An unknown person takes over the TV airwaves, replacing all shows and commercials with hilariously offensive programming.
Warning: there’s some NSFW and potentially offensive content in this post.
We all talk about how lifeless and occasionally offensive TV programming can be, but it’s got nothing on the folks that take over the airwaves in Prime Time, (hereafter referred to by its modern name, American Raspberry.) Released in 1977, this demented romp through rampant offensiveness is kind of like the game Harvester: there’s something to offend everyone here. There’s also surprise that the filmmakers had the balls to do, show, and say some of the things present in this movie; there are a few skits that definitely could not have been made today, at least not in the way they’re presented here. While there is a storyline, it gets very little screentime, and serves only to break up the hilarious ads and TV shows that are the main focus of American Raspberry’s duration.
Were this movie made today, the skits that did survive the censoring process (assuming the filmmakers went for a theatrical release, of course) would likely be so over the top in their presentation that it would just get boring. However, due to the 1970′s feel, it’s given an understated air of authenticity. While it’s clear that this film is filled with parody, that parody is presented as actual commercials that, aside from their overtly offensive nature, could have actually appeared on television.
For instance, take this ad for “Clampax Pontoons”:
Or how about this public service announcement to “Fire the Handicapped”:
Then there’s this one:
Like I said, something to offend everyone. Whether it’s The Sexual Deviation Telethon, a “Mamorax Cassette Tape” commercial featuring Hitler, The Charles Whitman Invitational (a parody of the University of Texas shootings that’s presented like a hunting show), or a news report about abortions for children under the age of five, American Raspberry sets out to offend EVERYBODY.
That’s not all it sets out to do, however. There’s a ton of intelligent cultural commentary at work here, not the least of which is how easily television could be used as a tool to send the world spiraling out of control. The government’s reaction on how to best deal with the problem is very telling as well (“Just shut it off!” “We can’t…that would be unAmerican.”) Rather than come up with a solution and implement it, the President (played here by accomplished stage and screen actor George Furth) has his eyes glued to the TV, while his advisers argue amongst themselves over how bad each other’s ideas are.
The film actually has some fairly big name stars. In addition to George Furth, appearances by other highly accomplished actors include Dick O’Neill, Wil Albert, Royce D. Applegate, Twink Caplan, Joanna Cassidy, Dort Clark, and many many others. Seeing this smorgasbord of actors (most of whom were already legends by the time of American Raspberry’s release) was almost as entertaining as the skits and “commercials” the movie focuses on. We quickly gave up on trying to guess who would show up next, since the “cameo net” had been cast so far and wide. Most people our age (late 20′s) likely won’t even recognize that these are cameos, but if you’ve got a penchant for older entertainment, you’re in for the proverbial actor buffet.
On its surface, American Raspberry seems to only be concerned with offending people. However, when you look past the shocking yet hilarious skits and commercials, you’ll find deep and topical social commentary, much of which fits perfectly with today’s world despite a 35 year gap between now and when it was originally released. If you’ve got a thick skin, I highly recommend you check this one out. Thankfully, Netflix Instant has made that easy for you.