Arts & Culture

TV Carnage

written by Julia Boone
November 6, 2009 2:13 pm

Grade: A

Remember when video mix-tapes were popular? Me neither, but they are exactly what they sound like – a mix of video clips instead of songs. TV Carnage is essentially a video mix-tape of the worst that TV has to offer. It takes clips from movies, TV shows, commercials, public service announcements and talent show footage and strings it all together. The result is terrible, terrible solid gold.

TV Carnage is the brainchild of Torontonian Derrick Beckles. You might remember him as the guy from the Truth Campaign messages about big tobacco on TV. He released the first in the TV Carnage series, Ouch Television My Brain Hurts, in 1996 and it was a huge hit. Since then, he’s put out four more volumes: A Rich Tradition of Magic, When Television Attacks, Casual Fridays, and A Sore for Sighted Eyes. Currently, Beckles is working on another instalment of TV Carnage called Cop Movie. If you guessed that it is going to involve a lot of clips from Cop Movies – you’re right.

Things have changed in the last 13 years, so the format of Cop Movie is going to be considerably less random than the rest of TV Carnage. Early on, the project was obscure enough to fly under the radar while using footage from feature films and commercials for major companies, but as the franchise built a bigger profile, the involvement of lawyers has increased. Regardless, copyright isn’t much of an issue to Beckles. While he is aware that a lot of what he does is technically illegal, he said in an interview with The Apiary News that he views television as “non-intellectual property.”

A major part of the appeal of TV Carnage is that it highlights how utterly bizarre television is. Beckles takes clips from things like Entertainment Tonight, Pizza Pizza commercials, and the Young and the Restless – regular old television that we’ve all seen a million times – and makes us realize how hilarious and messed up it really is. On the other hand, some of this stuff is so weird that it’s hard to believe someone actually directed this, watched the playback afterward and gave it the green light. I can only assume the guy dancing in slow motion to country music in spandex leggings with tassels has changed his name and his face or is hiding out in a remote cabin somewhere.

When you watch a TV Carnage DVD, I recommend watching it with commentary. Beckles talks about where the clip came from or just makes general comments as he gets progressively drunker throughout the video. It is pretty much the equivalent of watching a movie with a friend who talks the whole time, but it’s okay because everything they say is funny.

Never seen a “say no to drugs” message in the form of interpretative dance? Don’t know what a squirrel melt is? Rent TV Carnage. Now is your chance.

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