Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Beauty of Public Access TV

First off, if you care at all about public broadcasting, take the five minutes to tell your representatives that we need to protect its funding:

Seriously, if public radio and TV have ever enriched your life in any way, do something to let Congress know what important resources they are. Not only do they provide vital sources for education and information, but in an age of corporate media it's nice to have an alternative point of view.

Now, having got that out of the way, let's move on to the real reason for this post. It doesn't necessarily have anything to do with public broadcasting. However, given my last post on the paltry condition of current television programming, I thought it appropriate to showcase the fresh and innovative content gracing the airwaves of late-night public access TV. For example, one of LA public access' finest gems is "Let's Paint TV," hosted by John Kilduff. As the name would imply, it's a show that teaches viewers about oil painting. But it is oh so much more than that...

It's broadcast live, with absolutely no editing. The cinematography and special effects are zany, bordering on epileptic. Kilduff is always dressed in a suit covered in paint splatter. With only 30 minutes per episode, he does his best to cram in as much as possible. Activities often include painting (which is a mainstay, but often becomes ancillary), running on a treadmill, interviewing guests, taking live calls, cooking a meal and playing ping pong. What's truly amazing is that he does all this simultaneously! It's a bewildering flurry of activity.

It gets even better.  While occupying himself with such a wide array of activities, and gasping for breath with each stride on the treadmill, John somehow finds time to impart his artistic vision and thoughts on the creative process. The man is full of nuggets of wisdom.

And then there are the callers, which are poorly screened. In fact, they're not screened at all. The person responsible for screening simply isn't doing his job, either because he's lazy or he thinks it's funny. Of course some of the callers offer comments, opinions or artistic insights. Many just pressure Kilduff to speed up the treadmill. And all of them seem to take the opportunity to give a shout out to their gang or make lewd remarks. Yet through it all, Kilduff manages to keep the spirit upbeat. Perhaps it's his unflinching positivity that abets his viewers. In any case, it all makes for one entertaining half-hour.

Sounds pretty great, right? But in fact it's so much better than one can possibly imagine. You have to see it to truly understand. So, here's a sample clip:

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