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Last Update: 03-08-2017
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America, Inc

February 20, 1970

As part of the National Educational Television "Playhouse" series, this show was partially narrated by Jean Shepherd and originally broadcast on Friday February 20, 1970 on WNDT TV New York. It is currently archived at the Museum of Television and Radio and in the New Television Workshop at WGBH Boston. According to the WGBH website: "This appears to have been broadcast as part of NET'S "Playhouse." lt was created when David Silver, Jean Shepherd, and the ZONE collective were Rockefeller Artists-in-Television." This review from Eugene Bergmann who viewed it on December 14, 2001 at the Museum of Television and Radio WNET Playhouse: "A Generation of Leaves, I: WNDT-TV 1970/02/20." It is one hour and twenty minutes long, mostly color, with bits of "documentary" footage in black and white. I requested to see it and was astonished and delighted to see in the beginning, OUR HERO in an ochre sports jacket, yellowy open shirt, sitting against a plain background. Clean shaven, bushy sideburns, and looking great in fine close-ups. Here is the museum's summary of the program: One in a series of plays and films, "America, Inc." is the first presentation in a special 8-part international series that focuses on the rift between generations. This program, filmed in cinema verite style, involves a young British TV actor/producer, David Silver who, after parting with his wife, Karen, leaves England in search of America along with his friend Edward. David and Edward, once in New York, visit derelicts on the Bowery, meet with members of the Hare Krishna movement, and travel to Ellis Island where they imagine the experience of the immigrants. Edward returns to England and David travels on to Washington. Where he participates in the November 1969 anti-Vietnam War demonstration and sees Abbie Hoffman. Afterwards, he is reunited with his wife, Karen. Interwoven with Silver's viewpoint is commentary by radio humorist Jean Shepherd, who gives his thoughts on Americana such as drive-in movie theaters and turnpikes. Also included are public service announcements by the program's mythical corporate sponsor, America, Inc. Cast Jean Shepherd - Special Guest Star Silver, David Silver, Karen Robinson, Vickie Sue O'Neil, Michael as the Voice of America Seawright, James Hoffman, Abbie WNDT-TV running time 1:20:00 airdate 1970/02/20 Fri 8:30 PM EST Color drama TV-Drama WNDT (NY, NY) - TV series, 1966-1970 The program starts with a narrator saying: "A generation of men is like a generation of leaves" Then Shepherd's voice begins, and in a few seconds he appears, seated, waist-high shot. His first talk is as follows: "Hello fellow Americans. Fellow travelers on the yellow brick road of life. Do you ever have a secret ambition to have your birthday announced on television? [laughs] Wouldn't that be great? Charlie Gutstop of Dayton, Ohio is 47 today. Happy birthday, Charlie. You know it ain't easy being an American. Have you ever tried to explain it to somebody? I mean, just BEING an American. Well, for example, what is more American than second grade teachers? Do you remember yours? Man, I'll tell you, I can remember mine. Miss Shields. She was tall, thin, she looked like she was made entirely out of a cake of Lady Esther Face Powder. Carved out of it. And she had this fantastic blue Brillo Pad that she used for hair. "And every day she'd stand out in front of us and read Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy. And now my head's all filled with stuff like Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz, and Joe Dimaggio, and The Camel with the Wrinkled Knees. Well, how can you explain the Woolworth's mystique, let's say, to somebody from Belgium?" "Ohhh!, I'll tell you, you go into a Woolworth's on a Saturday night, and you smell that smell - Ohhh - that candy counter, those Woolworth's girls [laughs]. That's America." "Have you ever had the suspicion that your life is on tape and that you're the victim of some really lousy editor? He's cut out all the great stuff - left you with nothing but all the dull junk like waiting in line at the cleaners - stuff like that, and your life just goes on and on, and the tape machine keeps running and you keep running, and - it ain't easy friends - being an American." Then the story starts, with abrupt cuts, some of it documentary footage, other straight story, some with the characters actually in the March on Washington, etc. In one of the cuts to Shep, he is talking to us from the driver's seat of a car. At the end, we see Shep again in the studio: "Well, sports fans, that's it. Exciting, wasn't it? You can't win the all. By the way, we'd like to remind you to stay tuned to our next big public feature show, which I'm sure you're going to enjoy. 'The Window Box and You,' with Dr. Mabel Gubberman. Well, that's it, fans. It's been a great night." Shep plays the Jew's harp for a minute or two as the mike appears on a boom, the camera backing up, the boom operator now visible, and the empty studio with overhead lights on a rack. Shepherd is seated in an orange fiberglass bucket chair. Camera continues receding, lights dim out except for those on Shep. Then these dim out also. Then we see the Statue of Liberty through low grass, and screen titles: NET Playhouse America, Inc. With special guest star Jean Shepherd. I think it's a great program. Shepherd is on maybe twenty percent of the time. It is great to see Shep talking to us in close-up just as though he were on radio doing his broadcast. Everyone should rush to Manhattan's Museum of Television and Radio on West 52nd Street and view it! -gene b

Production Information:
Studio / Network: WGBH-TV Boston
Director: Fred Barzyk
Asst Director:
Producer: David Loxton
Executive Producer: Jac Venza
Running Time: 1:20
Photos:


July 23,1969
Shep awarded Rockefeller Foundation grant - Bridgeport post

Courtesy: Steve Glazer


February 14,1970
The Times Record

Courtesy: Steve Glazer


February 16,1970
America, Inc Ad


February 19,1970
The San Bernadino County Sun

Courtesy: Steve Glazer


June 14,1970
Abilene Reporter News

Courtesy: Steve Glazer


June 21,1970
The Argus Sun

Courtesy: Steve Glazer