This Week In Joe’s Basement, episode 26: The American Dream

AIR DATES: February 11, 18, 1991


As native city dwellers, the producers of Joe’s Basement realized that they really don’t understand why suburban teens spend so much time hanging out in shopping malls.

So the crew visited two suburban malls – one catering to a much wealthier constituency than the other– to quiz kids on their concerns about socializing, dating, fashion, and the then-current Persian Gulf War.

The show is divided into chapters, each narrated by the Construction Worker doll, and punctuated by “distractions” of Juan Luco’s seductive dances and a glimpse of protests against the Persian Gulf War.

The teens appear generally less astute than their urban counterparts from Kenwood high school. Asked why they’re in the mall, they chime in, one after the other, “shopping, and looking for boys (girls.)”  Organized violence against Arabs provokes little curiosity or regret.

A girl in a plain white T-shirt with large fish earrings is most effusive, carrying on about how she spends an hour every day dressing to impress her friends and attract boys.

Production Notes:

An essential episode, with sharp social commentary leavened by trademark Joe’s Basement silliness.  It was favorably reviewed in the Chicago Tribune.

Shopping mall owners can be very suspicious of camera crews, so Joe told them the topic of the program was “what people are buying in the post-Christmas shopping season.”  The crew encountered no resistance, although one of the mall’s managers followed them for a while.



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