Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Obvious & Concrete TV

I recently put together an "art of editing" film program (see City Paper's "Splice World" review) at work and it reminded me that I needed to dig out an obscure video tape I got at Scott Huffines' old Atomic Books back in the '90s that was the ultimate in creative (and labor-intensive) editing. The tape was something called Peter Flechette's THE OBVIOUS (SEX AND VIOLENCE) and this 1990 curioddity was a pretty amazing bit of "cuts-only" analog splicing together of 2 hours of non-stop sex and violence clips from TV and film. A sample juxtaposition of sounds and visions: Rambo kills Charlie and pals with an M-16, followed by two women french kissing, followed by Leatherface dissecting some meat in THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, followed by some young nubiles fucking, followed by a clip from THE DRILLER KILLER, followed by...well, you get the picture. It was the kind of visual curriculum that was force-fed to Malcolm McDowell's droog character when the authorities were de-programming him in A CLOCKWORK ORANGE.

Great stuff, but it's already been one-upped thanks to a New York public access TV show called CONCRETE TV. Once again, Scott Huffines, leading where others merely follow, turned me on to this amazing state-of-the-art editing showcase (OK, admittedly he was clued to it by Chris X of Reptilian Records). And, once again, like THE OBVIOUS, the theme of the show reflects the same two-fold, time-honored tenets of Modern Life that never go out of fashion or fascination: sex and violence. Seeing this show makes me wonder why Scott Huffines and I even bothered all those years with Atomic TV, our pathetic attempt at public access TV fame and glory.

What makes CONCRETE TV stand out is the way its creator, Concrete Ron (Ron Rocheleau), finds the perfect soundbite clips to tie his episodes together. It reminds me of Little Steven's UNDERGROUND GARAGE radio show (on Sirius Satellite Radio and for free Sundays 7-9 p.m. on Baltimore's WRNR 103.1 FM) in the way it intersperses thematic soundbites between the content. Amazingly, Concrete Ron's been doing his thing since 1994 and it looks like it's all analog "cuts-only" editing with title cards done by an Old School character generator (i.e., no fancy fonts). After Rolling Stone magazine cited the show as a "Hot Pick" in 1996, MTV came calling to throw some filthy lucre Ron's way, but he decided to stick it out on the Manhatten Neighborhood Network's public access Channel 56 (where it used to air late-night alongside another hip program, WFMU-TV).

But don't take my word for CONCRETE TV's jaw-dropping greatness. Below is a sample clip from CONCRETE TV Episode 8, Part 1 (9:41 minutes):

Here's Episode 8, Part 2 (9:36 minutes):

For those of you who need closure, here's Episode 8, Part 3 (8:45 minutes):

Here's a sample clip from Episode 9, Part 2 (4:32 minutes):

And here are some reviews from across the world-wide Web.

Concrete Ron describes himself as "perhaps the greatest video editor of all time", and anyone who's ever caught Concrete TV on Manhattan public access television over the last decade or so probably wouldn't argue: a typical episode incorporates vintage porn movies, 80s aerobics videos, car crash footage, Hong Kong shoot-em-ups, old commercials, beefcake reels, pro wrestling smackdowns, cheesy B-movie moments, sex education films, random explosions, wet t-shirt contests, and plenty of "raw emotion, euphoria, physical collision, glee, fantasy, despair, and discomfort" in one noisy, violent, sexy, and brilliantly edited pop culture/infoporn mashup. If we ever had to show visitors from another planet what's going on in our collective brains at any given moment, we'd make them tune in here.

...If you’ve been in enough bars on Thursday nights, chances are you’ve seen Concrete TV, the monumental cable access show that consists of car crashes, motorcycle chases, gunfights, hardcore porn, Chippendale’s stage footage and blips of dialogue cut together in half-hour action-movie montages. The show is favored by bartenders, because you can leave the sound off and it’s just as mesmerizing for drunks.

Concrete TV has been around since 1994, when creator Ron Rocheleau’s cable access sitcom ("It was bad because I was on drugs") began evolving into a "music video show." "I thought, what would it be like to make a movie with all cliches? So I started pasting cliches together, with background music, and that’s what became Concrete TV," says Ron.

Rolling Stone cited the show as a "Hot Pick" in 1996, and MTV came on the scene. But things didn’t work out. "They offered me this shitty gig to do Concrete TV with all footage from the MTV archive. You know how they are. They wanted ‘Behind the Scenes on the Making of Behind the Scenes.’ I told them: this isn’t interesting. This is bad."

MTV stopped calling, but Ron soldiered on, producing–to date–17 episodes of Concrete TV that he constantly edits and rotates, so you literally never see the same show twice.

Unfortunately, some cheap imitators have cropped up. Public Sex Acts, Liebography and Media Shower are three local cable shows that crib heavily from the Concrete TV formula. Public Sex Acts is the worst, with no continuity, shaky camerawork and a total lack of public sex. Liebography is story-oriented, with each show devoted to a figure like Calvin Klein, but it’s made by a Concrete TV devotee who recycles the same clip format. And Media Shower, which features "odd, rare, or unsettling video," is the yuppie Concrete TV for people who have not yet discovered the real thing.

"There are many imitators," Ron says. "But when I’ve seen the shows, they’re not very good... I can spend four-five hours on a few seconds of [Concrete TV]. I come from a fine arts background. So I have the patience to put it together slowly, and if I mess up, I start again. They don’t have that patience.

"It’s like, you know if you have a phat beat, people are going to steal it. All you can try to do is make it so good that you outshine all the imitators."

Don’t be fooled. The real Concrete TV airs Thursdays at 1 a.m. on MNN (channel 67, in Manhattan only).

Concrete TV is a bizarre video mix of all kinds of audio-visual craziness created by a guy called Concrete Ron. The Videos are broadcast on Channel 56, NYC Public Access but there are a couple of thirty minute six-part episodes archived online for our viewing pleasure. The only guarantee is violence, explosions, fitness videos and nudity! So, there’s the warning…not safe for viewing at work.


Concrete TV
Sample YouTube Clips
Boing Boing review
New York Press review
Ektopia review
Concrete TV (Wikipedia)


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