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This, like entirely too many early PBS shows, not only was underfunded
initially (and certainly too willing to mock Nixon's America to be
tolerated for long in the immediately pre-Watergate period), but has
fallen into a ditch in terms of who owns the rights at this late date
(you can't get a legit home copy of, say, the Kurt Vonnegut adaptation
BETWEEN TIME AND TIMBUKTU for similar reasons). Those who've seen it,
now more than three decades ago, tend to remember bits and pieces; the
closest thing it had to a unifying on screen presence was Marshall
Efron, who went onto his PAINLESS Sunday SCHOOL program after this
one's defunding, but the innovative sketches, animation, and even wry
reportage make it even more a predecessor of what was best in the early
Saturday NIGHT LIVE than Albert Brooks and Chevy Chase's participation.
As a child, I loved it, even when I found it very strange.
(Note to editors--you have an extraneous listing for BETWEEN TIME AND TIMBUKTU--it's listed once as a film, once as a TV series. It was a film for PBS.)
I was in my early teens, just barely aware of political issues. This
show was a graspable take on current events that allowed a young mind
to achieve a degree of healthy skepticism of 'mainstream' news.
That flavor has served me well with today's similarly insane political climate. Unfortunately, there is no Great American Dream Machine to turn to for perspective.
Many of the bits were clearly anti establishment and it was those that caused the show to have such a short run. I suspect these days it would never even make it out of the PBS boardroom presentation. It throws today's news entertainment in sharp relief.
At very least, this show is an historically important slice of the early '70s when freedom of speech could, for a time, exist even if it was unpopular with the mainstream power structure.
Few people I know remember Marshall Efron's Great American Dream Machine on Public Television originally broadcast during the Winter of '71 - '72. At the time I thought it was one of the best things on TV, and tried not to miss an episode (even in re-runs on West Virginia Public TV out of Morgantown). My fondest memory is of Carly Simon performing a song. I would very much like to find a source for tapes of the show. I was originally motivated to watch it because of Chevy Chase. I was introduced to his talent at "Channel One", a closed circuit TV theater in NYC around '69. It was really brilliant stuff, too. Was it all in B&W, or is my memory faulty?
I believe the memories mentioned by Dreamscapist and JorgeBlanco are a
little off. The playing of the head like a bongo, the Geritol ad spoof
("My wife---I think I'll keep her"), and the cooking show spoof
(Freedom Loaf, made with Kramp Easy Lube shortening) were all skits
featured in the 1974 movie, "The Groove Tube." Understandable errors,
as "The Groove Tube" starred Ken Shapiro (who also directed) and Chevy
Chase, both of "Great American Dream Machine." However, Dream Machine
*did* feature Chevy (and perhaps Shapiro?) in white face lip-syncing to
a jazz instrumental (perhaps on more than one episode?).
ANYWAY . . .
Yes, GADM was a great show! I recall Marshal Efron doing an in-depth report on the FDA rules governing what size description you may assign to pickles! (And it was all true!)
I recall Marshal Efron carefully exhibiting and explaining deadpan
various unremarkable objects as would a collector of the rarest of fine
art... ''and this is a bicycle wheel I picked up...
But I'm most wondering if anyone else remembers the GADM send-up of a Geritol commercial that features a male talking into the camera about the benefits of the elixir while a very good looking woman enters the room, prances around in increasing stages of undress and movement from the background to the foreground and ends with him confiding...
''She takes two tablespoons a day... My wife... I think I'll keep her...''
I'd love to see that one again...
Not surprisingly, the best two series that were ever on TV began their
runs in the early 1970s when the counter-culture was at its zenith and
the powerful had not yet organized their own powerful counterattack to
limit the boundaries of acceptable discourse. The ending of the GADM
was essentially the beginning of this counterattack. There would never
be another radical (i.e., going to the roots) TV series on PBS. In
other words, public TV would again revert to being contained by
For those of you naive enough to think that the US does not limit free speech, the history of the ending of this show is the perfect eye-opener for you. Of course, we currently have the response of the corporate media to OWS to show us how dissent is treated when it expresses the wishes and desires of the majority. Polls show that the majority favors reductions in military spending -- including ending wars and pulling back from overseas bases (perhaps 200 military bases overseas would be enough!), increases in taxes on the wealthy, securing Social Security, expanding and improving Medicare to include all citizens, etc. These majority opinions are labeled as outside the mainstream by the talking heads of corporate TV (and of course, corporate TV includes PBS nowadays).
The GADM consisted of two complementary thrusts. One was a hilarious send-up of the corporatized culture of the USA. Here you would be treated to skits such as Marshall Efron's hilarious affirmation of the trash compactor's ability to turn 50 pounds of trash into a smaller 50 pounds of trash or his presentation on the manufacturing of "food" that had the immediate consequence of my spouse and I eating at least somewhat healthier.
The other component was equally entertaining and more directly thought-provoking. Studs Terkel led discussions of American life with actual Americans who the majority of us could empathize with. Real Americans who make commentators on corporate TV like George Will seem like a visitor from an effete planet. Another segment featured the commentary of Andy Rooney. This Andy Rooney was more in his stride than the later version popularized on 60 Minutes. Interestingly but not surprisingly, this Andy Rooney was never mentioned in the encomiums after his recent death.
Once killed by Nixon this show was never repeated. The other series from this period can still be seen however. "All in the Family" while not comparable to the GADM for its direct challenges to the corporatization of American life is still unsurpassed for its humor while maintaining a challenging compassion for those struggling with trying to understand what the Great American Dream really is.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
My family (me + wife + two young daughters) were living in Tricky
Dick's D.C. when we watched EVERY episode of this remarkable series.
Funny, informative, irreverent, radical, brilliant!
I found this IMDb historical record, following a link in the extended cast of City Island. Marshall Efron's name leaped off the screen as I watched the City Island cast credits. He was one of my heroes of the 70's because of The Great American Dream Machine.
Here's a fond memory, which is not really a spoiler because it appears none of us will have the opportunity to see these wonderful shows again:
Marshall did regular product reviews. My favorite was a demonstration of a home trash compactor, which he ended with, "Only in American can you get people to pay $200 for a machine that turns 20 pounds of trash into 20 pounds of trash."
I, too, was a young teen who became much more politically aware thanks
to this wonderful program's focus on current events through a
My more vivid memories, however, are of Chevy Chase and Ken Shapiro (I think) in mime's white face, with Ken playing Chevy's head like a bongo to the rhythm of classical music selections.
There was also a semi-regular cooking-show segment with disastrous instructions for such culinary misfires as the Fourth of July "Freedom Loaf."
How I would love to re-experience the series on DVD.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I remember Albert Brooks doing a tour of Famous Comedians School and
dropping in a classroom where they were practicing the Danny Thomas
Spit Take with cups of coffee. For those that don't remember Make Room
For Daddy, Danny would be starting to sip his coffee when one of his
family members would give him some news that would cause the reaction.
There was also a short with a distinguished older gentleman dropping his wife at the supermarket entrance before looking for a parking spot for his Rolls/Bentley. No dialogue and a hilarious unfolding of events.
Would so like to see the show again. Amazing and sad that there are no traces to be found.
A kid at my high school told me about the show so i watched it several times. Nothing else like it at the time. Would be nice to watch it again as i do not remember much other than that i liked it. I tried to get some other friends to watch it but none did. Later on I found out an old friend used to watch it. The humor was quite a bit different than the usual TV comedy on the network stations. It was out there. I did not know I was watching early Chevy Chase until finding this spot on IMDb. Pretty hard to come up with the required ten lines for this comment when I can barely remember the show in the first place. Hope this will do.
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