Saturday, July 11, 2009

Web TV: viewing schedules I can handle!

I am enjoying the hell out of Kevin Pollak's new web show, a weekly broadcast live interview show, usually with two guests and interviews that run about an hour to two hours each. It's great--a really pretty uninhibited venue for chit-chat with folks you don't usually get to hear talk for more than a minute or two at a time (Kevin Smith, excepted).

A clickeroo here will get you to the archive of episodes. I was gonna toss out a couple of my favorite segments as places to start but honestly I've legitimately LOL'ed up every single interview so far. They're all great--the ones with the names I recognized, but even and especially the names I'd never heard. What I'm loving about it is exposure to all these brilliant and funny people who I'd never come across because they hadn't been "marketed" to me. The web is the great equalizer, where people with real talent can put their work out into the world and sink or swim on wits and merits. It's no longer necessarily about who you are or who you know or how much money you have. Real people are finding real audiences and I can't adequately describe how awesome this conceptual shift is. Kevin Pollak is a celebrity with clearly more showbiz resources than the norm, but the show itself is decidedly grassroots in feel even so.

An unapologetic Charlie Rose rip-off, Pollak started out the first couple months mining his address book for guests. Although I'm sure this wasn't so much a choice as a function of convenience with a healthy dose of necessity, I think it was a brilliant way to start. Chatting with his friends in an ultra low-key setting instantly set the tone for the show's greatest asset: candidness. Several guests so far have mentioned what an unusual experience it is for them to be able to actually talk. Kevin Smith said it best about Dana Carvey's appearance the week before: "I just thought it was so delightful to hear him be like '...is this okay? Can I keep talking?'" Carvey talked about Tonight Show appearances as "complete performances". You get zero sense of these people as actual human beings in a three-minute, tightly scripted "segment". Pollak's round table, on the other hand, is an easy, relaxed forum where conversations wander miles from any recognizable topic. We heard an in-depth description of Carvey's heart plumbing escapades. Ninteen minutes of Felicia Day's interview were dedicated to cat-chat. Several guests talked extremely candidly about adoption and parenting issues. Matthew Perry turns out to be a funny guy. Who knew?

The word "grassroots" came up early on. As quite a few corporate entities have discovered, money, spit, and polish do not always translate to endearment with the greater internet public's fickle hearts. Pollak observed with glee and maybe a little awe a few episodes in "they just don't care if you screw something up". Not only do I not care if he flubs a line, misses a joke, knocks over his water glass, or his guests have to army-crawl in under the cameras, I'd a million times rather see this honest-to-goodness humanity than a tightly produced and carefully edited "show". It seems like broadcast TV gives us impossible standards of perfection on just about every level. The LA Times called it "TV with its corset off" and I guess that's just about right. This show feels like a bunch of friends got together to produce a show in someone's basement. For the first handful of episodes, Pollak seemed very self-conscious of this. He kept apologizing for being "not ready" and moments of "unprofessionalism" when the show's hem showed. By the fifth or sixth episode as it became apparent that these moments are exactly what differentiate him from, say, Disney's lame attempts at entering this forum.

On the subject grassroots entertainment, I've almost entirely abandoned my cable subscription for the joys of audiobooks, podcasts, web tv, netflix, and OTR goodness. Broadcast TV is largely irrelevant to me these days and honestly I couldn't be happier about it. This world of web-based viewing and digital audio listening is a world of entertainment without guile, of talent and creativity for its own sake. Also... I have never been adept at revolving my life around the TV Guide. I know there are still plenty of kinks to be worked out, but I cannot wait to see people start getting paid real money for grassroots, web-based entertainment.

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