WMC station tests TV's outer limits Manager taps students' ideas

April 19, 1993|By Traci A. Johnson | Traci A. Johnson,Staff Writer

"All you have to do on television is be yourself, provided, that is, that you have a self to be."

-- Clive James, Observer, 1981.

In the beginning, there was nothing to watch on Western Maryland College's Uplink Cable Channel (UCC).

But the students said, "Let there be programming," and there was "Grant and Reid Wing It Live."

And it was good. Very good.

At least the students thought so.

"I've been told that entire floors [in the residence halls] watched 'Grant and Reid,' " said Demetrios Lambros, station manager and adviser to the college's closed-circuit television channel.

"It's a talk show and they had different guests and a few running gags, like every episode they'd order a pizza and when the pizza guy showed up, he'd be a guest."

Although "Grant and Reid" -- the brainchild of WMC graduate Grant Sheehan and senior R. Reid Wrasse -- has moved from the regular lineup where it was so popular last fall, UCC has continued with the tradition of unusual programming.

"Our general policy is that anyone can have a show," Mr. Lambros said. "There's always something different because different kinds of people come up with ideas."

The you-write-it-you-watch-it system of production seems to have worked for the 4-year-old station. Until last fall, the station had broadcast one semi-regular news show, "WMC-TV," which aired footage of students interacting, such as spring registration in 1990.

It wasn't until Mr. Lambros became president of the station in September that students' ideas were used for programming, which was the intent of Rick Dillman, a communications professor, when he proposed the station to college officials in 1989.

"Last year at this time, there were no shows. This year, there are about 14," Mr. Lambros said. "We film everything ourselves with a hand-held camera and edit the tapes ourselves. We're sort of a cut-and-paste operation here."

The station began with three regular shows. "Grant and Reid" and its offspring, "The Bob Frivor Show" -- billed as an anti-everything talk show that takes place in stalls of the men's bathroom in Ward Residential Hall -- are aired only as specials. "Aerobics with Sal and Nae," a biweekly program taught by two students, one of them a certified aerobics instructor, is still on the regular schedule.

"There are no Nielsen families here, we just talk to people," Mr. Lambros said. "A lot of the students who do our shows just ask their friends to watch."

The "Guide to 17," UCC's TV listing, shows students what will air each night, but even the guide doesn't prepare them for this channel's bizarre programming.

"The 75-Cent Pyramid" is billed as "a recession/college-oriented version of the other popular pyramid show."

"The Elvis is Dead Pre-Party Toss Off" is a series of short comedy skits that promises to give viewers "an entirely new and twisted way of perceiving the universe."

And where else can you find "Horrendous," an art show that offers a chance "for the uncommitted to get committed," and the admittedly unartistic Mr. Lambros as host?

"On my first show, I demonstrated coloring techniques, how to stay between the lines," said Mr. Lambros, a senior theater major. "The second show we played with Play-Dough."

The soap opera "Trials and Tribulations," an original and continuing story written by sophomore James Felton, is set at the "prestigious Lloyd College" -- but the scenery looks so familiar! -- and explores the mystery surrounding the murder of a student on a snowy night.

Everything about the show is original, including the theme song, a haunting melody written and performed by senior Eric Byrd.

Uplink's outrageous programming provides students with an alternative to the regular fare on network and cable television.

The innovations Mr. Lambros and his staff have made over the past seven months prove that major television companies haven't learned in 40 years what Western Maryland College's cable station figured out in a semester.

"We've got sort of a new motto: Just when you think we're finished, we're doing more," Mr. Lambros said.

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