The Great American Dream Machine Review

     Actors: Marshall Efron, Andy Rooney, Chevy Chase, Charles Grodin, Albert Brooks
  • Director: Peter Lance
  • Format: Multiple Formats, NTSC, THX
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1
  • Number of discs: 4
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Entertainment One
  • DVD Release Date: October 20, 2015
  • Run Time: 650 minutes


            PBS has a longstanding tradition of blending education with entertainment and the arts, and with the early satirical sketch show, “The Great American Dream Machine,” they brought politic discourse into the mix during a time it was most needed. When the series began its short-lived run in 1971, Americans were wrestling with a number of political issues, from the Vietnam War to environmental conservation. “The Great American Dream Machine” provided an outlet for a humorous approach to the conversation, only able to exist because of the unique alternative that PBS provided to traditional commercial networks.


            Despite its popularity in the two years that it was broadcast, “The Great American Dream Machine” was met with enough controversy and criticism to ensure the success was not lasting. This was prior to the cynicism many Americans felt with the exposure of the Watergate scandal, ultimately proving that the series was ahead of its time. Even if it was off the air by 1973, the tradition that “The Great American Dream Machine” started was continued with a number of sketch comedy shows (“SCTV,” “Saturday Night Live,” “In Living Color”), not to mention popular political satirists such as Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert. These comparisons are even easier to make when considering the involvement of talent such as Chevy Chase and Albert Brooks in the cast. With the style of the show’s animation, comparison to “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” is also inevitable, despite the fact that the British series had not yet been exported to the States.


            Previously unreleased on DVD, this 4-disc set includes a collection of over 12 hours of memorable material from the show. Included are two compiled “best of” collections, which make up the sketches in the first two discs. The last two discs contain over 90 additional sketches from of the show, properly giving audiences a sample of what the show’s format looked like in the early 1970s. This included musical performances, animated sequences, discussion of politics and religion, often approached with a biting sense of humor.


            There is great historical value in the set, though much of the social and political commentary may be slightly lost on younger viewers attempting to discover the series through these DVDs. Not only does it represent a perspective from the time period, it also features performances and appearances from a number of recognizable celebrities. This did not just include actors such as Albert Brooks and Charles Grodin, but also other types of culture icons, such as daredevil Evil Knievil or author Kurt Vonegut. At the same time, much of this material has as much relevance as early episodes of “The Daily Show.” While the jokes may remain humorous, the impact of the message is lost with the passing of time.  


            The package includes liner notes from TV reviewer David Bianculli.


    Entertainment Value: 6.5/10

    Quality of Filmmaking: 7.5/10

    Historical Significance:  9/10

    Special Features: 1/10

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    1 comment:

    oakland steve said...

    Thank you for taking the time to review this series. I remember it fondly from the time of its original broadcast (I'm 70) and can understand how quaint it must seem to 21st century viewers. In fifty years, today's people and technology will seem positively hysterically historical. It might not take anywhere near that long...

    No one else seems to have had sufficient interest to review the series and your efforts might spur someone to take a chance and see what people use to watch long, long ago.