I Was Banned from Public Access TV by the Age of 11
Me, Daniel Metz, star of The Dan Metz Show
There are entire episodes of TV Party on YouTube now, and everyone's seen Wayne's World, so you should all know that one of the great American TV initiatives is public access—local, city-based programming that grants weirdoes the power of mass communication. Here, the real scum of American entertainment thrive. Because the channels and the people who run them are mandated by the government, they have some interesting rules. For one: They can’t turn down anyone who asks for a show. For another, they can’t censor anything as long as it isn’t illegal. These freedoms helped me, as an 11-year-old boy, become a star of public access television.
I grew up in Melrose, Massachusetts, about 15 miles north of Boston. My mother was something of a public figure; the nightly news anchor for the popular Spotlight on Melrose, a news program focusing on local politics and high school sports.
Whenever she took me downtown to do the groceries or get our nails done, she’d get recognized and treated like a star. For a young boy, nothing is more intoxicating than attention; I wanted to get a piece of that action.
So I cycled down to the Melrose Massachusetts Television (MMTV) station and signed up for a show.
At MMTV, the station director was a man of exaggerated weight. He was so obsessed with Star Wars that he took two weeks off when Phantom Menace came out. He also bought three copies of every Star Wars toy, “One to keep in the packaging, one to sell on eBay, and one to play with.” His surname was something like “Petito,” and I remember everyone called him “Chip” because his name was like “Chip Potato” (geddit?).
I enlisted my best friend Devon Tincknell to do the show with me. Despite the fact that he came from what my mother referred to as a “bad family,” he was my partner in everything. We smoked our first cigarettes together, we looked at his older brother’s porno magazines, we showed each other our penises, etc.
The show was called The Dan Metz Show. Imagine a combination of Jackass, The Tom Green Show and Saturday Night Live, but all filtered through the ill-formed brains of an 11-year-old boy and his best friend who was from a “bad family.” It was fucking glorious.
The show was basically an opportunity for us to do everything we could with an S-VHS camera, like Devon pretending to be a zombie newsanchor reporting on an invasion of space worms; me freestyle-rapping about all the “bitches” I got; secretly filming my older brother on the phone with his out-of-town girlfriend; or us finding an old TV and smashing it with a big pipe we found.
We were a sensation across Melrose. I quickly discovered that our target audience was 16-25 year old guys who, after smoking what they described as “mad blunts,” thought that we were great TV.
Devon again, taking a time-out from showing me his penis and throwing rat carcasses around
But then MMTV started getting complaints. Apparently it was “offensive” to have children endangering their bodies and swearing at each other. We got slapped with a “TV-14 MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY” warning at the head of our program. This was particularly ironic for us because we, of course, were only 11.
It was around this same time that we discovered there was a law against showing actual human waste on television, even if it was in a toilet.
The escalating mayhem meant sometimes our shows wouldn’t air. Chip Potato told me they had to pull one episode because: “It’s not OK for you to attack each other with real knives. We can’t show that.” Whatever, Chip Potato.
My mother, of course, was mortified. Here she was, a semi-respected broadcast journalist, and her son was scandalizing the community on local TV. Midway through the run of my series, my mother started telling me I couldn’t spend time with Devon any more. She said it was because his brothers were in jail and because he was a bad influence on me, but now I realize it was something else. She was jealous because we were taking some of the spotlight from her.
My mother and I some years before the commencement of our rivalry.
Our immense local celebrity convinced us a glittering TV career lay ahead, until a sketch involving a rodent and the "Make a Wish" foundation got us abruptly cancelled. Devon found a dead mouse and pretended that it was his pet, and that he was distraught. “I want to fulfill his last wishes before I bury him.” We filmed a series of shots carrying out his dreams, like “He always wanted to play basketball”—cut to Devon throwing the carcass through a basketball hoop—“He always wanted to drive in the car”—cut to the mouse stuck to the windshield wiper of his mother’s truck—and the icing on the fishcake of absurdity, “He always wanted me to run him over with my bike.” I’ll never forget that image, burned into my mind, of the mouse guts bulging under the pressure of his tire. Then we dug a hole, filled it with gasoline, threw the mouse in and dropped a match.
It was brilliant, of course. But then PETA found out and they threatened to sue the station, blah, blah, blah. So Chip Potato gave us the axe.
Unfortunately, there was a house fire and all the footage of The Dan Metz show was lost, and, even worse, I lost touch with Devon a few years later too. We just grew apart, and the divide became insurmountable. He got into drinking, I got into weed; it was like we had never met. Last I heard someone told me he was in prison. In one of my greatest feats of heroism, I considered writing him a letter while he was in the slammer, but I ultimately decided it was better to leave it alone.
But, Devon, if you’ve got a Google Alert set up for your name and this pops up in your inbox, let me know you’re alive and well. I’m in England now and I miss you.
Want more dumb kids fucking around with cameras? Read this interview with one of the guys behind the $5,000 version of Raiders of the Lost Ark.