Some 15 years ago we used to have a little thing called “Public Access TV”, now largely defunct.
For those not familiar with the concept, Public Access was supposed to be a way that local community members could use the medium of television to reach out to their community. In one of the brighter, more lucid moments of government regulation, someone figured out that television vastly shapes and informs the opinions of the public. They also realized that television was a medium that requires large sums of money to participate in.
The mechanism was that, as a city granted a monopoly contract to a cable TV contractor to come build out the infrastructure, they were were required to maintain a channel that any citizen could air video on, without censorship (within certain generally loose restrictions: No pornography as defined by community standards, no sales, no gambling and no solicitations for money.)
Further, the cable companies were required to supply equipment and studio space for these programs to be produced.
This all seems quaint in this age of internet video, dirt-cheap camcorders and home computers with sufficient power to do video editing, but back then, this was a significant investment.
I always thought it was a grand idea. There was just one flaw. As with so many other grand ideas, the people fail to live up to them. What had been conceived as an outlet for artistic express and community-building became a wallowing ground for crackpots, fringe radicals, churches (big ones trying to skit the no solicitations for money rules and little ones trying to build their flock) and teenagers (and post-adolescent wannabe teenagers) who thought it was cool (and/or funny) to swear on TV.
After watching enough Public Access, one day I just had enough. I couldn’t take it anymore. It’s perfectly acceptable to gripe about things, but eventually you have to put your money where you mouth is and do something about it. For me, Fusion Patrol was that something.
One day, while watching a show on Public Access, hoping against futile hope that the program, which was a bunch of teenagers standing around reciting Metallica lyrics (although you couldn’t tell because the sound was inaudible) would actually do something, I snapped. I could stand the crap no more and Fusion Patrol was born.
Over the course of a several years, a band of intrepid volunteers and I put on a TV show. Honestly, it sucked. Well, OK, it started of technically sucky, but with time and practice and a desire to improve which seemed lacking in the other Public Access producers, the show got better. Technically better, anyway. You either like the content or you don’t. Although, one of the proudest moments in my stint at Fusion Patrol is when one of the popular local morning radio DJ teams saw the show and talked about it on the air. They called us a “…local, Pythonesque comedy troupe.”
How cool is that?! Compared to Monty Python! And not even in a negative way! (Admittedly, they did, by coincidence, happen to see our most Pythonesque episode and even still we’re not a patch on the Pythons’ collective asses.)
With the program getting better (again, I stress, technically better) it took more and more time to produce, and as each of us progressed in our lives, we had less and less time to devote to the production. Fusion Patrol died not in fire, but with a whimper of missed deadlines and conflicting priorities.
Nowadays, I see the YouTube phenomena as the ultimate liberation of television from the hands of the vested corporate interests. Web video has finally created the environment that Public Access dreamed of creating.
…and yet, when I look at YouTube videos, more often than not, I get that same feeling I had watching those damn teenagers all those years ago.
I shall produce more Fusion Patrol.
Of the original crew of ten, two are dead, two are missing without trace, one has not been available and three others have been added, making the “new” Fusion Patrol a team of eight.
Keep watching this spot. We’re in pre-production meetings now. I’m working on revamping the Fusion Patrol Website soon to accommodate video podcasting and hopefully soon I’ll have more information and details about the production.