Americathon (1979)

Politics is a lot like show business, you make many speeches, you flash a couple of winning smiles, and generally put on a show, all while the issues facing the average person on the street grow exponentially. As true today as it will probably be true in the future. In 1979, as the future was approaching, a film offered a cynical combination between the dire circumstances of the then-future and glitzy entertainment in Americathon.

America in 1998 is practically unrecognisable, everybody bikes, America is only billions in debt… yes that’s supposed to be a dystopian future!

America in 1998, after the energy concerns of the 70s go unheeded; Cars are stationary hires, and America is $4 billion in debt to private investors. Youthful President Roosevelt needs decisive action to combat the looming crisis. After racking his brain for a hot minute, he decides that a raffle might just be what he requires, no wait, a telethon, no wait, an Americathon. Filled with… interesting acts from across the globe. While putting this colossal event would be hard enough alone. Others with a vested interest in seeing America fail plot to sabotage this event. Now, America’s freedom lies in hoping that everything goes all right on the night.

John Ritter plays President Roosevelt, any relation to any political candidate is purely coincidental(!)

For films that valiantly attempt to depict the then future, it is fun to see what forecasts are accurate and what predictions fall widely off target. The film is divided into the satirical depiction of 1998, and the actual telethon itself, the telethon is a unique collection of bizarre acts, such as Vietnamese singer Mouling Jackson. While the antics of telethons are still a thing. The debt situation has far supplanted the modest crisis of only $4 billion, while the energy situation is certainly an issue today, bikes aren’t the preferred way to travel, and the nations of the Middle East, are anything but united. It is easy to see back then how these predictions could be cemented in the mind of the average viewer back in the day. Based on then-current events, the dystopic future of a cosmically-inspired Californian being elected to the office might not be novel for anybody who is a Dead Kennedys fan.

While telephons have evolved since the 70s, their acts remain mostly the same!

A collection of familiar faces fill out Americathon. Such as John Ritter who serves as President Roosevelt, along with inclusions from the late, great Meatloaf and the late, great Fred Willard. Even appearances from Jay Leno, for all you late-night talk show fans. The soundtrack also assembles some familiar names of the late 70s with Eddie Money, Elvis Costello, and the likes of The Beach Boys. It is not just the antics on the screen, modern interest may also be reserved for this film being the impetus for Ted Coombs successful attempt to roller-skate across America. In a stunt that feels like it would be a part of the film itself.

It is quite prophetic for Americathon to predict the President preferring to do his work in another building here dubbed The Western Whitehouse…

In Americathon, you can see the genesis for other Dystopian satires, as the genre continued to pick up steam. While the gags and attitudes might seem a little dated for contemporary audiences. It’s fun to see earlier appearances of some big names (much like watching an actual telethon) and some eerily prophetic predictions. If you can put yourself in the mindset of 1979, you may end up apprenticing the effort. Throughout Americathon remains a curious spectacle, one that is silly, but even makes for must-see T.V. even if the fate of the nation wasn’t relying on it.

… and the continued resurgence of Vinyl… even though it wasn’t going anywhere, even though it regained its popularity in the 2010s, even though players aren’t that ridiculous!

If you want more positive reviews delivered to the e-mail box of your choice, you can click on that little text bubble at the bottom of the screen. Do you agree or disagree? or have a suggestion for another pop-culture artefact that needs a positive light shone on it? Leave a comment in the comment box below! But remember to keep it positive!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s