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Americathon (1979)

Despite a talented, eclectic cast and an inspired premise – the United States is now so poor it has to stage a telethon to bail itself out – this has to go down as a major disappointment.


Set in the near future (at the time) of 1998, the new alliance of Israel and the Arabs – the United Hebrab Republic – have cut off oil supplies to the US.

American oil fields have run dry. The population has shifted from northern climes to the sunbelt of Southern California.

People get around by jogging, cycling and skateboarding.

The White House has been leased to the Teamsters on a 99-year lease, and President Chet Roosevelt lives in the summer Western White House, a high-rise condominium in Marina Del Ray (pictured below).

The ruling world power is capitalist China, which has just whipped the USSR in a five-day war. They run a worldwide chain of fast-food franchises, featuring such delicacies as Mao Tse-tung on Rye.


The USA is $400 billion in debt to Sam Birdwater, wealthy sweatsuit and jogging shoe manufacturer, and he decides to foreclose. The solution is a month-long telethon to buy back America.

Written by Neal Israel, the man who gave the world Police Academy (1984), the film lacks the necessary focus and fails to make the most of its satirical promise.

Still, there’s fun to be had watching Mel Brooks regular Harvey Korman, future chat-show king Jay Leno and Elvis Costello. And the Beach Boys and Eddie Money provide excellent atmosphere music.

Peter Riegert
Monty Rushmore
Harvey Korman
Fred Willard
Mouling Jackson
Zane Buzby
Lucy Beth
Nancy Morgan
Chet Roosevelt
John Ritter
Richard Schaal
Earl Manchester
Elvis Costello
Larry Miller
Jay Leno
Peter Marshall
Peter Marshall
Oklahoma Roy
Meat Loaf
Kip Margolis
Howard Hesseman

Neal Israel