With the advent of “music television” in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, there was a sea change in how consumers discovered new music. Bands like Zion, Illinois’ Shoes, while never really gaining big time national success, had their videos in heavy rotation on MTV simply because they had shot a few early video clips. While MTV was the biggest kid on the block, New Wave Theatre provided an alternative to the national music station featuring punk and new wave acts, particularly those local to Los Angeles such as X, Fear, and The Blasters.
Episodes of the show have been released on video in the past and are now long out of print. Thankfully, YouTube user NEWAVE THEATRE has uploaded all 25 episodes of New Wave Theatre for the internet’s viewing pleasure.
New Wave Theatre was the brainchild of David Jove and then Billboard magazine editor Ed Ochs. Broadcast on Los Angeles area UHF station channel 18, the show featured a high-energy, low-budget format that jived with the punk movement’s D.I.Y attitude. Host Peter Ivers, the ringmaster of this musical circus–generally clad in sunglasses, skinny ties, and other hallmarks of early ‘80s new wave style fashions—provided the glue in-between performances, interviews, and comedy sketches that held the show together. New Wave Theatre was broadcast nationally on the USA Network—long before Suits and Psych marathons—as part of their Night Flight block of programing.
New Wave Theatre came to an end in 1983 when Ivers was found bludgeoned to death in his Los Angeles apartment. The case remains unsolved to this day. Harold Ramis and New Wave Theatre producer Jove attempted to resurrect the show as The Top in 1983. Despite featuring big-name musical acts The Romantics and Cyndi Lauper as well as Second City alums Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd, Ramis, Jove, and all of the parties involved were unable to work together—presumably due to egos and drugs—and only the pilot was produced.
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