The Program (1993)

5 reasons as to why The Program is in my DVD collection:

  1. Residing within the film’s original 115 minute runtime, there was once a scene that depicted the film’s fictional college football team, the ESU Timerberwolves, led by star quarterback Joe Kane (Craig Scheffer), laying down on the yellow line of a busy thoroughfare in an act of team unity. Vehicles zoom by the players at alarming speeds and the audience witnesses just how reckless and influential this Joe Kane character can be, especially when preaching to inebriated college students. Unfortunately for the studio and director, they failed to realize justhow influential fictional characters can become, especially if your audience has a healthy dose of idiots boosting your ticket sales. The director, David S. Ward, did such a bang up job with the scene that a rash of copycats started occupying highways, kids and young adults impressed with the manliness of an act that was filmed in a controlled environment. If the Darwin Awards were being handed out that year, these chuckleheads should have at least been nominated, if not winning the “honor” in a landslide vote. As one might expect, this unfortunate situation led to severe injuries and, in some instances, fatal cases of death. Touchstone, taking quick and efficient action in an effort to reduce the prospect of, you know, lawsuits and stuff, decided to cut the scene out of all their prints—it had already been released, making it a costly decision—and removed any trace of the scene from the original trailers and TV spots. According to Wikipedia, the only home video release of the film to contain the controversial scene was in a laserdisc distributed in Hong Kong. At least one major city had citizens deemed smart enough to not be influenced by fictional characters playing in traffic.
  2. Abraham Benrubi, better known as Francis Lawrence “Larry” Kubiac from the TV show Parker Lewis Can’t Lose, plays one of the Timberwolves. Despite being nothing more than a rip-off of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the show was a big hit with my friends and me during its run from 1990 to 1993, and Kubiac was always my favorite character, despite his love for flannel. Initially written as a bully, Benrubi was able to turn the character into a gentle giant, albeit one that shook the earth with violent tremors when he walked. Sadly, the character actor was almost always typecast—as he is here—as a jock or a mountain-sized man with a dearth of intelligence. Despite the shortcomings that would be forced on Benrubi due to his physical stature, he has been able to stick around, carving out a journeyman-style career, and The Program serves as one of his highlights as the actor brings much needed humor and warmth to the proceedings.
  3. The Program was filmed in and around Columbia, South Carolina, which was where I was living at the time. It was pretty cool to watch a movie where I knew of or had been to a fair amount of the locations used in the film—primarily, Williams Brice Stadium, home of the South Carolina Gamecocks, where the football scenes were filmed during halftime of the home games. Not all of the shooting locations can come with my recommendation, however, part of the movie was filmed at the campus of Duke University, so minus 20 cool-points for that bit of nonsense.
  4. My mom was in it! Not as an actor but as an extra*—this created quite the stir in the Edwards’ household and a litany of questions posed by my sister and I would descend on her when she would come home from the set. Sadly, no Kubiac sightings were reported (queue the sad trombone noise here). She can be viewed—assuming you know what she looks like—in the booster’s dinner scene wearing a your typical early 90s ensemble (IE: a dress burdened with shoulder pads and an unbecoming color scheme), making chit-chat with other people paid to pretend they are someone of affluence. In her down time, she struck up a conversation and shared a chair with another somebody whom she assumed was an extra but turned out to be Omar Epps. I assume this explains her love for the show Houseand the movies JuiceIn Too Deep and The Wood. I’m just kidding; she hatesHouse.
  5. It stars Kristy fucking Swanson, another major reason why the film was popular with me and my friends. Starring in The Chase and Hot Shots, her bid at stardom coincided with puberty for yours truly, leading to plenty of hormone-driven viewings of the films comprising her filmography. My sister was also a fan for entirely different, more pure reasons, so Swanson’s other efforts, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Mannequin Two: On the Move were constantly draining the life out of the TV located in the room over the garage as well. I didn’t mind being subjected to her turn in Buffy the Vampire Slayer; after all, she did spend a majority of the runtime in cheerleading outfits. Mannequin Two: On the Moverepresented a different situation entirely, that movie would even make shit hold its own nose, a fact that was clearly true then as an 11 year old as it is now at 31. In The Program, as Camille, an all-star college tennis player that dates the aforementioned quarterback Joe Kane, Swanson’s turn would once again serve as a highlight for that younger version of me, a fact that was heightened by the fact that she was a brunette. Now, if she could only have stared in a movie that featured a sex scene in a moving car, accompanied by pink clouds, and a high-speed police chase…

-David

* This led to my own failed attempt at becoming an extra in another film that was being shot in Columbia shortly thereafter. Apparently, Dennis Hopper had no use for clean-cut, 14-year old background players while filming Chasers. His loss.

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