American Dreams

American Dreams

2002 - United States

Review - Michael Spadoni

This unique drama explored life and events in the early and mid-1960's through the eyes of a fictional Philadelphia family.

The Pryors were devoted Catholics; father Jack (Tom Verica) owned a television and radio store and wife Helen (Gail O'Grady) was a stay-at-home mom. Their oldest son JJ (Will Estes), was a high school football player; youngest daughter Patty (Sarah Ramos), an intelligent but sometimes annoying child; and young son Will (Ethan Dampf) suffered from polio, a source of guilt for Jack and Helen, who refused to let him have the newly-developed Salk vaccine that could have prevented his illness.

The show's central figure was the Pryor's second-oldest child, 15-year-old Meg (Brittany Snow), a typical teen who hung around with her best friend Roxanne Bojarski (Vanessa Lengies), who always seemed to get into trouble. Also in the show's core cast were Henry Walker (Jonathan Adams), a black employee in Jack's store; his son Sam (Arlen Escarpeta) and JJ's girlfriend Beth Mason (Rachel Boston).

American Dreams

When the show began, the time was November 1963-and both Meg and Roxanne were picked to dance on the popular series ‘American Bandstand,’ which was based in Philadelphia during that period. ("Bandstand" host Dick Clark was one of the producers of American Dreams.) The setting-featuring black-and-white clips from the original show airing on studio monitors--allowed a number of contemporary stars to portray musical acts of the period , such as Usher playing soul singer Marvin Gaye; Duncan Shiek appearing as Bobby Darin and Ashanti as Dionne Warwick. Viewers watched as the Pryors went through major changes-some personal, some related to the issues of the day such as civil rights, the Vietnam war, the generation gap between young and old, women's liberation and the new sexual freedom. 

The characters were well-rounded and the show's writing was a cut or two above average, even though critics questioned its accuracy on historic and cultural events during the show's time line (1963 to 1966).

American Dreams was never a front-line hit, but managed to run for three seasons. Still, the nostalgia hook and the credible characters helped the show gain a loyal if modest audience by US broadcast standards.

Published on October 18th, 2020. Written by Michael Spadoni for Television Heaven.

Read Next...

Honey West

Described as television's most beautiful private eye

Also tagged Us Drama

The Wire

Brutally real drama series, set in Baltimore, USA. The Wire centres around the city's inner-city drug scene, the dealers and the law enforcement agency that tries to bring them down.

Also released in 2002

Route 66

Adventure series notable for its dark storylines and exceptional realism.

Also tagged Us Drama

The Gathering Storm

It's the mid-1930s and MP Winston Churchill (Albert Finney), once the most dynamic Member of Parliament, finds both his public and private life in turmoil in this award winning co-produced UK & US drama.

Also released in 2002

Star Trek: Enterprise

A century before Captain Kirk's five-year mission, Jonathan Archer captains the United Earth ship Enterprise during the early years of Starfleet.

Also released in 2002

Lou Grant

A City Editor at a major Los Angeles newspaper goes after serious issues such as Vietnamese refugees, child abuse and gun control.

Also tagged Us Drama


Comedy drama series about a group of stylish and solvent middle-aged men determined to live life to the full, especially if it involves behaving badly.

Also released in 2002

Mission Impossible

An elite group of secret agents are sent to undertake difficult, near impossible missions

Also tagged Us Drama

Barnaby Jones

When Barnaby Jones' son is murdered he comes out of retirement to track down the killer...

Also tagged Us Drama