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Wednesday, August 9, 2017

'Americathon' DVD: That '70s Dystopia Comedy



Warner Archive showing that it is ahead of its time regarding the January 2011 DVD release of the 1978 satire film "Americathon" is amusing considering that Archive largely exists to celebrate the glorious past of Hollywood (and Burbank).

The broad concept of this film is that celebrity New Age California dude president Chet Roosevelt (John Ritter) is in over his head when one-percenter Sam Birdwater gives the United States 30 days to avoid a foreclosure on the ginormous national debt that our energy (and hope) depleted country owes him. The new deal that Roosevelt and his advisors concoct is to hold the titular month-long telethon to raise the necessary funds.

The following YouTube clip of the theatrical trailer for "Americathon" highlights the '70slicious comedy of the film and includes the hilarious and rockin' Beach Boys theme.


Much of "Americathon" consists of openly subversive and edgy skits that are the latest rage of the late '70s thanks to television series such as "Saturday Night Live" and "SCTV" and films such as "Kentucky Fried Movie." These begin with the opening exposition that explains how a fictional energy crisis during the Carter years that is much worse than the actual one leads to current desperate times 20 years later. The White House being a California condo that is open to very inclusive tours is one of many examples of this.

Our narrator is anxious television producer Eric McMerkin (Peter Reigert currently of "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt"), who is charged with pulling off the miracle of having a private corporation literally owning the federal government. The obstacles that McMerkin faces include White House aide Vincent Vanderhoff (Fred Willard) actively sabotaging the event on behalf of a group that is based on arguably the most unlikely friendship of all.

Then "Carol Burnett Show" and Mel Brooks satires star Harvery Korman steals the show as drug-manic former Hollywood royalty and current sitcom star Monty Rushmore, who is chosen to emcee the show.

Korman particularly takes center stage in a scene from his television series "Both Father and Mother" in which he plays a single parent who is a transvestite. Aside from being a perfect send-up of trite '70s comedies (such as "Three's Company" starring Ritter), having Korman prance around in full makeup and just about to don his wig is an awesome reminder of the days that people had a sense of humor about such things and took them in context; Milton Berle made a fortune realizing the humor related to a man in a dress.

This notable aspect of "Americathon" requires a slight diversion to mention an Unreal TV review of the recent documentary "That's Not Funny." That article noting that American comedy has gone from f**k 'em if they can't take a joke to f**ked if you tell 'em a joke provides an excellent sense of that film.

Other '70s celeb skits have singer/actor Meatloaf as a daredevil and New Wave icon Elvis Costello as a London street performer.

The mayhem builds to a spectacularly chaotic crescendo that awesomely validates the philosophy of "it it bleeds, it leads" of American television news. This leads to the always popular "where are they now" segments of many films.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Americathon" is encouraged to email me; you also can connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.