Robin Williams plays a man named Everyman (or something) and he is cracking jokes about how wonderful all this technology and industry we have is. Suddenly the stand up is broken up by Mother Nature (played by Bette Midler) who points out that all the industry he is so proud of is killing her! She then appears in the flesh and is rushed to the hospital because Mother Earth is dying. Ok, to be fair this is a good opening and isn’t as ham fisted as the rest of this will get. It gets your attention and really makes you want to know what is coming next.
Mother Earth is rushed to the hospital and we have lots of stats thrown at us. Of course all the info is bad. Now get this, this is how the story progresses : Harold Ramis plays the brother of Ghostbuster Egon Spengler who tracks down and interogates known pollutant, Martin Short’s Nathan Thurm. After that Candice Bergen appears as Murphy Brown reporting on the story, when Doc Brown arrives from the future in the Delorean. Yes, you read that right. The delorean and Doc Brown from Back to the Futuare are in this! And by the way Mother Earth is being treated by Doogie Howser. Doc Brown reveals that the answers to the problem is in reading newspapers he has gathered to get informed, newspapers that are bound together by E.T in a book format for everyone to share. Then the Muppets appear to talk about how the animals are worst off then the humans, before a scene with The Golden Girls commenting.
The rest of the special is the town members reading from the book about how to help Mother Earth (recycling, using less water, and so on). Which means that the whole narrative establsihed in the first hour basically disappears for the second. It becomes speeches, PSA’s, and non sequiter cutaways. This special would have worked much better as an hour and a half. The end falls flat, but more on that in a bit.
What I liked:
-Much of the information provided here is really good. It’s actually funny to watch this today and see how many problems are no longer as bad and how many solutions we have today that weren’t even considered back then. When was the last time you head about styrofoam containers or acid rain?
-Every so often they cut back to Rhea Perlman and Danny DeVito, usually involving Vic grabbing the remote and changing the channel. He has a dream sequence with Dan Aykrod and Chevy Chase which is good. The best part is there last scene as Vic wonders what they will tell their grandkids should the worst possible outcome occur.
-Some of the performers were solid. Michael Keaton appears in a very strong moment. One of the kids who wants to help is Blossom, before she became Blossom, which is cool. Yes I know her name is Mayim Bialik. Yeah it was silly but Christopher Lloyd is just great in this. Many of the others feel phoned in (Candice Bergen for one who looks like she is just waiting for her check to clear) but he is really trying. There is another scene with Robin Williams and Dustin Hoffman that really works too. The Muppet scene is strong since animals really do suffer more and while I wish they had touched on that more, Kermit’s cameo at least address’s it.
What I hated:
-Of course this is so pro-environemnt you would think the answer would be to give up our clothes and live in tents. There has to be a way to keep the technology without hurting th environment, but of course in this special all technology and industry is EVIL!! And it’s all our fault. The funny thing is that global warming is not mentioned once, guess it hadn’t become a buzzword yet.
-E.T….really? I mean forgetting that his appearance makes no sense…no that’s enough. His appearance makes no sense!
-To much! It was so hard to keep up with the stories with just so much going on. Sticking with the basic narrative would have been enough! In the middle there is a rap song for no reason, we get game show stuff with Jeapordy and The Dating Game (which includes Rodney Dangerfield and Geena Davis???) and even a Dennis Miller Weekend Update! Just to much.
-So many poitnless moments. It was funny to see Martin Short recreate Nathan Thurm, but it is so pointless. At one point we cut to a basketball game so Magic Johnson can have a discussion with Michael Douglas….for some reason. The scene is so fake, who talks like that in real life? Also there is a bit with Kevin Costner and Meryl Streep which has nothing to do with anything. We never see their characters before or after their scene, it was as if they had two of the biggest stars on the planet and had to do something with them! You can’t have a structured narrative and poitnless vignettes in the same show!
-WAAYYY to Campy. I love camp, I really do, but here it’s downright distracting. The town is an obvious set and the people are all clothed in bizarre colors. Nothing about this place seems real, which doesn’t work. If this is supposed to be about a real life problem than having an over the top campy town and characters like Doc Brown doesn’t help to take things seriously.
-The ending. I have always hated the way this ends. Everyman appears with Mother Earth who expresses pessimism that people wil change. Then things get dumb. After all the camp before it, Robin Williams and Bette Midler drop their characters and speak as themselves. So…now we’re supposed to take them seriously? You can’t give us a story and then at the end say “ah, screw the story here’s my speech!” The speech feels like a campaign speech! And then Robin Williams makes a joke about his wardrobe which I have always, always, found inappropriate. First of all, if you’re sending a serious message stay serious. And second, as I already said, HOW ARE WE SUPPOSED TO TAKE THINGS SERIOUSLY IF YOU DON’T!!! Thankfully Rhea Pearlman and Danny Devito have one last scene that is very strong (which I already mentioned).