Who knew the Seattle Channel offered programming that's anything but City Council-briefing dull? For instance: a well-told, engaging feature...

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Who knew the Seattle Channel offered programming that’s anything but City Council-briefing dull?

For instance: a well-told, engaging feature about the Royal Esquire Club, a longtime social fixture of black Seattle. A look at Taproot Theater’s production of “The God Committee,” with the artistic director comparing it to “ER.” And Nancy Guppy (of “Almost Live” fame) yukking it up with the owner of a Pioneer Square pottery shop. Even if she hadn’t sent a yellow bowl to smithereens, her chirpy, zany reporting in an episode of “City A Go-Go” is anything but bor-ring. (And we’re talking pottery, of all things. Props go to the catchy opening tune.)

Now, there’s even more programming whose quality, if it stands up to what’s already been shown, shouldn’t disappoint.

Today marks the premiere of the channel’s “Art Zone,” 12 hours of arts-related programming airing (and live-streaming) from 8 p.m. to midnight Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

On the schedule are 14 mostly new programs, including Guppy’s “Gallery Hop” in which she visits, well, local art galleries.

“Big Night Out,” with Kevin Joyce, will be a monthly variety show performed in front of a live audience at the Columbia City Theater. “Cinema 21” will present full-length feature films. “Verve” profiles artists. “A Guide to Visitors,” also filmed before a live audience at West Seattle’s Skylark Café, showcases local storytellers. And John Richards, KEXP’s “The Morning Show” DJ, salutes Seattle music with a half-hour local music-video program.

“You used to have this local [TV] show called ‘Bomb Shelter’ that showed local videos, but then we’ve had this long period of time when there was no outlet,” says Richards, who grew up in Spokane and who could remember when MTV was about music and not reality fare.


Art Zone: A variety of arts-related programming 8 p.m. to midnight Thursday, Friday and Saturday on The Seattle Channel (Seattle cable households only; all programming live-streamed and available on demand at www.seattlechannel.org).

Now with the Web and, in particular, YouTube, such videos hover out there. All that was needed, Richards says, was a curator of sorts.

Enter the Seattle Channel, which has been rebranding and remaking itself in recent years. Art Zone is the offspring of last year’s City of Seattle/Comcast cable franchise agreement: $500,000 per year for 10 years for arts programming. (Comcast receives an underwriting announcement each hour during the four-hour evening block).

It’s believed to be a first of-its-kind initiative anywhere in the country, says Seattle Channel general manager Gary Gibson, likely the happiest man working in local TV these days (no stressing out about money; no playing the Nielsen ratings game).

Long gone are the days when local TV news included reports on the arts, says Gibson, who’s been working in local broadcasting since 1973. He once hosted and produced a look-around-town show called “Stepping Out.” After leaving KCTS in 2000, he was general manager of Teatro ZinZanni in San Francisco before returning here as the late “TVSea” channel rebirthed into the Seattle Channel.

Art Zone, Gibson says, will define “the arts” in the broadest sense: a profile of a new theater production, a community festival, film shorts. Hearing him explain things: It should capture the attention of anyone grumbling that local TV isn’t local or that “human-interest” stories only hit the air if the central subject has been shot at or stabbed.

The channel, carried on Comcast and Millennium cable companies, reaches some 187,000 Seattle households. All programs, however, are streamed live at www.seattlechannel.org. They’re also available free and through anytime on-demand on the Web site. Go to “most watched” to sample the channel’s range of offerings; one of Richards’ favorite programs is number 15: “KEXP Live at the Triple Door Presents The Black Angels.”

Florangela Davila: 206-464-2916 or fdavila@seattletimes.com