Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Great American
Dream Machine

The fortieth-anniversary special aired on my PBS affiliate last night, and it made me realize that 1971 is a long time ago. The editing and graphics that once made The Great American Dream Machine look so great look faux-retro now. (Not retro: faux-retro.) My son Ben wondered whether people really thought and spoke as they did in the anthology’s clips, particularly in a series of short interviews about martial fidelity. “It’s 1971,” said one fellow, meaning that the time for loyalty to a partner had passed. A married thirtyish woman explained the rules of adultery: good taste, no tell-tale signs. At the other end of the spectrum, a segment on Fascinating Womanhood, offering instruction in wifely subservience. (Yes, FW is still around.)

Missing: Kramp Heritage Loaf, a parody of the recipe commercials that used to litter television (“brought to you by Kraft”). Sorely missing: the conversations among Studs Terkel and company in a Chicago bar. (How can you have a GADM retrospective and leave out Studs Terkel?) Surprisingly present: Andy Rooney, who turns out to have been a regular, as tiresome then as now.

The best thing in last night’s show: Elaine Stritch singing Stephen Sondheim’s “The Ladies Who Lunch” with piano accompaniment, a performance not to be found on YouTube.

Related viewing
Kramp Heritage Loaf (The Groove Tube version)
“The Ladies Who Lunch” (recording session footage)
“The Ladies Who Lunch” (a later performance)

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