Community access show celebrates 1,000th episode

October 8, 2010 7:51:39 PM PDT
Not many television shows are on the air for 1,000 episodes, but a community access program in the Bay Area is just about to reach that milestone. To make the achievement even more remarkable, the program is put together by senior citizens, most of whom start with no television experience.

The Mountain View weekly magazine show, "The Better Part," has been running for 27 years on community access television with an all-volunteer crew. It was started by a club from the Cupertino Senior Center. The only requirement to participate is you have to be at least 50 years old.

"It is really mental health for people our age," 76-year-old director Phil Lenihan of Cupertino. "When you have your mind working so intensely and so quickly and it just keeps all those little things that you are supposed to keep alive in your brain firing."

"The Better Part" runs on community access stations all over the South Bay. It is taped at the non-profit KMVT, which also trains the volunteers.

"Everybody just pitches in there," Myrna Gelphman of Cupertino said. "If someone needs help, someone comes to the rescue."

The members of the crew have changed over time, but the program is so successful that they are now taping the 1,000th episode.

"One of the interesting things about a show like that is that other shows' producers and crews come and help out on their shows to learn," KMTV executive director Brian Szabo said.

One reason volunteers stick with the show is they can produce programs about anything that interests them -- from an all Japanese-American combat unit in World War II, to saving peregrine falcons, to everything you ever wanted to know about coffee.

Marilyn Priel of Los Gatos has tried every production job available, from director to host.

"It's not that I really like to be on camera, but I like to tell the story," Priel said. "And I keep thinking I've done enough, but then I always meet someone else and they have a story and I'll want to tell it."

When we asked how long these volunteers will stick with it, just about everyone had the same answer.

"As long as I am able," Carl McCann of Morgan Hill said.

The funding for "The Better Part" comes from the city of Cupertino. The 1,000th show airs Oct. 25. If you'd like to find out how to join the group or see their shows, visit www.thebetterpart.com

Written and produced by Jennifer Olney.


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