Where Is Our New New Wave Theatre?

the fibonaccis on new wave theatre I was thirteen years old when I discovered New Wave Theatre on channel 18 in 1980. A little while later, I found it again on the USA Network’s Night Flight (Night Flight deserves its own blog post, but the Wikipedia entry is pretty good, too.) Today, New Wave Theatre and the strange, revelatory world of UHF and early cable television was brought to the front of my mind once again thanks to a post by Joyce on MetaFilter.

Now, in 1980 I wasn’t even a freshman in high school yet. I was a young thirteen, and my musical tastes hadn’t yet bloomed with eclecticism. New Wave Theatre may very well have been the first time I saw or heard bands like the Dead Kennedys, FEAR, Bad Religion, or the Fibonaccis… and it was probably the last time I’d see them for some time.

It’s a forgotten influence, to be sure. I know my young mind was, if not blown, certainly intrigued. New Wave Theatre was something I’d catch while flipping through the channels, and it would catch me, in turn, all unaware. It was as strange and wonderful as the secret television broadcasts of reptoid jazz musicians in Daniel Pinkwater’s “Lizard Music,” another earth-shaker in my young life.

Where Are The Secret Channels Today?

This post was originally going to be simply “hey, look at this, remember this?”

While I’ve been writing, and watching blurry video clips, and reading, and thinking and remembering, I realize New Wave Theatre, Night Flight… heck, even Wally George and Dr. Gene Scott… helped expand my awareness and, indeed, acceptance of different forms of art and culture.

Most importantly, these fringe outlets showed me that “punk rock” meant so much more than loud, fast, short songs. Punk was an attitude, and everyone from the Harvard-educated host of a music video show to the iconoclastic pastor of a television minisitry could and did embrace it.

These shows, these secret channels, made me feel like I was getting away with something and being educated at once. And today, thinking about it, it makes me wonder:

Where, now, is the equivalent?

Does it happen on the Internet? Is it interwoven on YouTube, between the cute cats and bedroom cover song performances?

Or is the secret channel now just another stream that anyone can, and does, dip into whenever they want?

If so, does it have the same impact?

I’m asking.

What do you think? Let’s talk about it in the comments.


  1. Hi Matthew! I think you hit on it when you asked, “Does it happen on the internet?”

    I think that’s where it is. The New Wave is one swell in the ocean of Pop Culture. I think it’s probably there in YouTube, and probably visible in the world of Podcasting. Maybe even in the redesigned, almost entirely music-centric MySpace.

    I can’t think of a specific instance of the New Wave rearing its head online, probably because I never have the time to dig for it. That’s probably one of the major problems with our society right now, no one has time for exploration. Or at least, no one I know. Heh.


    • Thanks for the comment, Nathan!

      I don’t disagree, in principle, that there are plenty of opportunities for discovery on the Internet, or, more specifically, on the World Wide Web.

      It seems to me, though, that there isn’t much room for truly random, unexpected, paradigm shifting discovery — something, to use the word I used in the post, revalatory. Nearly everything we come across is likely the result of seeing something a friend posted or shared, or something we found as a result of our own directed search.

      As an example: when was the last time you used a random search engine, Google’s I’m Feeling Lucky feature, or spent a couple of hours following links from website to website without a goal or purpose in mind? When was the last time you found something on the web that was unlike anything you’d ever encountered before, and the encounter improved or enriched you?

      See what I mean?

      Also… please understand when I ask “where is the new new wave,” I’m not literally asking where to find new examples of new wave music. I’m speaking more generally. Music isn’t the only thing to have a movement labeled “new wave,” after all.

      • Thanks for your response Matthew! Also, thanks for the interesting post.

        I think it all comes down to time again. As kids, we at least sometimes have large spans of free time to spend doing random things.

        As an adult, any free time I have is almost immediately filled by something either know I should be doing, wish I was doing, or was already planning to do as soon as I had time.

        I kind of feel that as kids we have occasion to discover randomly, through means that either are or seem mysterious and sudden. As adults I think we almost have to schedule discovery. We have to be willing to waste time sifting through crap to find nuggets of awesome.

        Like pioneers trekking through miles of the same forest for the occasional awe-inspiring vista.

        I think some of the discovery feeling comes from perspective as well. When you’re a kid, you can discover something in your backyard that blows your mind. As an adult, it takes things like the sight of the grand canyon to achieve the same.

        Do you think awareness of the method of discovery makes a difference? Seems like when I was a kid, wandering off the trail and finding something cool always felt better than seeing a cool view from the well-trodden path. I also remember occasionally wandering off a trail to find nothing but the same trees I’d seen a thousand times before.

        Anyway, I’m rambling, and sounding like a geezer, lol. I think my point is that discovery takes time and a willingness to risk time versus the reward of discovery, and possibly an abandonment of cynicism. Yes, this view has been seen before, but does that reduce my pleasure in seeing it for the first time? Should it? I don’t know. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t.

        I “discovered” Tolkien when I was 12, and I recall it being a thing of wonder, a shaping event. I think my mom had bought the books for me at a garage sale, and I just picked them up and read them one day. Even though those books already had a long history and were immensely well-known and popular, I was unaware of that, and it FELT like I’d stumbled onto a strange new world off the beaten path.

        I think my question is, what is required to unconsciously discover as an adult? Can it be done? I almost think that it can’t. That to some extent, discovery as an adult only comes when we consciously spend time exploring, putting ourselves in the way of experience. Sounds kind of mystical that way.

        Ha. Good post.

        • Very good points. Perhaps it is simply a matter of a certain amount of cynicism and a particular perspective, after all.

          I’m very pleased the post made you think… and thanks for sharing those thoughts!


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