Gotham TV

If it hadn't been for the fact that someone at work (!) saw this program on TV and told Bill about it the next day, the Surveillance Camera Players (SCP) would never have known that on 10 January 2001 the Metro Channel finally ran the episode of Gotham TV that included a four-minute-long segment on the SCP. (The Metro Channel is cable TV station Channel 70 in the New York City area; Gotham TV is an "original" show it produces and hopes to distribute to other markets.) The SCP wasn't given advance notice that the show was about to run, and was never sent a copy of the tape. If it weren't for the fact that the program was re-broadcast on 13 January 2001, the SCP would never have seen it at all.

But the reporter-and-videographer team that interviewed the SCP and recorded the group in performance isn't to blame for this narrowly averted tragedy. When the program was broadcast, both members of the team were out of the country, pursuing other stories. Neither of them edited or produced what was finally broadcast: they simply provided the producer with enough raw footage for a 4- to 7-minute-long program to be made, and moved on. And they certainly turned in a lot of footage! In addition to taping the SCP's 9 August 2000 performance in Times Square, the team taped the group's 24 September 2000 performance in front of St. Patrick's Cathedral, interviewed all of the performers, interviewed Bill twice, and arranged and taped a conversation between Bill and a security guard who monitors surveillance cameras at an apartment building in Manhattan. Bill never got a choice to meet or even talk to the producer, who seemed rather demanding from what Bill could gather. Certainly no TV crew had ever assembled this much footage to produce a spot on the SCP.

And yet this faceless producer and demanding boss put together a very good program on the SCP, perhaps one of the very best ever broadcast, despite the fact that a lot of (no doubt) good footage went unused. Unlike most of the others, the Gotham TV spot is very well organized. In the opening sequence, while Bill (as a voice-over) introduces himself and gives an uninterrupted account of the group's purposes and modus operandi, the viewer sees the members of the Living Theater circling around the SCP as the group performs SCP Headline News in Times Square. In the middle sequence, Bill is shown leaving his apartment, getting on and riding the subway, and finally arriving at St. Patrick's Cathedral. Both as a voice-over and as an on-camera talking head, Bill talks about the history of the group and the fact that some people perceive him to be paranoid, when in fact Bill and the other SCPers refuse to let the proliferation of surveillance cameras in public places make them feel paranoid. In the last sequence, the group performs God's Eyes Here on Earth at St. Patrick's Cathedral, at which the team recorded several knocked-out looks and several bystanders' comments on the existence of surveillance cameras at the church. Everyone agrees that the cameras should be accompanied by signs that inform people of their existence and continuous operation.

The only problem with all this -- you knew there was going to be a problem, didn't you? -- is the fact that this short spot on the SCP is buried 40 minutes deep in an hour-long show whose running theme is New York Post humor columnist Linda Stasi. In five installments distributed through-out the program, the viewer is guided through Linda's apartment, her daughter's apartment, her mother's apartment, etc. etc. (Not kidding). Nobody, not even those who might have been familiar with her columns before seeing this show, would want to know this much about this (very uninteresting and self-satisfied) woman. And so only someone clicking through the channels would end up seeing the spot on the SCP.

Contact the Surveillance Camera Players

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By snail mail: SCP c/o NOT BORED! POB 1115, Stuyvesant Station, New York City 10009-9998

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