Something hidden -- go and find it;
Go and look beyond the Ranges
Something lost behind the ranges:
Lost and waiting for you. Go!


-- from Guy Maddin's CAREFUL


Being a periodic meditation on some of the more obscure outlying regions of cinema;
regarding movies that are inadequately publicized and hence, easily overlooked --
and by cinema, it is meant in the larger sense of films/tv/DVD/internet --
that might be worthy of your interest, but perhaps has escaped your notice.


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Friday, November 30, 2007

CHANNEL 101: THE FORGOTTEN CLASSICS




       With the W.G.A. strike well underway (... 30 days now and counting), and with most network TV shows barely five or six weeks into their production schedule, many have speculated that this sudden standstill in the year’s TV viewing foretells the demise of broadcast television in general. While that prediction seems a bit premature, one thing does seem certain: “TV” is undergoing a sea-change; if not in its’ content, then at the very least in its' format and distribution. In fact, the core issue of this strike -- writers’ seeking a share in revenues garnered from DVD sales and internet distribution of television programming -- illustrates the nature of this change; we’re not just watching “TV” on our TV’s anymore. No, these days you’re as likely as not to download shows and watch 'em on your computer or iPod; or view them off of a “season-set” of DVD’s (rather than broadcast); or just directly streamed from the internet -- which brings us to Channel 101.


       Channel 101 bills itself as “... the unavoidable future of entertainment” -- and that may well be -- but what it is right now, is a website that features short-format comedy bits (never more than five minutes in length); mostly absurdist sort-of-parodies of existing TV programs and genres. The sketch featured above, “The Forgotten Classics” is supposedly an exposé of a forgotten George Romero zombie movie, “Night of Racial Tension” -- it basically riffs on Romero’s tendency to hammer home the subtext of his films; in this case, racial and cultural intolerance. It’s not the best sketch they’ve ever done, but it’s a fair example of what you can expect to find on the site. Other stand-out “shows” include Laser Fart about -- you guessed it -- a superhero who can fart lasers (it’s a funnier and more spot-on parody of the superhero genre than it’s premise would suggest); Yacht Rock, their take on Mtv’s “Behind the Music” series; and M.E.S.I. (Most Extraordinary Space Investigations), which seems to be an attempt to make a TV show in about 9 & 1/2 minutes with nothing more than a camera and a superabundance of chutzpah.


       Website creators Dan Harmon and Rob Schrab concocted Channel 101 as a venue for exhibiting their own comedy shorts, and then eventually, those of interested audience members as well. They have a backlog of several hundred “episodes” at this point and how they sift through submissions to continue as ongoing “series” is an interesting -- if not innovative -- process. New shorts are screened monthly at an L.A. venue, and then -- in a micro-reenactment of the Neilsen ratings families -- the audience ranks the night’s viewings from most to least favorite; and the five most popular shorts get a shot to continue the following month with another episode. As might be expected, Harmon and Schrab are regular contributors -- and winners -- of this mini-ratings sweeps period; but with good reason. They’re “pro”s at this point (having co-written Monster House and Exec-Produced The Sarah Silverman Program), and know how to “deliver the funny”.


       All of the shorts discussed -- and many, many more -- can be found on the Channel 101 website, under the “SHOWS” tab. For interested parties in the L.A. area, the next screening is Dec. 9th at Cinespace; doors open at 7:30 pm: whereupon they’ll present this year’s Channy® awards, their own -- and sure to be hilarious -- version of the Emmys. I’ll see you there -- assuming I get the Tux back from the dry-cleaners ...


Next post -- 12/07/07