Network 77 :: Escalator to the Stars

Near the end of "Escalator to the Stars," the first episode of the new comedy series  Network 77, Robyn Hitchcock and Emma Swift, as hosts of a star sign-themed segment about pop music called Astrology Domine, speculate what about Bob Dylan "really encapsulates that Gemini spirit." "He constantly disappoints his fans," Hitchcock deadpans. "That's why they keep coming back for more." The joke sprawls out from there, into improvised riffs about Dylan's dating life and Iowa City's two Starbucks locations. By the time the credits roll, featuring the charging French new wave of Edith Nylon, you may find yourself wondering what exactly you just watched. Network 77 feels a little like being let in on a secret.

Quietly released onto the internet last month, the show features an all-star indie rock cast, including Swift, Hitchcock, Ted Leo, Jon Wurster of Superchunk and The Best Show, Pat Sansone of Wilco and The Autumn Defense, and more. The conceit is simple, built around a number of individual segments, including Pulse 77, a mock news report about the rise of "new wavers," Parade of Strange, which features a look at the "disappearance" of country singer Dottie Carroll, a Rockpalast-styled music program called "Muziekpop," featuring a performance by modern Nashville band Creamer, though you'd never guess it from the Raspberries meets Todd Rundgren sound. Along with these and other diverse clips, Network 77 provides the sensation of flipping through channels sometime in the late '70s or early '80s, complete with period-appropriate graphics and text, time checks, commercials, and bumpers for programs yet to air – including "The Judee Sill Show," a parallel universe variety show hosted by the late, and legendarily reclusive, singer/songwriter.

Created, written, and directed by Rachel Lichtman, who wrote and directed the Boyce & Hart documentary, The Guys Who Wrote 'Em, Network 77 was born from a desire to create as “dense and beautiful a world as I could.” Calling in favors from friends, including graphic designer Jeff T. Owens and editor David Shamban, Lichtman turned to her massive library of vintage production tools – including a "super OG, groovy production music library" – to create something that feels as funny as classic SCTV and as retro-accurate as recent shows like IFC's   Documentary Now! and Netflix's GLOW.

“I knew there was an audience for this particular kind of vibe," Lichtman says. After all, it's what she wanted to see on the screen herself. “I have a fascination with lost art, lost graphics, fonts, or things that would never even make it to the 21st century," Lichtman says.

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