|FRIENDS OF TV NATION
edited by Greg Gattiso
1995-1996, two digest size issues
Before the big success of Fahrenheit 9/11 and losing a part of
his humor battling the over-the-top Texan-frat-boy politics of
Bush pt. 2 (now with Trump JUST around the corner), Michael
Moore was kicking ass and taking names in a great
entertaining satirical style, thanks to his debut film, Roger &
Me, it’s rarely seen sequel, Pets Or Meat and, what might be
his crowning achievement at the time, his network television
series, TV Nation.
Oblivious to Moore’s populist anti-corporate content of his new
found success, NBC blindly gave Moore a slot on prime time.
The result was a ruckus little news magazine show that took on
the ‘new’ KKK, pets on Prozac, lobbyists (of course), the end
of communism, ‘Health Care Olympics’ (Canada vs. USA vs.
Cuba), Ted Nugent, ‘Millenialists’, junk mail, NYC cabbies, and
so on. Even though the ratings were very good and won many
awards, NBC smelt something and canned the show…..only to
be picked up by Fox for a second season where more anarchy
ensued…until they got the smell and canned them, too.
|Between both seasons, one TVN fan, Greg
Gattuso, put together a fanzine called Friends Of
TV Nation. Thankfully, Greg went beyond the
‘fanboy’ fare and took into account not only the
social satirical nature of the show, but, being a
Moore project, its insightfulness. There were your
standard but well-written episode guide, but Greg
also listed things like the bizzaro poll results that
were flashed on commercial breaks and all the
show’s unknowing corporate sponsors.
As a bonus, Greg manages to get a few artifacts
of the TV show, like a copy of the House Joint
Resolution designating August 16, 1994 ‘TV
Nation Day’ and an interview from the subject on
their ‘junk mail’ segment, the then-proclaimed King
of Direct Mail, David Litwinsky. David wasn’t a
target for the piece as it was a demonstration of
non-profit fundraising. The producers asked him
to set up fake non-profits to see the reaction
would be, like ‘Friends of Jeffrey Dahmer’.
Litwinsky later mentioned that “it was one of the
most interesting campaigns we ever had. We
literally jumped on every letter.” He later joked,
“…if Jeffery Dahmer raises more than Mother
Teresa, I’m leaving this country.” BTW, there’s a
copy of the ‘Dahmer’ letter in the zine, too.
The second and final issue arrived after the FOX
episodes aired. This one was fatter, thanks to the news
and talk about FOX’s then lethargic attitude towards
renewing the show, an interview with TVN correspondent
Louis Theroux, a Michael Moore on-line chat, updates on
past TVN stories and a report on the sad fate of Moore’s
second movie, Canadian Beacon.
The show and the zine is indeed a fine artifact of an era
when people like Moore (and to an extent, the viewers)
were poking, prodding and deflating the oblivious
corporate mainstream media, before the media got too
multi-national and over bearing.
PS: For detailed behind the TVN scenes, hunt down a
copy of ‘Adventures in a TV Nation’ (1998,
HarperPerennial) by Moore and his wife, Kathleen Glynn.
Your head will spin with all they had to do and what they