October 2, 2006


WhoseTube? ArtsTube!: YouTube is shaping the future of fine-arts video on demand (TERRY TEACHOUT, September 30, 2006, Wall Street Journal)

In recent months, jazz-loving friends have been sending me YouTube links to videos by Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and other celebrated artists, most of them drawn from films of the '30s and '40s and TV shows of the '50s and '60s. Some of this material is available on DVD, but most of it lingered in limbo until Chad Hurley and Steve Chen, YouTube's co-founders, made it possible for anyone with a computer to post and view video clips at will. Fascinated by the links unearthed by my friends, I spent the better part of a long weekend trolling through YouTube in search of similar material. When I was done, I'd found hundreds of videos, some extremely rare and all compulsively watchable, posted by collectors from all over the world.

I discovered along the way that using YouTube's literal-minded search engine to track down high-culture links -- or anything else -- can be a tricky business. (It doesn't help that so many YouTube users are poor spellers.) To ease the way for first-timers, I posted the fruits of my labors at www.terryteachout.com, where you'll find a list of links to performances by Armstrong, Ellington, Count Basie, Pablo Casals, the King Cole Trio, Miles Davis, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Wilhelm Furtwängler, Benny Goodman, Jascha Heifetz, Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, Andrés Segovia, Bessie Smith, Arturo Toscanini and numerous other musicians of comparable significance. All can be viewed free, whenever you want.

Seeing these artists, most of whom are now known to us only through their recordings, is an awe-inspiring experience. To watch Art Tatum rippling through a bristlingly virtuosic version of Jerome Kern's "Yesterdays," or Richard Strauss conducting his tone poem "Till Eulenspiegel" with a cool detachment that borders on the blasé, is to learn something about the essence of their art that no verbal description, however insightful or evocative, can supply.

By posting this list of links, I have, in effect, created a Web-based fine-arts video-on-demand site. The irony is that I did so just as network TV was getting out of the culture business. Not only have PBS and its affiliates cut back sharply on classical music, jazz and dance, but cable channels like A&E and Bravo that used to specialize in the fine arts are now opting instead to show "Dog the Bounty Hunter" and "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy." This abdication of cultural responsibility has created an opening for entrepreneurs who grasp the new media's unrivaled capacity for niche marketing.

Might YouTube, or something like it, become the salvation of culture-hungry TV viewers? I hasten to point out that nobody's making any money off my little experiment.

One of the things we've long wondered is why the TV networks don't plumb their own archives for fare, rather than offer up what they surely know are going to be crappy and soon cancelled series. Is ABC really going to show anything better than Rat Patrol this season, or NBC top Crime Story, or CBS equal Magnum, p.i.? And if PBS isn't going to show quality British programs anymore--what does Mytery last at this point, about eight weeks?--why doesn't a broadcast network pick up their shows? How about breinging back the old Sunday Night Mystery wheel, but with Frost, Morse, Rebus, Lynley, Foyle, etc.?

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 2, 2006 11:37 AM

Heck, why limit yourself to the action/drama shows? I can think of quite a few sitcoms from just the '80s (Facts of Life, Who's the Boss?, just to name two) that NBC and ABC, respectively, could resurrect and get better ratings than the dreck shown now.

Posted by: Brad S at October 2, 2006 12:12 PM

About ten years ago it seemed that there were several basic cable channels that showed old shows (in proper order) like "Crime Story", "Rockford", "Mission: Impossible", "Cheers", "Bob Newhart" (both incarnations), old "Looney Tunes", etc. Could set the VCR to capture them even if during the day and could then get reacquainted with old favorites in the evening. They've all disappeared into the depths of the digitial channels that I'd have to pay even more for. Now it seems like non-stop "That 70s Show" on half-a-dozen channels. As for PBS, its gotten to the point where they are showing (and hawking) recent Pink Floyd concert DVDs. How about at least dipping into vaults and showing the old footage from the 70s, eh? (Speaking as someone who used to collect old concert bootleg recordings and such.)

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at October 2, 2006 12:15 PM


TV is stupid enough without bringing that crap back.

Posted by: oj at October 2, 2006 12:21 PM

With Netflix, channel 3 is the only thing I need the TV for. No need to ever watch a constapundit or an ad for Flomax.

Posted by: ed at October 2, 2006 12:34 PM

Utter dominance by the channel that goes with OJ's mystery cycle. They'd get men and women. Slam Dunk.

Posted by: Pepys at October 2, 2006 12:43 PM

There might also be a market today for failed series that had high quality and a cult following but never caught on with a large audience (or got cursed with a bad time slot): E.Z. Streets, Legend, Under Cover, Sable, Nowhere Man, even (dare I hope for my childhood favorite?) Bearcats. SciFi seems to be doing quite well with reruns of John Doe and Dark Angel.

Posted by: Mike Morley at October 2, 2006 1:21 PM

There's a new channel called Sleuth which is, I guess, the reanimated corpse of the old Trio channel. Trouble is that, instead of mystery shows, they show stuff like The A Team. I'll admit to having loved that show as a kid, but there wasn't really a lot of sleuthing going on.

Posted by: Bryan at October 2, 2006 1:40 PM

Jonny Quest. Original. Uncut.

Posted by: Mike Morley at October 2, 2006 2:09 PM

Mike Morley: have you seen The Venture Brothers?

Posted by: Pepys at October 2, 2006 4:03 PM

I've wondered why all those long, elaborate Masterpiece Theater series like Upstairs, Downstairs are never seen anywhere outside of occasional DVD sets in catalogs. I suspect a cable channel could do quite well by broadcasting an episode every weeknight.

Posted by: PapayaSF at October 2, 2006 4:19 PM

Very timely. We're been watching the Inspector Lynley series on PBS. Last night it was "The Voice of God" about poor put upon Moslem immigrants who were harassed by caricatures of British authority. The Inspector made a heartfelt speech about the moral equivalency between Moslem terrorists and American mid-western Evangelicals and how wrong it would be think all Moslems or Evangelicals are terrorists . . .words to that effect.

I confess to being so livid, I can't remember the exact quote.

This was a repeat of an episode which aired last spring. Does anyone remember any mid-western Evangelical terrorists rioting, burning down mosques or otherwise displaying their displeasure at being so characterized?

Posted by: erp at October 2, 2006 6:42 PM

One reason why the networks don't do this is it would point out the contrast between the shows they were once capable of producing and the dreck they currently air.

Posted by: Matt Thullen at October 2, 2006 6:42 PM

An Evangelical has 130,000 crusaders in a Muslim country.

Posted by: oj at October 2, 2006 6:48 PM

I see nobody's mentioned All in the Family yet, so I gotta throw it out there. Watched quite a few episodes a few years ago when the DVDs came out. Hilarious show.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at October 2, 2006 7:36 PM

The Battlestar Galactica of its day--Lear thought Archie was the bad guy.

Posted by: oj at October 2, 2006 8:27 PM

Pepys: Never seen it. Is it a reimagining of Jonny Quest, or a parody? And do they have anyone to compare with Jade?

Posted by: Mike Morley at October 2, 2006 8:52 PM

A really good idea, but I think TVLAND, http://www.tvland.com/shows/, probably has most of them locked up. You can get the best cop show ever, late 50's "Naked City", on netflix.
Most of the rest of the recommends seem to be from the Cartoon Network, yet the juvenile Venture Bros. is the big recommend. Check out everything they have on their "Midnight Swim", aka adult, programming. Some of the best Japanese anime, and it's free.

Posted by: Mike Daley at October 2, 2006 9:09 PM


Meanwhile, Carroll O'Connor was repeatedly stopped in the street by folks who wanted to thank him for portraying "their side."

I was impressed by the comedic material Lear got just by playing Archie and Mike Stivic off each other. To be fair, Lear poked some fun at Meathead as well. I've heard the show became much less funny when Archie went from being a basically-decent bigot to being more tolerant later in the series.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at October 2, 2006 9:19 PM

Two words:

Cop Rock.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at October 2, 2006 10:03 PM