BEST PUBLIC-ACCESS CABLE TV SHOW Minneapolis 2001 - Polka Party
How to pick just one when there are so many to love? Who knows what you'll find flipping through the channels? The nobrow camp of Joanie Loves Furbies? The tawdry thrills of Thomasina.com? Murky, incomprehensible recordings of poorly written sketch comedy? Wedding videos? That freaky Dr. Sphincter show that pops up now and again? Yes, all this and more, making selecting our favorite cable-access spectacle something like wandering the racks at a thrift store and choosing the best flyaway-collared polyester shirt. But if we must choose, then we choose Polka Party, playing irregularly on MCN (look for it around noon or 1:00 p.m. on most days). There is something irresistible about this show, which features a truly astonishing variety of local and national polka acts (so much polka...how can there be so much polka?). Along with the music comes the robust dancing of dozens of grim performers with thin smiles and thinner hair who somehow manage to seem simultaneously cheerless and vivacious. This is Minnesotan television at its finest, where pleasure is a task to be approached earnestly and seriously, where the song might sing about drinking too much beer but the dancers have clearly drunk too little, where the lead instrument is an accordion and the lead singer warbles out melodies as though keeping in tune were merely an artistically questionable affectation probably best left to pretty girls and choirboys. That old oompah-oompah doesn't have much place in popular music anymore (not since Minnesota's own Andrews Sisters ruled the airwaves, I would wager), and what a pity, as it still makes us want to plaster on our sternest smiles and spin around our loved ones with a quick triple-step. Thanks to Polka Party, we still can.