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Starring Robin Williams as "Everyman". Nuff said.
April 20, 2014 6:43 PM   Subscribe

When the 20th anniversary of Earth Day rolled around in 1990, there was a desire to mark the occasion in a big way in order to teach a new generation about the environment. The celebration went global with events in 141 countries. Oh, and a television special. An earnest, all star, incredibly cheesy television special.

Taking place on an interior, studio-built town square, it starts with Robin Williams' character doing a comedy routine about not caring for the environment until Mother Nature (Bette Midler) falls ill and there is a rush to save her. So while she is tended to by a trio of TV doctors (including Neil Patrick Harris as Doogie Howser), we witness the goings on in the square. A number of celebrities reprise famous characters (Christopher Lloyd as Doc Brown and the late Harold Ramis as Egon, I mean Elon Spengler). Will Smith, Ice T, Queen Latifah and others rap about the planet. Kermit the Frog and Bugs Bunny show up. Carl Sagan talks about Global Warming. There's even a nice sketch between Williams and Dustin Hoffman (who probably were filming "Hook" together at about the same time this was shot). And on and on.

For those who want to get the full 1990 pop culture impact of this artifact, all 99 minutes of it are available on YouTube.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI (16 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
After watching this I made glass/plastic/aluminum recycling bins, and separated out recyclables religiously. I wasn't aware that there was absolutely no recycling facilities, so I would separate, and then my dad would throw all of it, along with our trash, into his truck and drive it to the municipal dump. I felt so good about myself.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 7:09 PM on April 20 [14 favorites]


I remember watching this as a kid and thinking that Earth Day was something that they had made up for the TV special (I missed the anniversary part, somehow) since I had never heard of it.
posted by Dr. Twist at 7:24 PM on April 20 [2 favorites]


I think I was forced to watch this in school. This was the same year as Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue.
posted by mkb at 8:12 PM on April 20 [3 favorites]


I remember the special very well. The newspaper had environmental columnists, Mother Nature was on TV, it felt like we had just got past communism and now it was time to take this on, as a culture. But apparently not.
posted by Kevin Street at 8:40 PM on April 20 [9 favorites]


Robin Williams is no Greenzo.
posted by mightygodking at 10:25 PM on April 20 [2 favorites]


Hmm. I read 'earth day 1990' and thought, hey, I remember that day. I was in Santa Barbara for a minute then so I went to the big Earth Day concert because that sounded like a good idea and hey, it was free.

I had vague memories of the experience being not so bad so I googled it to try to figure out if I had a better time than I remembered. And I found this - I do not advise clicking on that link- and found out that oh my god no. I thought I sort of liked that song "Nature's Way." until I saw Christopher Cross sitting there- sitting!- all bulbous and toadlike and crooning it to death. But it's not just that- Kenny Loggins... and Jim Messina, but not together! And Jackson Browne! People I probably would have paid money not to see!

And it's not only that! People were wearing, like, day-glo-green shorts and things like that and it just all looks horrible, we're lucky we even survived the 90's. Probably it was only because of the xanax.

In conclusion, there is no way in hell that I am going to watch any of this TV show because I was there, man, and you cannot make me go back.
posted by hap_hazard at 12:17 AM on April 21 [5 favorites]


I remember watching this and thinking how fortunate I was to be able to see and partake in such AWESOME CULTURAL SHIFT! I think I taped the damn thing, I was so excited about it.

I think the next year in 90% seriousness my classmates and I put on a local adaptation of Captain Planet. We were very earnest twelve-year olds.
posted by viggorlijah at 4:31 AM on April 21


I don't think I saw it, but I was in college and we had an Earth Day 1990 thing and I bought a militant vegetarian bumper sticker and a t-shirt with a dragonfly design on it with some saying attributed to some Native American chief or other.

We have an Earth Day festival in St. Louis but it's mostly the local power company telling everyone how green they are, while small booths tell everyone how not-green the local power company is. Plus beer, because St. Louis, and people selling a variety of odd religions that nobody hears anything about except at Earth Day festivals, because hippies.
posted by Foosnark at 5:17 AM on April 21


(I got over the militant part shortly afterward and the vegetarian part a couple years later.)
posted by Foosnark at 5:18 AM on April 21


I remember watching this as a kid and thinking that Earth Day was something that they had made up for the TV special (I missed the anniversary part, somehow) since I had never heard of it.

I felt that way about Life Day.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:05 AM on April 21 [6 favorites]


My favorite memory of Earth Day was on the 10th anniversary in 1980 when New Jersey celebrated by accidentally setting fire to 24,000 barrels of illegally stored toxic waste, sending a 200 foot fireball into the sky.
posted by octothorpe at 6:40 AM on April 21 [1 favorite]


I associate 1990 Earth Day with grey, unbleached, recycled paper sheets which became trendy to use for schoolwork around that time. It must have caused an epidemic of blindness amongst my poor teachers because that stuff was almost the same color as the pencil lead.
posted by Esteemed Offendi at 7:18 AM on April 21 [2 favorites]


My biggest memory of this is it aired the same day I was first arrested. I was all of 13 years old and remember wondering if I'd forever associate Earth Day with sitting in a juvie holding cell for 6 hours, waiting for my friend's mom to pick us up and drive me home.
posted by item at 7:50 AM on April 21 [1 favorite]


I think it was Lewis Black who said that his generation was so stoned, they came up with this event to remind themselves of which planet they were on.
posted by dr_dank at 7:57 AM on April 21


spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints: After watching this I made glass/plastic/aluminum recycling bins, and separated out recyclables religiously. I wasn't aware that there was absolutely no recycling facilities, so I would separate, and then my dad would throw all of it, along with our trash, into his truck and drive it to the municipal dump.

24 years later, Glass recycling is still difficult (2008 forum post, but it's still true - glass recycling isn't common throughout New Mexico.)
posted by filthy light thief at 8:50 AM on April 21




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