Saturday, May 21, 2011

Prime Time (1978)

The creators of this atrocious comedy strung together a group of lame sketches under the premise that some unknown anarchistic force hijacked the American airwaves in order to beam subversive content into the nation’s boob tubes. The level of humor here is indicated by an ad for a Candid Camera-type gotcha show called The Shitheads, in which unsuspecting participants have buckets of excrement dropped onto their noggins. If that doesn’t sufficiently warn you away from investigating Prime Time, consider the ad for “Stay Down,” an aerosol erection suppressant with the unfortunate side effect of uncontrollable flatulence. Every so often, the movie triggers a reaction with its audacity. The best-executed sketch is probably the celebrity sports show in which two hunters (one of whom is played by Warren Oates!) climb to the top of the tower on the University of Texas campus in Austin, then open fire for “The Charles Whitman Invitational,” named after the crazed sniper who killed 16 people from that tower in 1966. The filmmakers include a few brief interstitial bits of things like government officials trying to stop the pirate broadcast, but the movie rises and falls on the quality of the gags, and the gags are consistently juvenile, obvious, and unfunny, with homophobic and racist overtones thrown in for good measure. Even appearances by familiar faces—among them Joanna Cassidy, Fred Dryer, Kinky Friedman, Dick O’Neill, and Harry Shearer—aren’t enough to generate interest. The Groove Tube (1974), Kentucky Fried Movie (1977), and even the deranged Mr. Mike’s Mondo Video (1979) did this sort of thing so much better.

Prime Time: SQUARE

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