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The members of TVTV (Top Value Television), the 1970s guerrilla video group I cofounded, were among the first to exploit the then brand-new portable video camera. We took them to big events and turned the cameras away from the spectacle and on to the people; almost no one had seen one before, and there were no rules about how to use them, or act in front of them—not even among Oscar nominees like Mike Douglas, Jack Nicholson and Lily Tomlin, all of whom were captured by the group in 1976 for TVTV Goes the Oscars.
In 1976, TVTV had just moved to LA and we wanted to get to know the movers and shakers of the film business. So we set out to find them. In a way, things haven't changed all that much: the show opens with TVTV hanging out with hot young director Steven Spielberg, fresh off a big hit, as the nominations are announced. The difference? In 1976, Spielberg didn't get a nomination for Jaws. Thirty-seven years later, he did. Maybe he'll get luckier this coming Sunday.
It wasn't just Spielberg. TVTV got very close to many of that year's principal players—stars like Michael Douglas, Lee Grant, and Lily Tomlin, biting their nails and hoping to win the coveted statue. In an early forerunner to "mockumentary" style, Tomlin plays herself getting all dolled up for the big event—she was up for best supporting actress for Nashville—and also plays one of her trademark characters, Mrs. Judy Beasley of Calumet City, as she watches the Oscars telecast at home.
TVTV was in the limo with Lee Grant and Goldie Hawn (and their spouses) from the moment they hop in at home to the moment they get back in and crack open the champagne. Its documentarians went skiing with a young Michael Douglas as he awaited the big night, and listened to Ken Kesey complain about how he was treated when Michael Douglas, Jack Nicholson, and Milos Foreman decided to film One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest. We even hung out with the guy who furnished all the tuxedos for the gala.
Unable to get sustained funding, TVTV disbanded in 1977. At the time, cable was barely off the ground, and there wasn't much room for unfiltered and off-kilter documentaries like theirs on network TV. But it lasted long enough to get to the Oscars once—and for that we can all be thankful.
Above, you can watch a few highlights from the full documentary. Click through the slideshow or the links below to watch the whole thing.
Allen Rucker is a co-founder of TVTV and an author. This show was furnished by Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), New York. For more information about this and other TVTV works, go to EAI or contact Rebecca Cleman at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you liked TVTV Goes to the Oscars, check out TVTV Goes to the Superbowl on Deadspin. Highlights video edited by Kate Bennert