Friday, May 15, 2009

In which we Get All Eisensteinian (or is it Pudovkinian) or Something

It occurred to nous that nous haven't really experienced the MT experience in its entirety, as our audience did. Watching our sequences only and ffwding through the movie was alas an experience denied humanity in those dank bygone pre-Tivo days. As we explain to our beloved kinder, "when you wanted to watch a teevee program, you actually had to Make an Appointment With Your Teevee." "No way!" exclaim the Teenagers, jaws agape. "The horror! the horror!" "Yes, but we survived with our witz intact," we blushingly admit, all gawrshlike n such. But, since we were actually performing the show when it was on, and hadn't as yet mastered the art of bilocation, we had to rely on State of the Art 80s Technology to quality-check our little endeavours. So one night, we put on a tape that covered the entire SNL-to-MT timeslot, started it at 0dark00, and sat up to watch all night teevee all night.

First thing we noticed was that it was hard to stay awake through the entirety of SNL. There were high points, but unless you were a fan of the Band o the Week, there were far fewer highs than lows. We also noted that the show had descended into caricature performances that relied on catchphrases (this was the season of "You rook mahvelous!" and Tommy Flanagan the Pathological Liar), with the skits basically collections of setup lines that led to the catchphrases, which were wildly cheered by the Live Studio Audience. So, if you were listening to the show, there were basically only words that bridged catchphrase to catchphrase; if you were were watching the show, it was caricature to caricature; and if you were sitting there om-ing through the show, sooner or later you'd doze off. Plus, the structure of the show was to wind down the last half-hour; the tempo noticeably slackened, the Band o the Week played its downtempo offering, and finally the show closed with a slow blooze vamp -- in waltz time. Soporific wasn't in it; WLEX might as well have been handing out lettuces to the flopsy viewing bunnies.

Then came three or four Local Commercials, then us. And we were too tentative. Barb's neo-Tallulah delivery, which was amusing to us in the studio and called for lots of draaawn oouutt voooowellls just ground our attention to a halt. We needed to pick up the show's pace. We needed to ramp up the WTF factor; we needed to perform pieces that the viewer couldn't believe we just said, did or showed what we just said, did or showed. We needed every second of our broadcast to engage the viewer, just to keep them awake. We needed to have multiple show inputs going , as often as possible.

And we needed to fight the movie. The movie was Not Our Friend. It may be that no one intentionally gets up in the morning and says to his or her own self, "What a great day for baseball! Let's make mediocrity!" But these movies were Mediocre with a capital M; just not engaging in any way, shape or form. And at 2AM, they were killing the show.

We kicked around some ideas. The obvious solution was to engage Millie more interactively with the movie; but Keith, Barb and I had some serious reservations about our ability to pull that off. We were much better at doing whatever it was that we were doing; but it was taking almost all of the downtime between pieces to set up for the next piece. So we thought about another approach. It seemed to me that since there was so much Stuff stuffed into the odd nooks and crannies of that campus, it was likely that there was a box or two of source material for the old local kids' shows that WLEX surely ran, back in the day. And this source material would likely include those staples of independent teevee programming, 30s B&W cartoons and the Three Stooges. If we could find such a box, we could ... introduce clips into the movie proper. Randomly. If the audience didn't know what clip would come up next ... well, maybe they'd stay awake. And talk about this goofy show. Which would get people curious, because this kind of stuff just wasn't done on local Lexington teevee. That was the plan, and Keith set off to chat with his rabbi in the station about where such a box, if it existed, might be. If it existed. Hypothetically. Because we were ... interested in this kind of stuff.

The next week, Keith was all smiles. Turns out that such a box did exist. And he found it. And it was packed -- packed, I tell you! -- with many many three- to seven-minute reels.

Of old Gumby adventures.

Well, I had been hoping that we'd find -- you know -- old Looney Tunes, or some Max Fleischer pre-Popeye cartoons, or some bizarre Charles Mintz cartoons; toons from the days when the animators just cranked out straight-ahead tomfoolery with no regard for continuity or matching cuts or staying on model(or making sense, as far as that goes). Gumby didn't quite fit the profile. But, hey! we haven't come this far patching the show together with found objects to quibble now. So we come up with a new plan: Keith will inventory the Gumbies and give us a master list of possible inserts. I'll find sections of the movie where we might plug a Gumby into. When Keith is formatting the movie, he'll ... use his judgment and maybe make an interesting insert or two. And we'll see how it plays.

So we anxiously watch the next show, to see how the Great Experiment works. Keith hasn't told us where he may or may not have inserted a Gumby. He's chuckling away over in the control room, while we're getting a little testy about playing Where's Gumby when up he pops. It's certainly inappropriate, mucks completely with the flow of the alleged story ... well sir, not what we had in mind but it does seem to work. So, wotthehell, Gumby's a keeper.

But we need something else. Barb picks up the pace when she's got someone to act against. But Keith has to, you know, direct, so we can't use Keith more than once or twice a show, and never when we're doing something televisionary. Dougie's been willing, but he's now been promoted to audio and moved into the control room. We've got Little Jeff on camera now, and he's quite willing to go on air; and he's also quite willing to advise Keith on how best to direct the show. So we are not going to fuel that little fire; Keith will have to handle his crew.

Yessir, we need to find some new stooges for Ms. G. But where oh where will we find such and so forth?

"Ahem," said Bob.

1 comment:

  1. I think I only once ever saw Gumby. By then we'd stopped watching the movie, unless it was obviously entertainingly bad from the get go.

    The show certainly got more entertaining after Bob joined regularly!