On this day, 44 years ago, Steven Spielberg presented us his vision of the future of our society, in a dystopian episode of the TV series The Name of the Game. The episode was titled: L.A. 2017 (so we still have 2 years to find out how much of his predictions have become reality).
The series, that ran for three seasons, and had episodes of 90 minutes each, focused on three, rotating, lead actors: Gene Barry, Tony Franciosa and Robert Stack.
In L.A.2017 Gene Barry portrays Glenn Howard, who, while returning from a conference on Ecology, on his way back to Los Angeles, has an accident and loses consciousness. The moment he awakens, he finds himself projected to the future, and is escorted through the Los Angeles Portal in the year 2017. Because of the pollution most of the inhabitants live below the surface to prevent them from being contaminated. When Glenn is shown around in the Los Angeles of the future, he discovers that he doesn't like it very much. Air has become unbreathable, computers have become more important than people, America is at war with England and many of the inhabitants of Los Angeles are assigned to public housing or, even worse, are exploited as workers on the poisonous earth surface. After having witnessed all this Glenn tries to make a run for it. He escapes the city and tries to make it back to his car, and hopefully, back to his time...
After having directed two episodes in the Rod Serling Night Gallery anthology series and one episode of the Marcus Welby drama series, L.A. 2017 was Spielberg's first professional attempt at science fiction, with a considerable budget of $375.000.
Of course the series looks dated, 44 years have passed since it premiered, but one of the messages still stands: When Glenn talks to the Vice President and tells him how much he dislikes what he has seen, the Vice President replies: “Why didn't you do something about the environment, when you had the money, the power and the fame, back in '71 ?”
One year after the show had been aired, L.A. 2017 was released as a feature film (to cash in on the success of Spielberg's Duel) in very limited run.
Today L.A. 2017 may celebrate it's 44th birthday, but whether it's a happy one, remains to be seen...
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