So what do you do when the excitement of living in a university dormitory just isn't enough? Hm, let's see - how about producing a cable TV show ?
Sometime in the fall of 1980, during a class I took at MSU (Michigan State University), a woman named Stacey asked for some volunteers to help her with producing a cable TV show, something that might be useful experience if your major was "telecommunications" - which mine wasn't... but I figured it might be interesting!
So I went to the WELM-TV Public Access studio in East Lansing to see what it was about. They (Stacey & Robin) needed some help running cameras and other assorted tasks while they were busy in front of the camera. A couple of weeks later, I took Albin, one of my friends from Butterfield Hall (one of the dorms in the Brody dormitory complex) with me since he was interested in movie/video production.
At some point we started suggesting some skits that we could do for the show, which was at the time called the "Minority Derelict Wrestling Show II". Yes, it was the successor to the original Minority Derelict Wrestling Show - which one of my roommates from the previous year was apparently involved with, although he only always told me that he was "going to the studio" (and I had never asked him what that meant) ...
Later that fall in 1980 and Winter 1981, we recruited a few more people from our dorm to participate, some lasted for quite a while (such as Tim K., Tim R. and the B. brothers) while others only one or several episodes (I remember a Julie, Jarl, etec).
Eventually Stacey & Robin lost interest (or perhaps our material was better than theirs?), we started transitioning the show to be called "Syntax" (but called it "MDWSII / Syntax" for a while). The exact reason for the name Syntax escapes me at the moment, but I do remember that an orange was involved at the time...
The show was basically a poor-man's "Saturday Night Live" or "Friday's"; we had ideas and no budget (but we got to use the Studio for 2 hours for free each week and could rent out portable betamax video equipment on weekends). We ended up having some regular segments such as "Roy & Virg", "News Update", "Cinetax", as well as musical interludes which ranged from live or studio band performances to simple shots of New Wave album covers with music in the background.
We did a variety of skits in and around Lansing, as well videotape (mostly punk) rock bands in various live settings (such as Bunches Cafe, Lansing Civic Players Hall, basements, even on top of a barn once, etc). The biggest act I was able to tape was in 1983 when the Circle Jerks played at the Union Center (see the ticket stub on the main page). I videotaped bands not just for our "Syntax" show, but also for the "Hardcore" show that Vickie S. ran. We also had a couple a live show in the studio with the Crucif*cks, a show which aroused the attention of the Cable Commissioner due to the use of too many "f-words". He wanted to see a copy of the tape of the show to review; we said it was a live show, and that we had "equipment malfunctions" that night, so sorry, but no tape.... Luckily the malfunction cleared up much later (hmm... ?!) and the tape is now available and has been transferred to DVD (see the main page near the bottom, it is DVD#14).
After 1983 and into early 1984 I was only sporadically involved with the show which had been taken over mostly by the B. brothers and a couple of other guys; unfortunately I do not have much footage from those days .... (maybe JB can unearth some tapes?).
The various bands whose muzak has been transferred to DVD's are available on the home page of this website. I have taken the various betamax & VHS tapes which have our MDWS II & Syntax show episdoes and have transferred them to DVD. Should anyone be interested in them, I've listed them below and can send them for a reasonable price that covers my cost to duplicate and mail them...; so no real profit involved here...).
Here's a couple of the few surviving photo stills that I took during the show:
In a bind !
The Reverend Max Lust
Usually our "Syntax News Update" segment was chaired by "Sid Vissage" (a take-off on Sid Vicious), but here you can see that Roy & Virg have taken over the set!
Below is a listing of the MDWS II / Syntax episodes that I have on my personal tapes (beta & VHS) and that I have copied to DVD (in some cases, previous tape glitches have been cleaned up as well). The listing shows the original broadcast dates (if known) for the show, as well as the episodes and the contents (my comments and 2¢ worth added where appropriate):
1) MDWS II / Syntax (Broadcast dates: Nov. 1980 to Jan. 1981)
2) MDWS II / Syntax (Broadcast Dates: Febr. - Mar. 1981)
3) MDWS II / Syntax (Broadcast Dates: Mar. - Jun. 1981)
4) SYNTAX (Broadcast dates: May & Dec. 1981)
5) SYNTAX (Broadcast dates: Jan. 1982)
6) SYNTAX (Broadcast Date: Live, Jan. 1982)
7) SYNTAX (Broadcast dates: Feb. 1982)
8) SYNTAX (Broadcast dates: Apr. - May, 1982
9) SYNTAX (Broadcast dates: May - Jun. 1982)
10) SYNTAX (Broadcast dates: Sep. 1982 - Fall 1983)
11) SYNTAX (Broadcast dates: 1982 to 1983)
12) SYNTAX - Pete's Best
All 12 of the above Syntax shows, plus a bonus episode (#13 below) for only $ 99.00 + postage
13) SYNTAX - Live Show
The infamous live show featuring members of the band "The Crucif*cks" (Doc Dart and his cousin & Scott Fagersten), along with Mary (girlfriend of Scott, the bass guitarist) and Gloria ("Glo") Branzei, as well as the regular Syntax cast members Albin, Peter & Tim. This tape was rumored to not exist due to "technical malfunctions" (it was after all a live show) when the Cable Commissioner requested to review it due excessive use of foul language (both spoken and on-screen). 30 minutes with studio performances by the band. See Punk DVD# 14 on the main page.
Want some punk rock or new wave to go with this? If yes, select some muzak DVD's from the main page.
All prices include shipping within the USA; DVD's are in USA NTSC television format and are not region encoded. Sorry, can't ship these outside the USA.
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