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TV Party: A Panorama of Public Access Television in New York City

Feb 11 — Feb 20, 2011

When the world’s first public access channel went on-air in Manhattan in 1971, the press praised it as a landmark civic experiment in “electronic democracy.” But this everyman’s soapbox was a stage, too: For the showboats who flocked there, public access was off-off-off-off-Broadway, uncensored, unmediated, and unencumbered by production values. A free-range creative habitat, it

attracted radicals, reactionaries, artists, smut peddlers, teenage puppeteers, quack doctors, book clubs, church choirs, backyard wrestlers, and naked talk-show hosts. New York’s public access shows harnessed mysteries of human nature never before seen on television. The series begins with a live event featuring luminaries of the medium, including Cable Soho cofounder Jaime Davidovich, famed documentarian and “godfather of public access” George Stoney, and many more. The compilation programs span four decades of must-see fringe television, most of which has never been shown publicly since appearing on cable. Laugh, cry, and scratch your head at natural-born performers, uncensored callers, celebrity cameos, rare musical discoveries, raucous parodies, and unclassifiable acts. 

Guest-curated by Leah Churner and Nicolas Rapold.