November 6, 2008

I watched CNN, PBS, Current TV, BET, Fox News, and The Daily Show. I tracked Facebook statuses and Twitter updates. I piled my friends into the car and drove around Central and Harvard Squares, honking my horn and cheering out the pent-up frustration of the past eight years.

And then, I checked this Web site one more time, and teared up a little with the hope, dignity, and sheer elegance of it all.



Watch Current.tv. On cable television or online.

It’s like what The Daily Show would be if it were a 24-hour network and Jon Stewart didn’t always have to be funny.

It’s like YouTube without the 99% crap.

It’s like watching a Buddha Bar DJ surf the Web.

It’s like MTV 20 years ago, but with more substance.

I am a highly targeted TV watcher – I focus on movies and specific shows like Heroes, Lost, Frontline/World, and The Daily Show. I have *never* watched a channel as an entity, keeping it on to see what comes next. Until Current. It draws from the best, not the worst, qualities of our present (avoided the use of “current” there, yup) media era, and I can’t stop watching.

The network launched barely two years ago with backing from Al Gore, among others. Short videos of 3-10 minutes each have production styles that are energetic without seeming contrived. The videos are interspersed with clever interstitials like “Google current_”, which teases out something from Google Zeitgeist. The production values are high – this is no amateur fling. That includes VC 2 – Viewer Created Content – which is vetted by an online community before it airs on TV. I haven’t hung out on the Web site much, but at first glance it appears that someone at Current has heard of the word “transmedia“.

My favorite feature? The progress bar in the lower left corner of every video! On television.

Ultimately, what makes Current shine is the depth and flow of its story-telling, the intelligence of its fun, and the breadth of its topics. One telling detail is that many pieces are in foreign languages with English subtitles.

A sampling of what I’ve seen (from memory):
-The return of Digable Planets
-A video postcard home from a Ukrainian man picking tulips in England
-A festival in Oakland where people joust with two Tessla coils
-A hidden-camera report about a Chinese village that processes electronics waste
-A jaunt on an American school bus being recycled in Nicaragua
-A profile of Forro in the Dark
-A tour of Buenos Aires through the eyes of a local graffiti artist
-A first-person story of a girl trying to quit smoking

No one is paying me to write this glowing review. I simply believe that if we want to see more high-quality media objects available for mass consumption, if we want to nudge mass media towards the realm of good, we need to recognize, support, and share these objects when they emerge.

So watch, share, and participate.