At the Time Warner television studios on Lillian Way in Hollywood, Chris Shabel, Miki Jackson, and John Walsh sit in the green room and wait to tape two half-hour shows of their long-running cable access program called Neighborhood Point of View, or, as they call it, NPOV.
“You know who watches the show a lot, although they would never admit it,” says Jackson, an amiable woman and longtime advocate for people with HIV/AIDS. “City Hall and county government. I’m always getting feedback from people at those places.”
Jackson, who has black curly hair, wears big-frame eyeglasses, and dresses in blue jeans and a black-and-red Hawaiian shirt, looks over to Walsh, the intense ringleader of the group.
“Our goal is to put the show on YouTube,” says Walsh, who wears a brown-orange-and-green plaid jacket with a “dollar bill” tie, “but we need a 17-year-old to help us put it together.”
Shabel, who moves around with a high-end stroller that also acts as her chair and wears a black coat with a baby blue sweater and baby blue slacks, looks at Walsh with her usual easy smile as he gets ready to say something else.
“Our show has broken over 200 stories before the major media,” Walsh proclaims. “You know what I call cable access? MeTV. But we’re one of the few shows that isn’t selling anything.”
In fact, since 1989, when Shabel, a Hollywood community activist, took over the show from the late Norton Halper, NPOV has dedicated itself to irritating and exposing the crooked politicians of Los Angeles, Sacramento and beyond. The program, according to Walsh, grabs the second best ratings for any Time Warner cable access show in Los Angeles. “Only a sex show beats us,” he says. The show airs twice a month on a Friday after 9 p.m.
Walsh, a substitute teacher and self-described “gadfly,” who keeps close tabs on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, estimates they have taped 700 shows since his arrival in 1992—Jackson became a regular around 2000. Reporters from the L.A. Times, L.A. Weekly, Downtown News and Pasadena Star-News have appeared on the show — “We love journalists,” says Shabel — and politicians such as Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and Congresswoman Diane Watson, among others, have also been guests. Walsh also claims NPOV inspired both the movie Volcano and Steve Martin’s attire in the film Bowfinger.
“Steve Martin is wearing everything I wear!” Walsh insists.
Yet when December rolls around, NPOV may not exist. Due to a state law that now allows cable-TV operators to franchise with the state rather than individual cities, Time Warner may not be mandated to air cable access programs. And channel 36, the city-owned cable station, may not be receptive to NPOV’s fiery brand of truth telling. In just a few minutes, for example, Walsh will launch into a 30-minute tear of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
“This country is on its way out,” Walsh predicts with disgust.
A producer for the show then walks into the green room and says he’s ready to tape. They all shuffle into the studio, take a seat at a round table, the bright lights turn on and the opening credits roll, with Fats Waller singing “Ain’t Misbehavin’.” Shabel introduces her “regular guests” Jackson and Walsh, and Walsh subsequently throws right hook after right hook at the L.A. Times, Villaraigosa, lazy journalists and L.A. Weekly. Jackson gamely con-tributes a few thoughts here and there, and Shabel plays a mostly silent, and oddly perfect, straight woman to Walsh’s manic delivery.
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“On that note,” says Shabel, wrapping up the show, “that’s been NPOV.”
A farewell party of sorts — “It’s going to be Fellini-esque,” promises Walsh — is planned for December in Hollywood.
Photo by Kevin Scanlon