Marshall Efron Classics

(Above source: Independent Production Fund video)

Not a household name for decades (it took more than a week for his recent death to even be reported), the late Marshall Efron was a pivotal player in the growth of TV satire during the 1970s

For a couple of seasons starting in 1971, Efron hosted and provided consumer reports for The Great American Dream Machine, a largely satirical newsmagazine on the then-nascent Public Broadcasting Service. The series also featured a pre-SNL Chevy Chase, a pre-stardom Albert Brooks, and Andy Rooney before his 60 Minutes tenure — plus Henry Winkler, Penny Marshall, Studs Terkel and others.

In the following memorable spoof of TV cooking shows, Efron shows how to bake a pie just like the ones you’d find in the supermarket:

After Dream Machine left the air, Efron resurfaced with his own show – produced by none other than CBS News as part of the network’s Sunday morning religious programming!  

Marshall Efron’s Illustrated, Simplified and Painless Sunday School, which ran from 1973 to 1977, was ostensibly for kids (“This program may not be suitable for adults due to its mature nature.). The series consisted of Efron telling stories from the Bible – and playing all the parts himself. Here’s “Jonah,” part two:

You can stream a few more clips from both series by searching on YouTube. But complete episodes? Forget about it!

However, The Great American Dream Machine, which started out as a 90-minute show before switching to 60 minutes in its second season, is available from Amazon in a $27.99 four-DVD set consisting of 34 episodes.

We don’t know if that’s the entire series, since a total episode count is not listed on any of our usual sources (e..g., IMDb and Wikipedia).

The same holds true for Marshall Efron’s Illustrated, Simplified and Painless Sunday School, which is missing complete episodes either online or on DVD.

We suspect, though, that they still exist somewhere in the CBS News archive. So we call on the Decades channel, which has been so good at mining that archive for its weekday Through the Decades history series, to unearth and run Marshall Efron’s Illustrated, Simplified and Painless Sunday School. No problem if Decades needs to air it Saturdays during their weekly kids’ show block. That’s the kind of paradox Efron would have appreciated.

As a final epitaph, here’s Efron on “How to Write Your Own Famous Last Words,” from The Great American Dream Machine:

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About Les Luchter

Les Luchter is a former managing editor of Multichannel News, editor-in-chief of Cable Marketing, and news editor of Broadcast Week.

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