So, did ya happen to catch the new Milwaukee Public Television (MPTV) produced offering Arts Digest? It premiered on May 17 and, yes, they did very generously if briefly advertise that fact on this here blog--that's what's called "full disclosure" in the fancy media biz. Well we did watch it, and after scouring The Mighty Internets™ and finding no evidence that anybody else has seen fit to pen a review--save for this cheerleadery post by artisan Gary John Gresl on MARN--we've decided to grab it by the scruff and run, Cricky, run!
Hosted by Jon Anne Willow and Tom Strini, both of ThirdCoast Digest, Arts Digest is a monthly, half-hour TV magazine highlighting the creative goings on in the Milwaukee area. Joining the team is MPTV fav John McGivern, humorist and one-man show, who's billed as "a contributing personality" on the series' website. This is indeed an interesting choice of phraseology since Willow and Strini seemed to have a bit o' trouble bringing their own personalities to the opening performance. Loosen up, people! It's art, not economics. Sheesh.
Now, to be fair, McGivern has had, what? Like a few thousand opportunities to hone his act, both live and prerecorded, so time and practice may be just the oil these co-hosts need to shake out the stiffness and liven it up. A dash of vinegar wouldn't hurt either as we all know the best dishes are served with an infusion of complex flavor.
The show itself demonstrated good production values, veering completely and mercifully away from the overused, ultra-hip, earthquake-simulating shaky camera shots so in vogue these days. May this program continue to resist the shallow-breathed siren call of that nauseating trend.
The premier covered a range of mediums, from visual art and animation to music to spoken word to dance, including Danceworks awesome Mad Hot Ballroom and Tap Program for youngins--Whoot! However the pacing felt rushed, no doubt the result of cramming too much into the time allotted. I would suggest the producers either scale back their ambition, focusing on three main subjects per program, or think about begging for the resources to turn it into a full hour. I mean, if it's only gonna run once a month, there's more than enough worthy projects, programs and active artists 'round these parts to fill a 60 minute time slot for years to come.
Interspersed throughout the show were short spoken word pieces featuring performers from Theatre Gigante. Each artist was shot against a black backdrop, looking out at the audience but acting as if he/she was gazing in a mirror, while reacting to a recording of themselves reflecting on their physical appearance and how it has changed over time. The choice to stagger the pieces was extremely effective and I encourage Arts Digest to maintain this kind of formatting so that very short films/videos--such as MATC student Keith Kamikawa's lovely animation clip which was also featured--and other works can be included.
Though I'm not privy to the content of future episodes, I do hope that the series will take on the challenge of presenting a broader scope than what is traditionally defined as The Arts. There are a ton of super talented writers, experimental musicians, sound and multimedia artists working hard in this burg and they deserve some attention, too.
By their very nature, premiers are the awkward, nerdish adolescents that the older, wiser, cooler shows would most like to wipe from their archives. For informational, time sensitive productions such as Arts Digest this is particularly true. But the process of work includes the process of learning. It is always admirable when folks are brave enough to give it go and that must be respected.
Given that, it is this arts writer/teevee viewers' opinion that Arts Digest has created a solid foundation on which to build. To all involved, I say, "Onward and upward!" Oh, and when you've got a moment, can ya upload the show in its entirety for those of us who would like to watch it straight through? I knew you would.
For peeps who get MPTV on their old-fashioned boob tubes and wanna witness the program's first effort that way, two more rebroadcasts are scheduled to air on May 28, one at 9:30PM on Channel 36.1 and the other at 10PM on Channel 10HD.