The Great American Dream Machine was a weekly satirical variety television series, produced in New York City by WNET and broadcast on PBS from 1971 to 1973. The program was hosted by humorist and commentator Marshall Efron. Other notable cast members included Chevy Chase and contributors included Albert Brooks, Paul Jacobs, and Andy Rooney. The show centered on skits and satirical political commentary. The hour and a half long show usually contained at least seven different current event topics. In the second season, the show was trimmed down to an hour.
The show began and ended with patriotic marching music and red, white, and blue GREAT AMERICAN DREAM MACHINE lettering, striped like an American flag. There was an animated "machine" of sorts, with complex moving parts, that had no evident function. The background contained all sorts of fireworks, spinning sparklers, and Roman candles. The title theme was composed and performed by Steve Katz of Blood, Sweat & Tears fame.
Some of the skits would later be revamped for the movie "The Groove Tube." There were also occasional short films presented on the show, most of them "experimental" or documentaries about artistic endeavors. Some of these were subtitled.
Each week there was a Great American Hero segment. One week was Evel Knievel; played over Evel's hospital footage was a honky-tonk song about putting body parts back together. The song was written and performed by Martin Mull.
Efron also participated in some skits, especially those taking a critical look at consumerism. One notable skit focused on the different size descriptions on cans of food, that at a time prior to significant government regulation and standardizing of labels. Efron sarcastically compared cans of olives with sizes like "Giant", "Jumbo", "Extra Jumbo", "Super Jumbo", "Colossal", "Super Colossal" and "Mammoth". While the other sizes were really used in retail, "Mammoth" was not. The "Mammoth" can contained one olive that filled the entire can.
Another piece involved Efron attempting to cook a lemon meringue pie by using the mainly artificial ingredients found listed on a box of frozen pie. But, in his words, "pure pie". This piece is shown, in a continuous loop, on a video screen in Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry.
Another piece had Efron taking the audience on a tour of his apartment, in a "non-event" style that was very much ahead of its time. He presented his "stuffed cat", which proceeded to wake up and look around.
A memorable segment trumpeted the trash compactor appliance. Efron's tagline: "The machine that turns 20 pounds of trash into 20 pounds of trash!"