in the 20th century

SHOWTIME and Touchstone Television have joined forces with six of Hollywood's top filmmakers to explore important issues of the millennium. IN THE 20TH CENTURY features six feature-length documentaries by renowned directors Norman Jewison, Barry Levinson, Garry Marshall, Gregory Nava, Robert Townsend and Robert Zemeckis. The films will air on a monthly basis beginning in June 1999.

As the millennium approaches, this series offers an entertaining and provocative look at the last century. Each director probes a personally compelling aspect of our political, social and cultural landscape, tracing its impact and its evolution. Among the subjects explored are comedy (JEWISON), the future (LEVINSON), marriage (MARSHALL), the American dream (NAVA), sex (TOWNSEND) and smoking, drinking and drugging (ZEMECKIS).

Using archival footage, interviews with experts and newly-shot footage, these films offer a unique perspective on the past 100 years. Working in the documentary format for the first time, each director uses his distinct point of view in a unique form of storytelling to weave individual tapestries of society and the influences that have shaped it.

The IN THE 20TH CENTURY schedule is as follows:

June Garry Marshall on Marriage in the 20th Century: In Search of the Happy Ending
July Robert Townsend on Sex in the 20th Century: From Behind Closed Doors
August Barry Levinson on the Future in the 20th Century: Yesterday's Tomorrows
September Robert Zemeckis on Smoking, Drinking and Drugging in the 20th Century: The Pursuit of Happiness
October Norman Jewison on Comedy in the 20th Century: Funny is Money
November Gregory Nava on the American Dream in the 20th Century: The American Tapestry
December A presentation of all six films


Throughout the century people have been fascinated with the future. Whether it is improvements in lifestyle, home conveniences or transportation, "experts" constantly predicted what the future would bring. Director Barry Levinson explores our century-long preoccupation with the future and revisits familiar and not so familiar images of the world we expected to see at the end of the 20th century.

Buck Rogers, "The Jetsons," moving sidewalks, people with personal jetpacks, and even flying cars were all predicted to be commonplace in the world of the future. For this entertaining look back at past visions of tomorrow, Levinson has assembled a colorful group of celebrities as well as historians and writers who reminisce about the clearly implausible images of the future that surrounded them. John Waters, Richard Belzer, Carrie Fisher, Martin Mull, Matt Groening, Fran Lebowitz, E.L. Doctorow and Spalding Gray are just some of those who recount their perceptions of what life would become.

Through film clips, archival footage of the 1939 and 1964 World Fairs, and vintage informational films from the 1950's indicative of the optimism that pervaded this decade, Levinson takes the audience on a nostalgic and visual trip down memory lane.

Combined with the candid commentaries of those he interviews, the film paints a vivid picture of the idealistic city of tomorrow that everyone waited for with great hope but never materialized.

Combined with the candid commentaries of those he interviews, the film paints a vivid picture of the idealistic city of tomorrow that everyone waited for with great hope but never materialized.

Throughout the century Levinson vividly illustrates how our curiosity about the future persists, no matter how ludicrous. People will continue to look forward to what lies ahead.


  • Richard Belzer - Actor/Comedian
  • Octavia Butler - Novelist
  • Joseph Corn - Historian
  • Phyllis Diller - Comic
  • E. L. Doctorow - Novelist
  • Hampton Fancher - Filmmaker
  • Carrie Fisher - Writer/Actress
  • Spalding Gray - Monologist
  • Dick Gregory - Comedian/Activist
  • Matt Groening - Cartoonist
  • Robert Heilbroner - Economist
  • Charlton Heston - Actor
  • Ada Louise Huxtable - Architecture Critic
  • Philip Johnson - Architect
  • Robert Klein - Actor/Comedian
  • Fran Lebowitz - Writer
  • Syd Mead - Industrial Designer
  • Isaac Mizrahi - Personality
  • Walter Mosley - Novelist
  • Martin Mull - Actor/Painter
  • Ralph Nader - Consumer Advocate
  • Victor Navasky - Publisher, The Nation
  • James Powers - Auto Designer
  • Andy Rooney - Commentator
  • Alvin and Heidi Toffler - Authors, Future Shock
  • John Waters - Filmmaker

IN THE 20TH CENTURY is a 5759 Production in association with Buena Vista Television Productions. The series' executive producer is Sandra M. Itkoff with Lesli Klainberg as series producer.