|Work Uses Monitors to Satirize TV
I HAD entertained so
many serious doubts about the new show called
"Groove Tube," at the Channel One Theater, 62
East 4th Street, that I shall probably enter them on my
next tax return. Why should a drama critic like me go to
see it? For that matter, why should a dance critic like
me go to see it?
very pleasant young lady assured me on the telephone that
it was theater if it was anything, and it was opening
last Friday. So, obedient, if reluctant, to the call of
the wild duty I presented myself at the theater. Once
there, nothing allayed my fears.
entertainment generated from three television monitors.
The audience apart from myself - already up way past my
bedtime - consisted of the McLuhan generation who had all
come home from the hospital and found the television
waiting by their cribs. And this show, I soon realized,
was their revenge.
who has ever suffered that Chinese torture known as
American television owes it to himself to see
"Groove Tube" at Channel One. It is a step in
the right direction and you have to support it.
is counter-television. On a closed circuit, you see
television tapes of a television type previously unknown
to man. While the drama has satirized the drama, art
satirized art, opera satirized opera, etc., etc., apart
from a few exhilarating, yet occasionally smothered hints
- from men like Rowan, Martin , both Smothers and the
early David Frost - television has done little to
satirize television. And, if you think about it, for good
Shapiro and Lane Sarasohn started their videotape theater
more than two years ago. "Groove Tube" is
apparently an anthology of their experiments in
anti-television until now. They are bitter young men
rather than angry, and probably they are not bitter
enough. But at their Helzapoppin' acidtoppin' best they
are moderately formidable.
are perhaps most acute with commercials that represent
the American way of standardization. Their other area of
strength is in their observation of televisiual
you ever noticed the terrifyingly empty expertise - full
of their own, well-honed technical jargon - employed by
television sports commentators, so that they can
spuriously explain the very thing we are seeing with our
own eyes? Have you also noticed in sports commentaries
that distressing tendency to lose the picture at the
moment of truth? Yes, well so has Channel One.
they offer a very suave commentary of the sex Olympics.
It shows fragments - at times tantalizing fragments - of
a somewhat scratchy version of a pornographic movie, but
supplement its dubious thrills with a marvelously
parodistic running commentary. And, but of course, for
all vital occasions the picture is irretrievably lost.
are funny too with kiddy shows. Here they have Ko-Ko the
Clown. At first Ko-Ko behaves like an hysteric eunuch who
has lost his harem, shrills ingratiatingly at his kiddie
audience and implores them to send out of the room all
the "big people" - those over 10. The "big
people" once removed, Ko-Ko removes his false nose,
drops his voice to the level of serious communication,
and starts to read his kiddie audience a passage from
"Fanny Hill." I shall never again feel so bad
about letting my children watch kiddie shows.
Perhaps the program's greatest instant comes
unexpectedly. It is a news reading. Have you noticed -
and of course you have - the way newsreaders usually end
their puppy-fat business with some pointless, unfunny but
obscurely cute story that only just doggone goes to show
how pointless, unfunny yet obscurely cute our silly,
lovely little lives are? Good. Have you noticed how the
camera after one of these stories - scarce able to
believe that even humans are so easily amused - stays on
the announcer's face, waiting for the glorious punchline
that can never come?
You've noticed that? Good. Now, have you noticed the
sickly smirk of idiot triumph of the announcer's happy
face as he ends. Now, remember how that smirk, so boldly,
so flauntingly held, faces the camera - yet if that
camera stays there one second, two seconds, a disastrous,
fatal three seconds too long, the friendly neighborhood
smirk erodes to a leer and then with a landslide of
declension to a mirthless mask of total uncertainty? All
that Channel One has noticed. And they put it to
On the whold I enjoyed myself. Go and see "Groove
Tube." At least it is a whole lot better than
staying home and watching television - whatever that
might have been.
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