Theater: 'Groove Tube'
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?
     A 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.
     The 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.

     Anyone 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.
     This 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 reason.
     Kenneth 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.

     They are perhaps most acute with commercials that represent the American way of standardization. Their other area of strength is in their observation of televisiual conventions.
     Have 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.
     Here 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.

     They 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 hilarious effect.
      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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