-cut and the characters’ decisions never easy. Lots of good talking fodder for families here.

I’m the youngest of seven. Like Meg, my father was a World War II veteran, my brother a veteran of the Vietnam War. I was too young to remember the 1960s, but I know they changed my family, my country, forever. It’s fascinating and yes, even educational to watch the era play out on screen. We’ve come so far in many ways, yet in others, we haven’t come far enough. I can imagine kids who might be bored by a documentary approach to the 1960s or Vietnam or civil rights actually becoming engaged by the way the “Dreams” characters move through the issues.

Sure, there are plenty of TV shows that take us into worlds we don’t inhabit daily, and that’s OK. Shows about Superman’s childhood, shows about murder and crime and law. But for me, ending the week with a Sunday viewing of “American Dreams” was a constant reminder that so much of what’s important in life can be found very close to home.

If “American Dreams” does get its pink slip next week, it’ll take a place of honor on my mental list of great shows whose genius was never recognized (“Freaks and Geeks,” “My So-Called Life,” “Relativity,” I’m looking at you.) And I’ll be waiting eagerly for the entire series to come out on DVD. But in the meantime, I’m just going to keep “Dream”-ing.

Rounding up the reader mail

If Friday’s Five-link Friday, should Monday be Reader Mail Monday? Maybe not all the time, but I did want to share some recent notes from the mailbag.

“There is something about Tom that is so likable, so unaffected.  I really hope he wins.  He deserves it so much more than those other runny nose whiners. He is a true survivor!”  --Melissa

“I love Tom, too! Maybe that is why I watch this stupid reality TV show, because occasionally you do come into contact with a real human being that is more than a media creation and worthy of our admiration and celebrity. Go Tom, go!”   --Ashley

“Tom’s a putz. He constantly left out Coby just because he is effeminate, yet Coby proved time and time again that he can pull his weight—much more than I can say for Greg or Ian. There’s nothing special about Tom; he’s a self-righteous homophobe, an Irishman who can’t even handle a drink.”    --Lora

“I can assure you that although the article is old, that John O’Hurley is still in partnership with the “real” J. Peterman in ownership of the catalog company.   The company is doing well and last year, launched their first furniture line. Any of your readers can log on to and view the catalog.  Signed, John’s wife (and fellow catalog shopper)”

“Got through 37 years of shift work watching anything Mr. Bell put his name on. Will miss the man and his work.”    --Arthur

“I share your feelings about Y&R. It is a soap that I grew up with. When I stayed home years ago with my two small children, it was a lifesaver - a way to escape for a while. These days I catch it around holidays and in the summers (I teach school), and it’s like watching an old friend. Here’s a toast to Bill Bell. May he rest in peace.”  --Ellen

“You wanted to be Joy! I wanted to be a guest star whose job it was to slap the magic flute from Pufnstuf when he got annoying. I even named my first car after the big lizard himself. I don’t know if today’s kids will get the Krofft stuff, and I say they don’t have to. It was weird, and wonderful, and trying to redo it dilutes the weird trip that was our Saturday morning.”   --Lynne

“I’m 35 years old and I’d I’d be right next to you on that couch watching the Saturday Morning channel.  Schoolhouse Rock, that cheese ball guy (“I hanker for a hunka cheese”), Banana Splits, and we can’t forget Shazam! (or was it called Captain Marvel?).  Oh, the cacophony of theme songs racing through my head right now....”   --Sara

“Regarding your wish for a channel with the old Krofft shows, we here in Orange County California are lucky enough to have our local Cox Channel 3 run “Retro Saturday Morning” every Saturday  from 8:00 am to 11:00 am.  They run “Land or the Lost”, “Lidsville”, “The Bugaloos”, “Far Out Space Nuts”, “The Lost Saucer”, “Sigmund and the Sea Monsters”, “Pufnstuf” and “The Kroftt Super Show”.  Brings back lots of great childhood memories.”    --Anna-Lisa

“Relating to the Liger/Ligress:  P.T. Barnum’s famous mid-1800s American Museum in New York purportedly had a menagerie containing a lioness, a tigress, and next to them a sign on a door labeled “to the egress.”  The ignorant visitor exited the door to see the “egress,” and since the door locked behind them, they had to pay another admission to reenter the museum. I remember seeing ligers and or ligresses at a circus about twelve or fifteen years ago.  Yes, they were overweight, with swinging paunches, somewhat like my own housecats.”    --Ben

“Love all the comments on ligers, but no mention of the “tigons” (which are “COMPLETELY different”). According to “Tigons are the opposite of ligers and have a tiger father and lioness mother. They may also be referred to as tiglons or tions.”  Unfortunately, they are so not as cool as ligers, and have no magic.”    --Amber