Tuesday, August 23, 2011
OVERLOOKED TELEVISION: THE GREAT AMERICAN DREAM MACHINE
In the early Seventies, something radical hit the airwaves. A PBS show with a focus on consumerism. politics, and humor. The Great American Dream Machine provided a counterculture viewpoint that left many of its viewers scratching their heads.
Hosted by Marshall Efron, TGADM took the American dream to the woodshed in a series of brilliant skits and songs. Among those featured over the show's run were Chevy Chase, Andy Rooney, Albert Brooks, Carly Simon, Ronald Reagan, Odetta, and Harold Pinter. TGADM was 1971's SNL, always pushing the limits.
Among the skits I distinctly remember was one about a trash compactor. "It takes twenty pounds of trash and turns it into twenty pounds of trash!" It ended with a trashman trying to pick up trash with a hernia-inducing effort.
Another skit took us to the spice aisle of the supermarket. By comparing weights and prices, we learned that common spices were far more expensive than gold. (I don't know if that comparison holds true today, though.)
The show began with nine hour and thirty minute episodes and was cut back to an hour during its second season. It's short, glorious life shone like a nova -- eventually going into that black hole where so many innovative television shows disappear. There's a legal question as to whom the rights to TGADM belong, so I don't believe it's available on DVD...maybe the black market. I was able to find a couple of clips on Youtube, though. Enjoy.
Here Marshall Efron makes a lemon cream pie from scratch, using the ingredients listed on a package. This clip is shown regularly at the Museum of Science and Industry.
One focus of the show was government regulation and how confusing and nit-picking it could be. Of course, can anything be more confusing than olives?
The Great American Dream Machine reminds me of other great subversive shows such as The Ernie Kovacs Show, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, and The Pat Paulson Half a Comedy Hour. Good company to be in, I say.
For more Overlooked Video and/or A/V, stop by ringmaster Todd Mason's blog, Sweet Freedom.