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This Week in Joe’s Basement —
the series overview
In spring 1989, Joe Winston, then 22 years old, signed up to qualify to produce shows at Chicago Access Corporation.
Since their teenage years, Joe and his friends had made numerous short films, in and around the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago. Public Access cable, which arrived in Chicago in 1987, offered free access to television airwaves — with few restrictions.
The title "This Week in Joe's Basement" clearly implied an extreme version of the self-indulgence that many viewers would expect from an amateur television production. Of course, Saturday Night Live was taking up that very topic with "Wayne's World" skits.
Joe and his friend Paul Pomerleau conceived of a pastiche of PBS' Masterpiece Theatre as a suitable framing device for a half hour program. For images of literary history, they substituted snapshots of friends goofing off. For Allister Cooke, suave and dignified, they substituted Joe, unkempt and distracted by snack food.
That was it — it never occurred to anyone to specify what should happen once Joe had said "Good evening, and welcome to This Week in Joe's Basement." Like Masterpiece Theatre, each installment would stand on its own.
After turning out six episodes, which broadcast at irregular times, Joe and Paul attracted a team of collaborators, which enabled regular production. The show aired throughout Chicago on Monday nights at 11:30 pm.
As they launched the regular series, the producers rented a post office box for viewer mail submissions. Later they commandeered some public telephones to receive viewer phone calls. The ensuing dialog greatly enlivened the series.
After broadcasting sixty episodes, Joe's Basement signed off on July 5, 1993.
Guide to Joe's Basement on the web
This site contains all the episodes of the program, available for viewing or download. They vary greatly in quality, as the descriptions make clear. Some are not worth watching at all. A few others were "remixed" and broadcast again with improvements, leading to multiple versions.
Users of this site are encouraged to rate episodes and give . Please, however, do NOT send letters to the P.O. Box listed at the end of the episodes — it will be returned by annoyed postal employees.