Best Public Access TV Shows of All Time

In the late 1980’s viewers of Saturday Night Live were treated to a new recurring skit that would become iconic.  “Wayne’s World” presented Wayne and Garth, co-hosts of a fictional cable TV public access show from Aurora, Illinois.  The over the top parody went on to spawn two movies and at least one theme park presence at Carowinds in North and South Carolina.

“Wayne’s World” highlighted the influence and popularity of public access television.  Cable TV companies in towns and cities across America have been offering this powerful non-commercial programming outlet since the early 1970’s and many individuals have used this resource to broadcast their unique message.  Such programming has ranged from tacky to polish and points in between. reports, “People who normally are not allowed easy access to the mass media find a powerful resource for local expression through public access.”  The website represents Chicagoland Public Access Television which is operated by Comcast.  They offer wide and diverse programming and an array of studios for recording of content.

A look at the schedule of Manhattan Neighborhood Network reveals the eclectic selection of shows found on public access.  From the succinctly named “I Hate Hate” to the right from today’s headlines “Occupy Wall Street,” shows are available for all tastes.   A favorite on this network is “The Staten Island Comedy Show.”  While it’s no “Second City Television,” the show offers a showcase for emerging comedians.  Beyond that, it’s just plain fun. 

Austin, Texas offers a lively array of public access programming.  Offering such gems as “Speaking Truth to Morons,” the shows manage to cover many bases.  Austin scene pundits agree that one of the best to appear there was “The Show with No Name.”  Host Charlie Sotelo regularly traded jokes and barbs with co-host Cinco and call-in viewers amid airing of movie and comedy clips and other memorabilia.

Sacramento, California public access BestNet offers another valuable face of free programming.  Channel 16 offers adult education classes supported by a website where one can download workbooks for associated courses.  A favorite there is “GED Connection” which reveals the content and format of the standard GED exams.  Viewers can both learn and strengthen skills needed to succeed in this important milestone.
Public access TV in Atlanta, Georgia is alive and well in PeopleTV channel 24.  CEO and General Manager Charlotte Engel announced on December 6, 2011 that Atlanta City Council had approved continuing funding for 2012.  This will allow continuation of such shows as “Channel Zero presents Like, Wow!”  Atlanta is surely richer for that experience.

‘Olelo is the public access face of Honolulu, Hawaii and it is joining in an increasing trend in this media.  All of their shows are also available for streaming from their website, ‘OleloNet, opening the doors of this unique island culture to the world.  One of their expertly produced promos shows the central cast of “Wizard of Oz” presented by Hawaii Performing Arts on stage with their mouths taped shut as they try to act their lines.  The promo finishes saying, “Without a voice our stories end.”  The network focuses largely on excellent local news and events programs.

It is doubtful if any public access television show can ever reach the stature and market penetration of “Wayne’s World.”  Nevertheless, public access networks across the nation continue to make this valuable service available to creative community voices.  Networks like ‘Olelo can challenge the dominance of YouTube on the Internet as they reinvent themselves on a global scale.  Party on, Wayne!

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