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VH1 Asks Viewers to OK Videos


Back now with DAY TO DAY.

So you want to kick back, relax and watch some TV, but there's nothing on that interests you. And you think: Wouldn't it be great if I had the ability to pick and choose which shows are on the air? Well, tonight VH1 puts this idea into practice with a new series, "Acceptable TV." Here's TV critic Andrew Wallenstein.

Mr. ANDREW WALLENSTEIN (Editor, The Hollywood Reporter): There's a simple brilliance to how "Acceptable TV" works. An episode consists of five different sketches. Only two of them will continue the following week and they have to earn that right. That's where you, the viewer, come in. After an episode airs, you can go to www.acceptable.tv and vote for the sketch you would like to see return.

After sampling the first episode, I know what I'm voting for. Behold my favorite sketch, "Bond, Homeless James Bond."

(Soundbite of television show "Acceptable TV")

Unidentified Man #1 (Actor): I watch over bottles and cans for other homeless people. I also loan out bottles and cans in exchange for a small fee.

Unidentified Man #2 (Actor): There's a word for what you're doing, JoJo(ph), it's called banking. It's not something homeless people do.

Unidentified Man #1: Very good, Mr. Bond, and soon I will no longer be homeless. Soon, I will be poor.

WALLENSTEIN: "Acceptable TV" is part of a trend playing out in Hollywood where programmers are attempting to straddle TV and the Internet. There's a few different ways it takes shape. NBC's "Heroes," for example, doesn't confine its storylines to TV. Some minor plot points play out online. And then there's the reverse. Some networks have hatched mini-networks online with their own original programming, like CBS' Innertube.

But "Acceptable TV" puts another twist on the trend. Say you watch an episode and you don't like any of the sketches. Maybe you think you could do better. Well, VH1 gives you the opportunity to put up or shut up. You can submit your own video online, and if it gets enough attention there, it could earn one of the five slots on the show.

Here's one contestant submission, the delightfully nutty homemade cartoon "Unicorn Planet."

(Soundbite of "Unicorn Planet")

Unidentified Man #3 (Actor): In the year 2117, an 8-year-old gay boy named Shannon found a magic lamp. He was granted three wishes: the first, a fur jacket; the second, a flying car, and the third was a planet full of unicorns. This is the story of that planet.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man #3: (Singing) A gay boy wished for a planet full of unicorns, planet unicorn. Gotta go on planet…

WALLENSTEIN: "Acceptable TV" is really just a sketch comedy show that gives the viewer a little power, and I appreciate that as someone who watches "Saturday Night Live" with one itchy trigger finger on my TiVo remote's fast-forward button. Sketch comedy is notoriously hit or miss. Now that I think about it, TV in general is pretty hit or miss.

"Acceptable TV" has me fantasizing that the entire industry adopt its brand of digital Darwinism. Think about it. Right now in Hollywood they're spending tens of millions on TV pilots no one will ever see. Why not post them online first and let viewers make suggestions?

In the age of YouTube, "Acceptable TV" offers a wonderful subversiveness, in that professionals and amateurs have to compete on the same level. It's even better if amateurs are the ones that get to call the shots.

YDSTIE: Andrew Wallenstein is an editor with the Hollywood Reporter. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Andrew Wallenstein
Andrew Wallenstein is the television critic for NPR's Day to Day. He is also an editor at The Hollywood Reporter, where he covers television and digital media out of Los Angeles. Wallenstein is also the co-host of the weekly TV Guide Channel series Square Off. His essay on Holocaust films was published in Best Jewish Writing 2003 (Jossey-Bass), and he has also written for The New York Times, The Boston Globe and Business Week. He has a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.