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GUEST BLOG #87: New York, New York, It's a Wonderful Town... And You Can Explore It on WNET's Web Series
April 21, 2010  | By Tom Brinkmoeller

[Bianculli here: One of contributing writer Tom Brinkmoeller's specialties is finding intriguing TV in out-of-the-way places. This time he's found some worthwhile stuff in a place so far out of the way, it's not even ON television... but emanates from public TV anyway...]

Explore New York... Without Leaving Home

TOM-Staten-Island-2.jpgFor anyone whose interest in New York City's people and places goes beyond what's encountered on a on a Gray Line Tour, a couple of made-for-Web series produced by the city's WNET public-TV station are worth checking out.

TOM-NY-on-Clock.jpgNew York on the Clock, a web series you can find HERE is a series of short (about five minutes) profiles of people who have interesting, but low-profile, jobs in the city.

TOM-City-Concealed.jpgThe City Concealed, which you can find HERE, discovers and shares New York places that aren't well-known. Episodes of both can be viewed on the station's Web site, YouTube or iTunes. New Yorker or not, there's a lot to be learned and enjoyed in almost every one. Several new segments are posted each month.

The New York on the Clock profiles include a surprisingly young tugboat captain; the operator of Coney Island's Cyclone coaster; a woman who travels to the depths of the city's buildings to read electric meters; and a mohel (the medically and religiously trained person who performs Jewish circumcisions). Each offers a chance to learn a little more about people whose jobs are outside the usual employment borders -- and which take on a unique personality when done in that city.


The City Concealed goes to places many people wouldn't know about, and/or have easy access to. These include the Brooklyn Navy Yard, which has an under-utilized and diverse industrial-park role following its passage from a huge ship-building site; a tour of Green-Wood Cemetery; the grand United Palace Theater (shown here), once a movie palace now functioning as a church; and a Staten Island beach on which a man builds rock sculptures (seen at top). A trip up Newtown Creek and a history of the 1880s African American community of Weeksville takes viewers to places they might not otherwise be able to find.

TV programming made for sole viewing on the Internet isn't new. But when pieces appear with this much polish -- ones that draw from such a fertile field -- it's worth noting. It's also something of a curiosity when the program source is a public-TV station.

The station does them, explained it director of on-line marketing, Debbie Adler, to "extend the brand of Thirteen... The station feels they are an investment in connecting us to our community."

Costs and funding, always a sensitive subject with public stations, were subjects she declined to discuss.

The station's commitment to each program is strong and continuing, said Dan Greenberg, executive producer of both series. Finding people to profile is easy among a population pool that includes, he said, "the most beloved and the most hated people in the country. They're comical and smart at the same time."

The only obstacles to finding places to explore among the many boroughs are getting permission to enter, and entering only places that don't present a danger.

"Sometimes we can't always get there," Greenberg said. And sometimes, he added, it's too dangerous to want to.




Eileen said:

Hi Tom,
I've lived in NYC for over 27 years, and I'm constantly amazed at the intriguing places that abound but few know about.

With the constant proliferation of reality shows and basic garbage on tv, all I can say is "Thank God for PBS".

A few years back PBS did a fascinating show with host David Hartman which featured sections of NYC done in one hour installments: A Walk Down 42nd St., A Walk Around Brooklyn, A Walk Through Central Park, and A Walk Up Broadway.

If these are repeated on local PBS stations, they are truly worth watching. In addition to David, they feature an expert on that part of the city who rattles off information that amazes.

Anyone planning on visiting New York City this summer should look into the many walking tours; specifically one in Greenwich Village which features the original homes/hangouts of famous writers, artists, actors & otherwise characters.

Thanks for the heads-up, Tom, on another PBS gem.

Comment posted on April 21, 2010 8:56 AM

Laura said:

Thank you for posting this-- I can't wait to watch both, and I probably wouldn't've known about them otherwise!

Comment posted on April 21, 2010 6:01 PM

Sally W. said:

I have to also thank you for posting this; I'm continually amazed by PBS and their web presence - they always have something great on their website. (and as a native New Yorker, I'm always keen on what else I don't know about NYC!).

Comment posted on April 26, 2010 8:52 PM
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