What were they thinking? Did the folks at Disinformation (www.disinfo.com) really think that a pseudo-newsmagazine about chicks with dicks, time travel conspiracies and Kembra Pfahler's sewn-together labia would fly on television? Probably not -- they're smarter than that -- but when executives at England's Channel 4 offered up rather a large chunk of change to produce 16 episodes of off-the-wall programming in 2000, the counterculturalists did what any good revolutionaries would. They laughed all the way to the bank.
Unsurprisingly, "Disinformation TV" -- scheduled after episodes of "Ally McBeal" on Channel 4 -- was too good to be true. The straightforward chronicling of incredibly nonstraightforward material perplexed both viewers and network executives and, after a brief period of late-night exile, the series was quietly dismissed from duty. Disinfo founder Richard Metzger was probably unsurprised. In interviews, he's acknowledged the whole concept of presenting the Disinformation's "deprogramming" (the website's slogan is "The gateway to the underground: news, politics, conspiracies and weirdness") via television seemed like a bad idea to everyone involved Ã? except those writing the checks. What probably was surprising was that, no sooner had the show been banished from the British airwaves, an American cable channel, The Sci-Fi Channel, came calling, checkbook in hand.
In 2002, Metzger and company polished up, edited, compiled and whittled down the best of the Channel 4 broadcasts into four half-hour episodes that, truly, were unlike anything ever seen on television. In fact, they were never seen on television. When the first three episodes were delivered, network execs were aghast at the material. What, did they not expect the bit about the mind-controlled, multiple-personality, Satanic-ritual-victim, CIA/FBI sex slave who was "purchased" by Bob Hope and fucked by Sammy Davis Jr. and Elvis Presley to be part of the program? Whatever the logic, the network paid off Disinfo and, finally, the material that's long been legendary among cultists and conspiracy theorists has bubbled up to the marketplace. (Ever the capitalists, the two-DVD set is available from Disinfo's website for $29.95. It adds unseen material and footage from "the legendary Disinfo.Con event.")
Unsurprisingly, the material is still shocking. Though the episodes were compiled in 2002, much of the footage is much older. And though the subjects and profiles hew toward the underground's superstars, the fact that Genesis P-Orridge and Joe Coleman and Irwin Chusid were filmed for a network television show that wasn't condescending or clueless is so refreshing as to be dizzying.
Still, just as the "real" underground tends to collapse in on its own incestuous self, "Disinformation TV" seems to lack the all-important ability to call bullshit, and much of the shocking material is just shocking and not much else. Hearing the mind-controlled sex slave prattle on and on and on about her travails is curious at first, then hilarious and then just dull, like a "Daily Show" bit gone on too long. Perhaps it's the "newsmagazine" format of the show. Such a format implies credibility and, as a result, exponentially magnifies a lack thereof. But in the end, any television show that contains the words "bukkake" and "I was sent back in time to steal the blood of Jesus" obviously requires the viewer to have some semblance of judgment when it comes to believability.