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File:AD 6420.jpg

Top row: J.J., Jack, Beth, Helen, Henry, and Sam; Middle row: Roxanne, Meg, and Will; Bottom: Patty

NBC Family Drama series which ran from 2002 to 2005 and was cancelled due to low Ratings. Regrettably, it was Cut Short in the middle of a Story Arc. The first of its three seasons was released on DVD in 2004.

Set in Philadelphia during The Sixties, the series follows the Catholic Pryor family. Major characters included:

  • Meg Pryor (Brittany Snow): The de facto protagonist, Meg is a High School-aged Naive Everygirl as well as a dancer on American Bandstand. Her Coming of Age Story was more-or-less the centerpiece of the show.
  • Roxanne Bojarski (Vanessa Lengies): Meg's BFF and a fellow Bandstand dancer. A bit of a Good Bad Girl, she supplies Meg with some Toxic Friend Influence.
  • Jack Pryor (Tom Verica): Meg's Overprotective Dad. Generally humorless, but has occasional Moments Of Awesome.
  • Helen Pryor (Gail O'Grady): Jack's Housewife and a bit more open-minded to the changing times than him.
  • J.J. Pryor (Will Estes): Meg's older brother, who spends most of the second and part of the third seasons in The Vietnam War.
  • Beth Mason/Pryor (Rachel Boston): J.J.'s girlfriend and later wife. A little "oops" happens as per the Law of Inverse Fertility, resulting in Birth and Wedding Episodes during the third season.
  • Henry Walker (Jonathan Adams): A business associate of Jack. He is black, which is a Big Deal what with this being the '60s.
  • Sam Walker (Arlen Escarpeta): Son of Henry and classmate to the Pryor kids. He eventually gets a UST filled relationship with Meg. Of course, being black is an even Bigger Deal here.
  • Patty Pryor (Sarah Ramos): Annoying Younger Sibling to Meg, Patty is The Spock, complete with Spock Speak. Towards the end of the show, she got old enough to start getting teenage storylines.
  • Will Pryor (Ethan Dampf): Youngest Pryor, who becomes the Littlest Cancer Patient when he got polio.

The show is perhaps best remembered for its Stunt Casting gimmick of using the American Bandstand portion of the show to have an '00s celebrity singer dress up like a '60s celebrity singer and sing their Signature Song. Throughout the series, they had Brandy singing "Heard It Through The Grapevine" as Gladys Knight, Charlotte Martin singing "Downtown" as Petula Clark, Fefe Dobson singing "River Deep - Mountain High" as Tina Turner, Hilary Duff singing "Leader of the Pack" as Mary Weiss, and Kelly Clarkson as Brenda Lee twice singing "Rock Around The Christmas Tree" and "Sweet Nuthin's". And those are just some of the ones that are easy to find on YouTube — towards the end, they did this pretty much Once Per Episode.

Not to be confused with the film American Dreamz.

Tropes used in American Dreams include:
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: At least Meg does, as evidenced by her relationship with Chris Pierce in the third season; many shippers agreed.
  • American Title
  • Anachronism Stew: While vaguely advancing from 1963 to 1966 over its three seasons, the show tended to mix-and-match elements from different points in the decade.
    • The biggest part of this may have been the acts themselves: getting appearance dates ludicrously wrong, or even putting acts on Bandstand that never appeared on the show.
  • The Artifact: The American Bandstand portions.
    • Oddly, they had a ready excuse to drop them - Bandstand moved from Philly to L.A. in the mid-60s.
      • Instead, Meg moves to L.A. during the last season.
        • Given that one of the executive producers was Mr. American Bandstand himself, Dick Clark, losing that part of the show was never going to happen.
    • Giving us the Once Per Episode ritual of seeing a '60s hit performed on Bandstand, either in Stock Footage or by the '00s-singer-of-the-week-playing-the-'60s-singer-of-the-week. Throughout this, we get cutaway shots of Meg and Roxanne in the audience, where they can easily hold a conversation over the music. Funnily enough, no one else in the audience ever tries to hold a conversation. Optional are accompanying scenes with the other main characters elsewhere, possibly with the musical-act-of-the-week playing on a TV in the background. A scene of this description nearly always — if not always — took place shortly after the opening credits.
  • Betty and Veronica: Meg and Roxanne follow this trope so well Luke actually Lampshades it in an early episode. It becomes even more Hilarious in Hindsight when Luke winds up having dated both of them in the second season.
  • Catholic School Girls Rule: Averted as basically all teenage females on the show were Catholic schoolgirls by default.
  • Cut Short
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Of the "non-joke, non-sexual" variety. A show that begins with a shocking national tragedy, and eventually sees the characters become in involved in a controversial war. Debuting while September 11, 2001 was still a fresh memory and airing during the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
  • Draft Dodging: Helen use her travel agent job to help at least one boy escape to Canada and it was also implied she helped others. Had the show continued she would have been arrested for her trouble. The show also had dealt previously with Nathan a Nation of Islam follower choosing to serve jail time rather than violate his pacifist beliefs.
  • Family Drama: Arguably half the reason the show failed was because NBC insisting it was a Teen Drama. Of course it was post-Friends NBC.
  • Fake American: Vanessa Lengies and Jamie Elman (Luke Foley) both grew up in Canada (although Jamie Elman was born in the US). Jamie Elman hails from Montreal and Vanessa Lengies grew up in nearby Huron Quebec. While both are less likely to let slip Canadian Rising (being less pronounced in that area of the country) their "ough" endings often come out rather Quebecois.
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Meg is the Pretty Sister and Patty is the Smart Sister.
  • Happily Married: Jack and Helen.
  • John F. Kennedy: The series begins with his assassination.
  • Keep Circulating the Tapes: As noted in the opening, the first season was released on DVD while the show was still running. As of 2012, the other two seasons have never been released.
  • Naive Everygirl: Meg Pryor, though some might argue she became a complete idiot in the third season.
  • Nothing but Hits: Of course.
  • Popular History
  • "Previously On...": Running Sundays from 8-9 PM, it would run a mid-episode recap, presumably for people just changing over from The Simpsons.
  • Retraux: The show's '60s-styled theme song "Generation", sung by Emerson Hart.
  • School Uniforms Are the New Black: Everyone occasionally, Will especially.
  • Screwed by the Network: NBC loved to change the show's time slot.
    • In Britain this was screwed by two networks; it aired on the Hallmark Channel and Trouble, and neither channel could be bothered to show the third and final season.
  • The Sixties
  • The Spock: Patty Pryor.
  • Spock Speak: Patty constantly talks in a monotone.
  • Stock Footage: Oh, the show loved this trope. One expects they made Jack run a TV store just so they could show as much vintage TV footage as possible.
  • Shotgun Wedding: It's revealed in one episode that Jack and Helen got married because she was pregnant.
  • Story Arc
  • Stunt Casting: Countless instances of modern-day celebrities portraying their 1960s equivalents; the most jarring example has got to be Paris Hilton as Barbara Eden.
    • Er, Nick Lachey as Tom Jones? Also, Nancy Sinatra wasn't initially keen on Jennifer Love Hewitt playing her - good thing she changed her mind, since JLH was one of the few guests to appear twice.
  • Toxic Friend Influence: Roxanne sometimes borders on this in her friendship with Meg. Occasionally subverted — although she was normally the "good girl", Meg was quite capable of doing dumb and/or rebellious things all on her own.
  • The Vietnam War
  • Where Are They Now? Epilogue: An epilogue set in 1969 — three years after the last season — was filmed after the show was canceled. NBC didn't feel like airing it. It still hasn't been released publicly.
    • So fans could ask "Where Is It Now?"
  • You Make Me Sic: Patty's response to going on American Bandstand and seeing The Rolling Stones perform "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction"? Correcting their song's grammar... on air.