Imagine, if you dare, that the two most dominant superpowers finally came to a head. Would there be rampant nuclear destruction, billions of lives lost, tragedy on a totally unimaginable scale?
I don’t know. But in 1987, we got a glimpse of what could happen if the Russians actually defeated the United States, and annexed our country as part of the Soviet Union.
It was a 14 1/2 hour miniseries called Amerika.
Speculative fiction has grown in recent years, especially with the success of streaming TV shows like The Handmaid’s Tale and The Man in the High Castle. But in 1987, ABC embarked on a radical new miniseries, in which the Russians defeated the United States and took over our country as part of theirs.
How did they do it?
Apparently the Russians set off an EMP – an electromagnetic pulse – which destroyed all electronic communication and electricity in the United States. Essentially, we gave up without firing a shot.
And now, in this new country, set ten years in the future (1997), we learn of the struggles faced by those who fought – and lost – and are trying to regroup.
The miniseries was originally created by ABC as a response to their 1984 blockbuster TV movie The Day After, which featured a nuclear holocaust and its resultant effects upon the American heartland. Amerika would show the results of the different war – one in which the Soviets took our country in a bloodless coup.
The first two nights of the seven-night miniseries saw Amerika claim monster ratings, but the viewership fell off precipitously as the series progressed. It was a ratings success, but not the success that ABC had promised advertisers.
Some felt that the miniseries was woefully miscast, especially having Kris Kristofferson as the lead actor in the drama – Kristofferson isn’t one for big sweeping epic broadcasts, seeing as he was only a few years removed from the box office turkey Heaven’s Gate. Other wooden acting came from Sam Neill as the Russian administrator of the American district; Robert Urich as an American who works for the Russians; Mariel Hemingway as someone’s love interest (is there ever a film in which Mariel Hemingway ISN’T someone’s love interest?), and Lara Flynn Boyle in an early acting role. Makes me wish I was watching Twin Peaks instead.
So who wants to set aside 14 1/2 hours of their life and imagine would it would be like if Donald Trump told a nation that he believed Vladimir Putin when Putin said Russia never interfered in our elections? Here’s your chance, thanks to an enterprising YouTube fan who uploaded the entire miniseries onto the site.
Amerika was later released on VHS tape, but that tape has long since disappeared from store shelves. So if you want a taste of speculative fiction – circa 1987 – here’s your chance.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.