YouTube Review: Lido TV and “The Marty Singer Telethon.”


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Last year I contemplated writing a review of Lido TV, a television variety show that was created by the Colombian-Canadian singer-songwriter Lido Pimienta. But Lido TV is only available here and there on YouTube, having been first made for the television network CBC Gem. Then this month saw the appearance of a second parodic variety show by indie musicians. In “The Marty Singer Telethon” the performers are the Detroit band Protomartyr and the show is broadcast on HighlandParkTV, a YouTube channel featuring comedy skits and music. HLPtv is much like SNL but screwier and seemingly operating on about a millionth of SNL’s budget.

It is an interesting aesthetic. Parodic variety shows or nineties-style magazine shows in which indie artists are on holiday and allowing themselves to have fun. Perhaps these shows are the new B-sides. The atmosphere is playful but noncommittal; the shows are winsome but rather feeble in health. Lido TV was only made after a touring Pimienta was housebound during the COVID-19 pandemic. And “The Marty Singer Telethon” is just a one-off, in being released to promote Protomartyr’s latest record Formal Growth In The Desert.

Pimienta is against racism and discrimination against indigenous peoples. In “Lido TV Episode 1 – Colonialism” she contends that colonialism’s ghost is still rattling more pots and pans than one might think these days. The neo at the start of “neo-colonialism” is viewed as superfluous and Pimienta knocks it off as if it is a fatuous hat.

This show will appeal to left-wingers when it is protesting about the sums of public money that Canada has spent on hosting a visit by Prince William, or when it is mocking racism within the music industry. Yet the right might also find corners where they can chuckle at the left’s discomfort. Indeed, the show seems to be most merciless when it has fastened onto the hypocrisy of white do-gooders, or rather their anguish at how steep their own chosen path of anti-racism is becoming for them. In one skit a middle-class woman successfully performs a fashionable “land acknowledgement” only to find out that her “prize” is the return of her lakeside holiday home to an indigenous group. In another a white contestant on a blind-dating show obnoxiously interrogates the motives of the “men of colour” who are vying to date her.

Perhaps the indigenous-rights movement in Canada is similar to anticaste activism in India. The middle-class campus left, which would be normally an ally, has through its own insensitivity or proximity to traditional wealth blundered into such a movement’s firing line. The unease of Lido TV is always enjoyable but note how it only flourishes within the nostalgia and easy whimsicality of an old television magazine show.  

For the show’s intros and outros Pimienta has built the kind of set that was once used on children’s television during the 1990s. There is even a dated quality to the documentary format of the “Darling Clementine” sketch, with its mid-2000s interjections from expert talking heads. We will be initially comfortable with these formats and feel very warm and relaxed when watching them. The politics therefore veers out unexpectedly, something sharp from in all of the overfamiliar fluff. Pimienta’s girl-next-door presentational persona during the game shows is apparently calm and non-threatening but it grows steadily more passive-aggressive.

Instead of politics, the sharpness in “The Marty Singer Telethon” is provided by three new songs. Protomartyr’s post-punk is lean and hungry, a bit like Joy Division or Pixies had once been. In the “telethon” it is apparently the 1990s again and Protomartyr’s music is veering out of the twentieth hour of a local-television fundraiser for “children with issues.” Marty Singer and Sarah McMahon (Nathan Faustyn and Sarah Shtern) are the chemically-paired but cynical anchors. Their show is full of lame acts, such as a mime (Mikey Hays), a marionette puppeteer (Audrey Densmore) and a “nicotine mascot” (Joey Gallimore). Any satire of their world is inevitably lame and rather hopeless too. But Protomartyr’s music swings out of this depressed broadcast with a bite, rather like a goat going suddenly berserk on a petting farm.

The full naffness of the nineties seems to rise and crest like a wave when the show cites “Pogs” (bizarre, collectable children’s gambling tokens that had all evaporated like a rainshower by 1999). The telethon’s overall joke is perhaps at the expense of Protomartyr themselves. Their music sometimes sounds like it is visiting us from the 1990s and its indie-with-guitars subculture. Had they ever existed during this period, however, then they and their music would have been never mentioned, almost as a policy, within any self-respecting family-friendly television broadcast.

There is also another joke in which Joe Casey, who fronts the band, resembles a séance medium in a trance and Marty Singer is now his mouthpiece and spirit guide. A suspense is soon ballooning in which we are waiting for Casey to speak or show any awareness of the telethon around him. He never does and in return the telethon never disturbs him or even touches him.

The aesthetic in Lido TV and “The Marty Singer Telethon” is one in which a dizzying jump has been made between then and now. The variety shows of the 1990s had been often so cheap that any moderately-wealthy person today could make their own versions of them without too much trouble. Their sprawling television-studio crews are now all basically packed into your smartphone camera. You only need a large room, a desk, a spangley suit, a couple of performing animals or some interesting eccentric to interview, or maybe an activity game with some awkward contestants, and then you too can have a Generation Game or a Blue Peter all of your own.

Of course, nobody in their right mind would ever create such a thing. These shows can be no longer connected to millions of people who are trapped sitting on their sofas in suburban houses, listlessly picking between three or four terrestrial-television channels each evening. Only a chance antiracist activist, or a rock band on a promotional circuit, would have any reason to remember the nineties variety show. Hence Lido TV and “The Marty Singer Telethon.”

[Previously on Tychy: “YouTube Review: OwlKitty.“]