17 user 17 critic

Americathon (1979)

PG | | Comedy | 10 August 1979 (USA)
In a story told in narrative flashbacks, a young TV consultant is hired by the President of a bankrupt USA to organize a telethon in order to prevent the country from being repossessed by wealthy Native Americans.



(play) (as Phillip Proctor), (play) | 5 more credits »

Watch Now

From $2.99 (SD) on Amazon Video

1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »


Cast overview, first billed only:
Earl Manchester
Jimmy Dunphy
Peter Marshall


In the not too distant future, the United States government is virtually bankrupt and in danger of being foreclosed on by a group of Native Americans, now owners of the massive Nike Corporation. A desperate President decides to make a last-ditch effort to save the country... by raising money with a telethon! Written by <mycroft@reactiveware.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The ultimate spectacle is now a movie.




PG | See all certifications »





Release Date:

10 August 1979 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

1998 - Die vier Milliarden Dollar Show  »


Box Office

Gross USA:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Dorothy Stratten appears in an uncredited role wearing a Playboy Bunny style costume in the scene where Roy Budnitz donates blood. See more »


The movie mentions that people all over the country were watching the telethon, including people from the first gay state, North Dakota. We then see a picture of Mount Rushmore which is in South Dakota See more »


[opening sequence; two dinosaurs fighting]
Narrator: What you're looking at is downtown Pittsburgh, one million B.C. Those two big guys are fighting for a parking space. This is where our story begins. If they could have just learned to live together like decent human beings, they'd still be around and there never would have been an energy crisis. But they died out, and what was left of them turned into fossil fuel... Oil. See, it's not cute when eleven tons gets cranky. Their problem was they were all ...
See more »


Features The Animal World (1956) See more »


Crawling to the U.S.A.
Written and Performed by Elvis Costello
Produced by Nick Lowe and Elvis Costello
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

"You've just caught America at a bad time."
5 July 2016 | by See all my reviews

It's the "future" year of 1998. There is a worldwide oil shortage, and the U.S. of A. has bankrupted itself. The nation is DEEPLY in debt to an Indian billionaire, Sam Birdwater (Chief Dan George), and now he'd like to have his money back. The youthful President, Chet Roosevelt (ever likable John Ritter) hires a media specialist, Eric McMerkin (Peter Riegert), who comes up with a genius idea. The idea is a 30 day telethon devised to get the people of the nation to cough up the dough. But there's a plot by one of the characters to undermine the whole thing, in part by coming up with the lamest acts imaginable.

"Americathon" was an okay movie for this viewer, nothing more. It takes an "Airplane!" / "Naked Gun" approach to its comedy, with lots of detail filling the frame. As co-written (based on the play by Firesign Theatre veterans Phillip Proctor and Peter Bergman) and directed by Neal Israel ("Bachelor Party"), it does have its moments. Sometimes it's funny, sometimes not so much. It has a LOT of energy, but it's a lot of energy spent on a script that isn't that great. Still, as other reviewers have pointed out, it does earn some points for being prophetic with some of its political / social / pop culture gags. It's like Paddy Chayefsky's / Sidney Lumet's "Network" in that way (or, for that matter, "Class of 1984"): while some of the material might have seemed far out at the time, it was predicted with some accuracy.

The actors easily give it 100%, in particular Harvey Korman as the drug addicted emcee of the event, and Zane Buzby as a highly theatrical Vietnamese "puke rocker". Fred Willard, Richard Schaal, and Nancy Morgan (Ritters' wife at the time) co-star, with cameo roles for the likes of Meat Loaf, Elvis Costello, Tommy Lasorda, Jay Leno, Peter Marshall, Allan Arbus, and David Opatoshu. The narration is hilariously spoken by George Carlin.

"Americathon" does offer some fun, and at the least is over fairly quickly.

Six out of 10.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 17 user reviews »

Contribute to This Page