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Top Value Television papers
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Conditions Governing Access
  • Accruals
  • Immediate Source of Acquisition
  • Existence and Location of Copies
  • Arrangement
  • Biographical / Historical
  • General
  • Publication
  • Bibliography
  • Preferred Citation
  • Processing Information
  • Scope and Contents
  • Separated Materials
  • Publication Rights

  • Language of Material: English
    Contributing Institution: BAMPFA Film Library
    Title: Top Value Television papers
    creator: Ant Farm (Design group)
    creator: Raindance Corporation
    creator: TVTV (Production company)
    creator: Videofreex (Production company)
    creator: Apple, Wendy
    creator: Blumberg, Skip
    creator: Lord, Chip
    creator: Marquez, Hudson
    creator: Murray, Bill, 1950 September 21-
    creator: Rucker, Allen
    creator: Shamberg, Michael
    creator: Weinberg, Tom
    creator: Williams, Megan
    Identifier/Call Number: PFA.MSS.008
    Physical Description: 4 Cartons, 7 Containers 7.5 linear feet
    Date (inclusive): 1964-2004
    Date (bulk): 1971-1977
    Abstract: Correspondence, scripts, budgets, production notes, videotape logs, publications, clippings, artwork, publicity ephemera, scrapbooks. TVTV produced independent television shows that challenged established broadcast media models from1972-1979 in San Francisco and Los Angeles, California. The collection consists of materials generated in the production of the group's shows, papers related to the operation of TVTV Inc., original artwork and publicity materials created by and for TVTV, as well as a self-published booklet and articles written by and about TVTV and its members. Finally, the collection includes similar materials created by TVTV members for productions outside of TVTV. Productions are referenced with all capitalized letters -- e.g., THE WORLD'S LARGEST TV STUDIO (1972).
    Language of Material: Collection materials are in English
    Physical Location: UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Film Library and Study Center

    Conditions Governing Access

    The collection is open for research.
    Physical access to some materials has been limited due to condition and preservation concerns. Efforts have been made to provide access copies of these materials whenever possible. Please contact the BAMPFA Film Library and Study Center regarding physical access to these materials.


    Additions are not expected.

    Immediate Source of Acquisition

    BAMPFA Video Curator Steve Seid acquired the materials from TVTV members in 2009, 2012, and 2014.

    Existence and Location of Copies

    Digital surrogates will be available online in 2019.


    Arranged in 5 series, each of which is subdivided into subseries. Series and subseries are arranged in chronological order where applicable, otherwise in order of relevance to the operation of TVTV. Where no original order existed, materials are arranged to reflect the above system.
    • Series 1: Productions, 1964, 1967, 1972-1979, undated
    • Series 2: TVTV Corporate Papers & General Correspondence, 1972-1979, 1981, undated
    • Series 3: Artwork & Related Materials, 1972, 1974, undated
    • Series 4: Publications, 1972-1976, 1978, 1983, 1997, 2004, undated
    • Series 5: Side Projects & Post-TVTV, 1975-1979, undated

    Biographical / Historical

    Top Value Television (TVTV) was founded in 1972 by Michael Shamberg, Megan Williams, and Allen Rucker (with a handful of associated artists) as a guerrilla video collective based in San Francisco, California. The group developed from ties to San Francisco Bay Area and New York City arts collectives such as Ant Farm (of which TVTV co-founders Hudson Marquez, Chip Lord, Curtis Schreier, and Doug Michels were members), Videofreex, and Raindance (of which Shamberg was a member). Independent producers such as Wendy Apple and Paul Goldsmith provided essential technical skills. The group was influential in bridging the gap between 1970s counterculture and broadcast television.
    The initial spark for TVTV's formation was a desire to document the 1972 presidential nominating conventions in Miami, Florida, from a point of view that the major television networks would be unable to capture. Small-format video equipment like the Sony Porta-Pak and hand held audio tape recorders offered TVTV the technical freedom to approach the conventions in a way that reflected their counterculture origins. More significantly, their cinéma-vérité-for-the-new-generation challenged the "official" version of events as presented by the established media. Critical attention paid to the two tapes produced at these events legitimized TVTV's efforts and established the group as a presence in alternative television. The combination of technical savvy and a "rock-n-roll" style characterized TVTV's productions for the next seven years, as the organization turned its lens on American institutions including the Superbowl, the Oscars, and the impeachment of Richard Nixon.
    In 1975, after having produced several shows with cooperation from public television stations around the country (in particular, New York's WNET and its TV Lab), TVTV left San Francisco for Los Angeles. A tentativedeal with the local Public Broadcasting Service affiliate, KCET, and proximity to Hollywood's network TV establishment provided the group with additional incentive to move on. TVTV produced 13 works that were broadcast on cable networks and PBS, and in 1977 filmed the pilot episode for a show on NBC that would have brought the collective onto national TV. By this point however, tensions between media "insider" and "outsider" status generated disagreements over what direction the group should take, funding became more precarious, and in 1979 the group officially disbanded. TVTV's attempts to bring alternative voices in television into the mainstream reflect a movement that became increasingly marginalized and underfunded by the 1980s and 1990s, but the programs produced by the group remain as documents of a more hopeful moment in alternative television.
    During the course of its operations, TVTV members maintained their relationships with other groups involved in alternative video and television. As part of this involvement in the alternative television movement, TVTV (and particularly members Michael Shamberg and Allen Rucker) participated in an effort to bring more underground voices into programming funded by PBS and the National Endowment for the Arts. This "Coalition for New Public Affairs Programming" lobbied Congress, PBS, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to include independent programming, including counterculture voices, in its broadcasting agenda.
    Following the dissolution of TVTV, members continued to create programming for television, film, and other arts. Megan Williams and Wendy Apple collaborated on mainstream and alternative television projects with each other and with outside groups (including Chicago's Videopolis), with Williams ultimately leaving media production in the 1980s. Allen Rucker went on to a career writing nonfiction books and screenplays. Michael Shamberg had long had associations with the film industry. His roommate at Washington University in St. Louis was Harold Ramis, who became a successful Hollywood director and producer, and other connections brought actors Jim Belushi and Bill Murray into the TVTV fold before they became international celebrities. Ultimately, Shamberg became a successful film and television producer with titles including Pulp Fiction (1994) and episodes of Reno 911! (2004-2008).


    Finding Aid Author(s):
    Michael Campos-Quinn
    Date Completed:
    August, 2012
    Finding Aid Encoded By:
    Michael Campos-Quinn


    Top Value Television. (1974). The Prime Time Survey: TV of the Future. San Francisco: TVTV


    Anker, S., Geritz, K., & Seid, S. (2010). Radical Light: Alternative Film & Video in the San Francisco Bay Area, 1945-2000. Berkeley: University of California Press.
    Boyle, D. (1997). Subject to Change: Guerrilla Television Revisited. New York: Oxford University Press.
    Demartino, N. (July 2011). Objectively speaking. Weblog post. Retrieved from http://www.nickdemartino.net/blog/2011/7/4/objectively-speaking.html
    IMDB. (2010). Michael Shamberg. Retrieved from http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0787834/

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], PFA--MSS--008, University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive.

    Processing Information

    Collection description based on DACS. Finding aid written by Michael Campos-Quinn, August 2012. Finding aid revised by Michael Campos-Quinn, October 2018.

    Scope and Contents

    The majority of the materials in this collection were generated in the production of TVTV programs and in preparation for potential programs that were not ultimately produced. These include correspondence, financial documents and budgets, research materials for productions, notes made in planning and scripting programs, full and draft treatments, scripts, tape logs, ephemera, marketing collateral and artwork, photos, and production scrapbooks. The collection also contains newspaper and magazine clippings of articles written by and about TVTV, lecture materials prepared by TVTV members for presentations, as well as a publication, The Prime Time Survey, distributed by TVTV in 1974. Also included are materials relating to a 2004 exhibition that featured TVTV, the Museum of Television and Radio's 2004 Television Documentary Festival.
    The collection also includes materials that were produced as part of various side projects and productions in which TVTV members participated during the decline of TVTV and after its dissolution in 1979. These are largely similar materials to those produced by TVTV proper. Another significant side project represented here is an alternative television advocacy group that was actively supported by members of TVTV. Correspondence and other materials related to the Coalition for New Public Affairs Programming reflect TVTV's engagement with the group.

    Separated Materials

    Original master tapes and raw tape footage from TVTV productions were donated to the Pacific Film Archive at the same time as the paper records in this collection. 1/2-inch open-reel, 3/4-inch cassette, 1-inch Type C, and VHS cassette tapes produced by TVTV are kept in the film archive offsite storage. Access to some of these materials is restricted. Please contact the BAMPFA Film Library and Study Center for more information.
    Tapes from THE WORLD'S LARGEST TV STUDIO, FOUR MORE YEARS, and GERALD FORD'S AMERICA will be available digitally beginning late 2019 (estimated).

    Publication Rights

    Property rights reside with the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, University of California, Berkeley. Literary rights are retained by the creators of the records and their heirs. For permission to reproduce or publish, please contact the Head of the Pacific Film Archive Library.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Experimental films--United States
    Documentary films--United States
    Video art--California
    Public television--United States
    Low budget television programs--United States
    Political conventions--United States--1970-1980
    Ant Farm (Design group)
    Raindance Corporation
    TVTV (Production company)
    Videofreex (Production company)
    Apple, Wendy
    Blumberg, Skip
    Lord, Chip
    Marquez, Hudson
    Murray, Bill, 1950 September 21-
    Rucker, Allen
    Shamberg, Michael
    Weinberg, Tom
    Williams, Megan
    Rawat, Prem, 1957-
    Hoffman, Abbie
    Dylan, Bob, 1941-
    Ford, Gerald R., 1913-2006