Thursday, July 2, 2015

For the Love of Local Access - Stephen Colbert Hosts "Only in Monroe"

Local access channels have always gotten a bad wrap. But, if you think about it, they're the closest thing that we had to YouTube for quite a while. Nearly anyone moderately interesting with a mild temperament was able to host their own cooking, travel, political or outdoors program. There are a host of local access shows that are actually pretty crazy too. They're typically low-budget, they highlight ultra-local issues, and are normally hosted by non-Emmy award winning hosts. Well, that all changed yesterday when a video of Stephen Colbert was released. Colbert took over the reigns of "Only in Monroe", a monthly local access show on Monroe, Michigan's Monroe Public Access Cable Television (MPACT).

The May edition of "Only in Monroe" had just over 100 views yesterday, and is now up to over 1,100 views today. With the release of yesterday's July edition of "Only in Monroe", the episode has nearly 1.5 million views. That's not a bad jump in exposure for a local access show.

Colbert chatted with regular hosts, and registered nurses, Kaye Lani Rae Rafko, the 1988 winner of the Miss America pageant, (and personification of Parks and Recreation's character Joan Callamezzo) and Michelle Baumann. Colbert even went back to some earlier footage of Baumann boasting about how quickly she was able to paint her nails while stopping at red lights on a drive from Saginaw, Michigan. Colbert reenacted the claim, and even painted his own nails throughout the segment. Colbert then featured some local news, where he laid out a couple of jokes about Monroe-based recliner manufacturer La-Z-Boy.

Colbert then featured the "vicious internet flame war" happening in Monroe between Yelp reviewer "Mark M", and Jerry's Frenchtown Bar and Grill. "Mark M" posted in 2013 that he had "Stopped in for lunch back in the late 90s. Sat at the bar and ordered a regular burger and one O'Doul's." Mark M, over a decade later, was apparently still a bit upset that he had been charged $9.50 for his burger and beer. Colbert had a field day with his comments.

As of yesterday, Jerry's Frenchtown Bar and Grill had 10 Yelp reviews, and was ranked at about 3 stars. This morning? Jerry's has 32 reviews and is ranked at 4.5 stars. It's amazing what a little bit of national exposure can do for a small restaurant. Now, most of the reviews are obviously a reaction to Colbert's story, and are likely from those who have never even visited Monroe; but, this may mean that Jerry's Frenchtown Bar and Grill will be stocking up on burgers and O'Douls for a while.  

(As a side note, Yelp user "Mark M" has issued his fair share of 1-star Yelp reviews. Mark seems to have pretty high standards for grocery stores, and recently gave both Monroe Kroger stores a 2-star and 1-star ranking, respectively, stating "It's clear that management at the corporate level have no idea how a grocery store should run, but feel compelled by their 4-year business degrees to introduce new policies regardless of whether it's an improvement or not."

The final third of the show featured a "a local Michigander who is making a name for himself in the competitive world of music." Colbert was referring to Marshall Mathers, better known as Eminem. Mathers was quizzed on Bob Seger songs after Colbert learned that Mathers was in fact a musical artist from Detroit, assuming Mathers took musical inspiration from Detroit's Motown and rock legends.

Eminem seemed at times to be a bit uncomfortable, but it was all a part of the show. Eminem is a far better actor than most might think. The best part of the interview was when he assisted with announcing Monroe's Community Calendar. He delivered the calendar announcement for next week's (Wednesday, July 8th) Kinetic Chiropractic class on handling stress, saying, "No late admission. Get it together for once in your life and show up on time."

While "Only in Monroe" may be reaching new heights as a result of Colbert's appearance, MPACT has many other shows deserving of our attention. On his next visit to Monroe, Colbert ought to tag along with Monroe's "The Cat Doctor", Dr. Kim Miller. May's episode shows viewers what involves spaying a female cat, as Data, an 11-month old female cat, is actually spayed by Dr. Miller. There's certainly more happening in Monroe than can be covered on "Only in Monroe", so be sure to check out "The Cat Doctor" as well.

Yes, local access shows are usually low budget, but Colbert shows us that they don't have to be low-profile or void of comedy. Local access television actually provides a local service to residents who are interested in being informed on what is happening in their community. While local access popularity today is surely lower than years past, the service allows residents averse to social media to have access to local news and events. If you've watched local access in your neighborhood, you can be sure that Colbert's episode of "Only in Monroe" is a breath of fresh air. Maybe, just maybe, this will spark a love for local access programming once more.