Cat Videos Before YouTube: kittypr0n on Access SF, Part 1

​"We should do a public access show about cats!"

That's what my girlfriend Katrina said one night in December 2001 as we watched Channel 29, Access San Francisco. I thought it sounded like a great idea, and it still sounded good the next morning when we were sober.

Besides, nobody else was doing it. While there was no shortage of cat pictures on Web 1.5, there was no reliable source of cat videos yet, and as the Exhibitionist's Angela Lutz pointed out, they're good for your health.

Not that this was going to be online -- this was going to be on public access television. Hell, our camcorder was VHS-C. The show was going to be all-analog, though the title, kittypr0n -- pronounced "kitty-PRAWN", not "kitty-PORN," all lowercase and spelled with the numeral zero, and though the font used on squashes the zero and make it look like the letter o, it really isn't -- was based on leetspeak, like the 1337 hax0rs we were (not).

​From the start, kittypr0n was intended to be about our cats Oscar and Mina, not us. Other than various limbs and torsos, there would be no humans on the show. We also decided that there would be no live sound or narration, but instead we would overdub ambient / noise / drone music. In the pilot episode -- the original version of which was compiled at home on our VCRs, though the remaining episodes would edited together on studio equipment -- the soundtrack was Vienna 1990 by :zoviet*france:, a dark-ambient group whose name is even more needlessly complicated than kittypr0n's.

The Access San Francisco programming meeting in late January 2002 was overcrowded and hectic and filled with bad vibes, and Katrina and I seemed to be the only new producers who'd followed the instructions on the How Do I Air A Show? page. There were many cranky people loudly complaining about the "democratic lottery" process, where the producer randomly drew a number that determined their order in line to select a time slot.

A feeding frenzy ensued for the prime-time slots that were becoming available due to the current show's six- or 12-month run coming to an end, and while the show's producers were welcome to renew it, they were not given dibs on their time. A few very unhappy producers lost long-established slots which were coveted by other producers who drew lower lottery numbers. Most of this competition was between religious shows -- for example, the producer of an Orthodox Jewish show pulled a low number and snagged a time slot that a Muslim show had been in for years.

Did I mention the bad vibes in the room?

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