In the Fall of 1981, NBC had a 'brilliant' idea. Let's devote a week of our prime-time programming to an anti-drug concept called "Get High on Yourself." The brainchild of Hollywood producer Robert Evans, this excruciating, hour-long "very special program" kicked-off that week-long harangue. Pre-empting CHiPs and crammed to the rafters with pandering celebs, this preachy project was actually part of a court-ordered, community-service probation deal for Evans, after he pleaded guilty to agreeing to purchase $19,000 worth of cocaine! Unfortunately, I missed out on this sanctimonious blast of Reagan-era, "Just Say No" propaganda when it first aired, since I was in college at the time, stoned and drunk out of my ever-lovin' mind. The show was a loosely-structured documentary about the making of an all-star sing-along, and Evans certainly called in a lot of favors for this gig. Several big names turn up (Bob Hope, Carol Burnett, Muhammad Ali, and Paul Newman, whose son Scott died from a drug overdose in '78), but the real fun consists of playing 'Name That '80s Has-Been' (Scott Baio, Robby Benson, Kristy McNichol, Herve Villechaize, Dana Plato, Cheryl Tiggs, Mark Hamill, and a particularly bitchy Cathy Lee Crosby). Their goal was to inform schoolkids that it's not "hip" to take drugs and that nobody in Hollywood actually does them. ('Pay no attention to our egomaniacal-cokehead boss, who's footing the bill.') But its gravest sin was hiring jingle-writer Steve Karmen (who's penned tunes for Budweiser and Exxon, and also saddled the world with "I Love New York") for their dreadfully-insipid ditty "Being Yourself." Watching raw footage of actors milling about isn't the most engrossing way to spend an hour, but it's less annoying than the show's scattered vignettes (artlessly directed by N. Lee Lacy). John Travolta and Burt Reynolds rap with ordinary kids about drugs; Leif Garrett covers The Beatles' "With a Little Help from My Friends"; Al Jarreau leads a gospel songfest; Woody Guthrie's "This Land is My Land" is turned into a lobotomized ode to America's greatness; and as much as I loathe Ted Nugent, I'll give him props for rockin' out with his own version of the show's wimpy tune... Ironically, this diatribe was sponsored by McDonalds, which has probably led to more obesity, illness and early death than any street-corner drug.
Next up is 1986's SHATTERED, another amateurish, hour-long dollop of anti-drug drivel, with a laughable AfterSchool Special vibe and a pair of celebrity narrators (Burt Reynolds and Judd Nelson!) exposing the "American Nightmare" lurking within a seemingly-perfect, affluent suburban community. Hauling a classic '60s drug-scare scenario into the '80s, this program's important message is crystal clear. If your child exhibits any strange behavior whatsoever, they're stoned and could die! "Tough Love" is the only alternative! At first glance, Kim (SILVER BULLET's Megan Follows) and Rick (Ricky Seagull, previously THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY's bowl-haircutted neighbor) might look like clean-cut high school students, but they secretly like to smoke grass, while their 'cool' dealer (Dermot Mulroney) is trying to get them hooked on harder stuff like crack ("it's a little more expensive, but you get what you pay for"). As their drug habit grows, the pair go from simply spraying air freshener a lot and talking back to their parents (who're always stoned on liquor or valium), to stealing and getting expelled from school. Alas, their in-denial folks ignore these dangerous warning signs (even after Kim denies that a roach-clip found in her bedroom is hers), until it's too late! Midway in, Rick finally hits his breaking point and enters a drug-rehab program, but arrogant Kim can't even visit a shrink without getting high first. Unfortunately, once they start to get clean, the show's kitsch value nose-dives and it becomes one tedious, blandly-lensed bummer... Co-stars include Earl Holliman and Christopher Stone, respectively, as Kim and Rick's dads; William Campbell (DEMENTIA 13) is a physician; Bradley Gregg (STAND BY ME) pops up in group rehab; and 17-year-old Ami Dolenz is spotted as a stoner friend. As for Burt and Judd, they re-appear every so often and interject personal thoughts from the sidelines (and look like they shot all of their scenes in one afternoon, following a three-martini lunch). Director Burr Smidt was a two-time Oscar-nominated art director; but here, he's a hack.
© 2009 by Steven Puchalski.