The Great American Dream Machine: a look back at 70's Americana TV

One of the most unusual shows in my memory of early 70's television offerings is "The Great American Dream Machine," a magazine-format series from the age before PBS educational television. It featured a mix short of animations, mini documentaries, editorial commentaries, and musical acts, all on a particular theme for that show, like "The Woman," or "Death," or "American history." Watching it now, fifty years later, much of the satire seems obvious and toothless. The pacing is s-l-o-w by contemporary standards. It is a real document of its time, and a look back at America in the 1970s: Vietnam, Women's Lib, The Silent Majority, and ecology are persistent themes.

For me what's best are the early works and appearances by people who went on to bigger careers. Andy Rooney does his personal observational pieces before he became a regular cranky guy feature on 60 Minutes. Charles Grodin has a terrific bit that could have been a deleted scene from "The Heartbreak Kid."  "Albert Brooks Famous School for Comedians" still holds up. Marshall Efron! I enjoyed the "American Hero" profiles of Ed 'Big Daddy' Roth and Evil Knievel. Eagle-eyed viewers will spot Henry Winkler, Martin Mull, Penny Marshall, Kurt Vonegut, and Chevy Chase as one of the hilarious "Singing Faces" who introduce the show.

You can find big chunks of the shows on YouTube segments but for a full serving of many complete programs look for the 4 DVD set.