Winnipeggers keep themselves busy. How else to keep warm in the winters? And while there’s fantastic art coming out of this murder capital of Canada now, they once did something else: public broadcasting. And when I say public broadcasting, I mean public broadcasting. During the ’70s and ’80s, part of Winnipeg’s broadcasting mandate was to allow public access to programming. The glory years. The lasting result is extinct shows that will forever be sealed as cult classics: “Steel Toast,” the sock puppet metal band; “Lash Larue (Blossom),” an experimental music video by Marcel Dzama and Neil Farber that rolls Blossom sitcom credits, and film noir-styled “Crime Stopper” segments (real ones) directed by Jim MacGregor that reenact crime scenes as suspense-ridden vignettes a la Hitchcock. This was VPW channel 11: Community Access TV. And it ruled. Community access TV meant almost anyone could self-broadcast, DIY style. This was freedom. It was also hilarious.
“Paint’n with Pabs” spat milk on his canvases and then painted while singing he’d sell it for $180,000. There was also “Full Gospel Gymnastics” where you could dump Jane Fonda as your living room aerobics instructor and workout with a uniformed nun and priest. After watching two hours of public broadcasting video, one comes to understand why the plug was pulled in the ’90s: because it’s not socially responsible programming. When people have too much power they have the option to send misleading messages. “Survival,” had two anarchist hosts who based their show around warning viewers of a cataclysm. Taken seriously by some who called in asking for contact information, “Survival” kept the gag going. Kind of like after all these years, VPW channel 11 keeps us going too. (Nadja Sayej)
Dir. Daniel Barrow, www.danielbarrow.com