Thursday, April 2, 2009


Life oft-times imitates art.
I'm really surprised that nobody else has brought this film up yet, for the subject matter is timely and relevant.

Americathon is a 1979 comedy based on a play by Firesign Theatre alumni Phil Proctor and Peter Bergman, and features narration by George Carlin.
The premise of the film, set in a then distant future, is as follows;
The United States of America is in crisis. The oil shortage has grown to epic proportions, leading to people living in their cars and bicycling to work. Cigarettes and meat have been outlawed, gold coins are needed to operate common household appliances, and the Western White House (located in a luxury apartment in California) has been forced by economic necessity to operate round-the-clock tours for vacationing Chinese citizens. The economy is deep trouble; President Chet Roosevelt (John Ritter) has borrowed four billion dollars from Native American tennis shoe manufacturer Sam Birdwater, and he's foreclosing on the loan. When a media expert, Eric McMerkhin (Peter Riegert), is summoned for advice (since despite all hardships, Americans refuse to give up their televisions), he suggests a telethon. It's a great idea, except the President's assistant Vincent Vanderhoff (Fred Willard) is in cahoots with the United Heb-Rab Republic, a sinister coalition of Israeli and Arab nationals who want to snap up America if the debt can't be paid. He ensures that the show is stocked with endless ventriloquists and insists on Monty Rushmore (Harvey Korman), a washed-up, drug-addicted television personality as host. The star of the popular sitcom "Both Mother and Father," he is sure to self-destruct over the grueling 30-day-and-night telethon schedule. Despite terrorist attacks and the kidnapping of President Roosevelt, the patriotic spirit prevails and American citizens dig deep and pledge their gold to the cause.

Since the storyline was set 20 years into the future, several satirical forecasts were made. Surprisingly, several of them came true:

  • The People's Republic of China embracing capitalism and becoming a global economic superpower.
  • Cliques of Native Americans becoming wealthy (although in reality much of their wealth would come from the gaming industry, mostly from tribal casinos).
  • Vietnam becoming a major tourist attraction among Asia's wealthy and powerful.
  • The creation of a "Western White House" (however it would serve as a vacation home).
  • The collapse of the USSR.
  • The depletion of US crude oil production.
  • An America with a devalued dollar and heavily in debt to (foreign) lenders
The similarities to our current state are creepy.


Jimmy said...

That was a good movie, saw it at the old Cinema (which the name escapes me, County?) on Kings Highway before you would get to Topps (at that time)

mc said...