On April 22, 1990, the 20th anniversary of the original Earth Day, ABC marked the occasion the best way it knew how: with a two-hour, star-studded primetime special featuring Robin Williams, the Muppets, Bette Midler, several Looney Tunes characters, and an absolutely flabbergasting lineup of guest stars from the worlds of film, television, music, and comedy. Titled simply The Earth Day Special and credited to 10 different directors, including Jim Henson and James Burrows, the show is a free-associative, almost dreamlike collection of vignettes, all centered around a central narrative: the near death of Mother Earth (portrayed by a mournful, maternal Midler). Seemingly, just about anybody who was anybody in 1990 was in this show. There are crossovers with (among others) The Cosby Show, The Golden Girls, Murphy Brown, Cheers, and Doogie Howser, M.D., all featuring actors from those series in character. Vintage NPH, anyone?
And that’s just the tip of the ever-melting iceberg. Dennis Miller from Saturday Night Live stops by to do a “Weekend Update”-style monologue. Christopher Lloyd reprises his Doc Brown character from Back To The Future. Harold Ramis turns up as Elon Spengler, the brother of his Ghostbusters character. Carl Sagan stops by to deliver a mini lesson about global warming. There’s even a Jeopardy! crossover with Alex Trebek himself. Want more? Meryl Streep, Dustin Hoffman, Danny DeVito, Chevy Chase, Kevin Costner, and Dan Aykroyd appear in on this special, too. Even viewers who don’t have time to watch this entire thing will want to give at least three minutes of their day to this rap number, featuring Will Smith, Quincy Jones, Tone Loc, Queen Latifah, Ice-T, and E.T. No, E.T. doesn’t actually rap. That might be gilding the lily just a bit. How much more could anyone want from a single TV special?