Ken Shapiro (producer/director/writer/actor)
Lane Sarasohn (producer/writer)
Chevy Chase (writer/actor)
Richard Allen (writer/actor)
Karen Shapiro (actress)
Myra Epstein (theater design)
Ed Epstein (art director)
In July of 1967, former child actor Ken Shapiro and his buddy from Bard College, Lane Sarasohn, opened the Channel One Theatre at 62 East 4th Street (Greenwich Village, N.Y.C.) as a showcase for their outrageous and satirical "underground television" productions (The initial show cost $7,000 including the theater's rental). These shows were shot on video and exhibited on three 21-inch b&w closed-circuit television sets hanging from the theater ceiling. The best skits from their first three 90-minute programs ("First Production," "Second Production," and "Fugue Tube") were compiled to form "The Groove Tube," which premiered as an Off Broadway show in October of 1969. "The Groove Tube" became so popular that a second theater was added in Manhattan (Theater East, located at 211 East 60th Street). The Channel One team took on business partners (including actor Scott Hylands) and were soon franchising their tapes to college campuses and performance spaces across the country. Venues showing "The Groove Tube" and its sequel, "Groove Tube II," were outfitted with couches, oversized pillows and even refrigerators stocked with soft drinks and munchies to simulate the experience of watching TV at home (!).
In 1972, Shapiro and Sarasohn began work on the motion picture version of THE GROOVE TUBE, which was comprised of skits from the Channel One productions. Released in 1974, THE GROOVE TUBE paved the way for Saturday Night Live and KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE and became one of the biggest independent comedies of the 1970s, grossing over $35 million (on a budget of $350,000). The film is available on DVD from Hen's Tooth Video, but the original Channel One videos have probably not been shown publicly in 35 years. It's time for a DVD set packed with extras, including audio commentaries by Shapiro and Sarasohn, interviews with Chevy Chase and Richard Belzer, a visit to the site of the original Channel One Theatre (the building is still standing), press clippings, program reprints and other cool stuff. Write your favorite DVD company and demand they look into this.
In the meantime, for more information on Channel One, check out Lane Sarasohn's Channel One Video Theater webpage.