Want a quick and easy way to entertain the family while also learning about the town you’re visiting? Try cable-access television shows. They offer a unique glimpse into local culture, and in some cases, you can do more than just watch them — you can actually be part of the performance. Here are some fan favorites across the United States that have opened up their tapings to the public:
www.kofytv.com) follows the popular reality show format and invites anyone with moves like Madonna or Michael Jackson to participate (though space is limited). This year’s theme is the 1980s: The more it looks like you’re still living in that decade — think stirrup pants, shoulder pads and teased hair — the better your chances of screen time.
A sort of American Bandstand for all walks, Chicago’s Chic-a-Go-Go (www.roctober.com/chicagogo) features its own hand-puppet host — a talking rat — as well as live musical acts ranging from the Plain White T’s to Japanese punk-pop band Shonen Knife. Expect to see solo seniors and entire families grooving, as well as costumed dancers such as life-size bananas and Sailor Moons.
www.austinvarietyshow.com), filmed monthly, engages studio audiences with participation games like the Mating Game (a modified version of the ’60s classic), as part of a larger lineup that includes stand-up comics and burlesque troupes.
And in the Boston area, The Steve Katsos Show (www.stevekatsos.com) gives Leno and Letterman a run for their money. Styled like a late-night talk show, it even has its own house band.