The Groove Tube: Public Access

The Groove Tube: Public Access

The opening scene of The Groove Tube is an obvious filmic quote of Planet of the Apes. In this 1974 version of the sequence, the apes play cards, dance, make music and stumble upon fire before being drawn to a mystical box that we call television. But while these images play with the 1968 original a few years later Mel Brooks would recast this interplay as his introduction to History of the World, Part I. It's heedless to speculate about the relation of one of these scenes to the other, but more likely than not, the latter two were keenly aware of each other.

The Groove Tube, though, was basically a video mix tape of skits from Channel One in New York. Originally, a sketch comedy show on public access, this seventy some odd minute feature was culled from the work of the weekly broadcast. The film - or the show for that matter - might not be of too much consequence but for the inclusion of Chevy Chase as well as Richard Belzer. Neither of these players, though, are the focus of the majority of the clips offered here. Instead director and producer Ken Shapiro takes the lion's share of not just credit, but screen time as well.

Shapiro, who hasn't been involved in entertainment subsequent to his directing the Chevy Chase vehicle Modern Problems, was more than the creative force behind this, he was the catalyst that brought two unique personas to a wider audience. Of course, given The Groove Tube's blatant disregard for censorship, the film didn't do a brisk business. But instead it was screened in a small venue being displayed on a series of mounted television monitors to further integrate the feel of home viewership - after all this is all constructed to appear as if it's an actual broadcast.

There're even a few interspersed commercials for a fake company - Uranus Corporation. They apparently deal in a variety of things, including a new multi-use plastic that bears a striking resemblance to poop. But that sketch - which grants the viewer at least two minutes of time to look over the product - isn't even the most (potentially) offensive. While not the highlight, but maybe a cultural low point, towards the end of the film, a pair of balls (yes, testicles) warns the viewer against promiscuity by describing the signs that one may have an STD - an indelible image.

Chevy Chase doesn't get too much screen time - he is slapped around a bit, though. Belzer fares a bit better. He's featured in the longest piece focusing on drug dealers, culminating in his boss professing physical love for the younger man. But in the most culturally relevant moment, a fake news broadcast is proffered, which has been figured as the predecessor to Saturday Night Live's "Weekend Update" that Chase would anchor for a season. And although, the actor doesn't take part in the sketch here, it's safe to assume that the idea carried over.

The Groove Tube isn't for a wide variety of viewers. Only the sick, mental infirm or some mal adroit human beings are going to enjoy this. A+