Its official name is "Request Video." But the rock video show that television station KDOC, Channel 56, broadcasts live each weekday afternoon from its Anaheim studio might better be entitled the "Not-Ready-for-MTV" hour.
With MTV, you get slickly synchronized, carefully plotted programming, state-of-the-art animations and computer graphics that look as if they are going to burst through the screen. It's all presented by bubbly, fashionably turned-out hosts and hostesses who are often seen interviewing the latest pop demigods.
With "Request Video," which runs from 5 to 6 p.m., you get the risks, pitfalls, pratfalls, and surprises associated with live television. It may not be pretty, but it most definitely is not predictable. Consider last Friday's segment:
The producers of "Request Video" took their first step into the uncharted by booking Jack Grisham of Tender Fury as the afternoon's co-host. Grisham, one of the most mercurial personages on the Orange County rock scene since his early '80s days as punk-rock front man of T.S.O.L., was once summed up thusly by a former band mate: "Doing business with Jack is like going to the zoo."
If that's so, Grisham--tall and dandified in black vest, black gloves, black bandanna necktie and gold hair band--must have felt right at home when he stepped onto the set of "Request Video." The menagerie included two inflated dinosaurs, a plastic palm tree, a zebra-striped sofa, and other absurdist bric-a-brac strewn about in questionable taste. A rubber bird flopping overhead displayed, a la "Pee-wee's Playhouse," the word of the day-- ginchy-- which can't be found in Webster's but means sexy .
It wouldn't be inappropriate to dub this video set Poor Man's Playhouse. Best known as a KROQ-FM radio personality, the Poor Man (a.k.a. James Trenton) has been "Request Video's" regular host since May 1, when the previously prerecorded show went live and began emphasizing impromptu lunacy. Viewers tuning in earlier last week might have seen the chunky Huntington Beach resident wearing a red helmet shaped like a wild boar's snout, or riding a bicycle around the set until he was huffing and puffing too hard to introduce the next video.
Perhaps succumbing to the exertion, Trenton stayed home with a bout of bronchitis on the day that Grisham appeared as co-host. A substitute ringmaster, Robert Roll, was summoned to generate surprise and spontaneity. Although he stumbled early on, mispronouncing his guest's name, Roll came up with a suitably circus-like finale when he revved up his motor scooter and drove it smack into one of the studio's two television cameras, startling the camera operator and leaving a black skid mark on the white linoleum floor.
For his part, Grisham needed little prodding to enliven the proceedings. "It seems you're being outrageous now," Roll said--an understatement--as his guest slipped into his favorite wisecracking, raunchy bad-boy role. Grisham declined to provide a Tender Fury video for airing, declaring all of the group's footage unsuitable for TV. But the lack of visuals didn't stop him from carrying on verbally in the sexist tradition of hard-rock video. "I don't have any trouble with women," Grisham said in response to a Roll question. "Women like to be dominated. I think it's in their blood."
There is no telling whether the electric shock that Grisham received later in the show from his lapel microphone was a female production crew member's hidden technological revenge or merely an appropriate coincidence. At any rate, "Request Video" had gone, whether boldly or blindly, where the major video shows are too sensible to tread.
The aim of "Request Video," say co-producers Jon Faulkner and Gia De Santis-Clarke, is to offer an alternative to shows like MTV and VH-1. "MTV has a national look and a national appeal. We're the opposite," Faulkner said. "They're so polished and everything, and we're out of control and spontaneous."
"There's no divine plan, really," Trenton said this week. "It's kind of a raw, homey approach. With MTV, if there's a drawback, it's commercialized for the whole country, and it's very East Coast. Our show is geared for Southern California."
With no Orange County-based commercial radio station playing local rock bands, "Request Video" affords one of the few opportunities for local rockers to get some broadcast exposure. While guests have included such national acts as Wire, John Lydon (in a taped interview) and De La Soul, the program also is committed to make room on its zebra-patterned couch for emerging local acts. So far, members of Tender Fury, D.I. and One Day are among the locals who have appeared as co-hosts.