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Online channel TakePart TV: relevant, entertaining

SHARE Online channel TakePart TV: relevant, entertaining

NEW YORK — Hey, YouTubers! Have you danced your fill to "Gangnam Style"? Have you seen enough versions of "Call Me Maybe"?

Now video grazers can check out a brand-new YouTube channel that promises to be as amusing as any cat on a skateboard but also to engage you with ideas for changing the world.

TakePart TV, launching Tuesday, is a digital home for what the network has termed "clever, eye-opening and optimistic content around big issues that face our planet." The target audience is millennials ranging from teenage to 30.

One of YouTube's new 100-channel portfolio, TakePart TV will deliver original programming that consists of news, short-form comedy, animation and nonfiction series featuring such names as Henry Rollins, Dan Savage and Kobe Bryant.

"The mission of this channel is to create awesome stuff for people who give a s---," says Evan Shapiro, president of Participant Television. "But what we want to do is not just give them stuff that entertains them, but stuff they want to spread around: The great thing about the Internet is, you're just a click away from sharing your favorite content with a million people."

The network's flagship show is "BFD: Brain Food Daily," whose five correspondents will focus on sex, power, media, mind and the planet. Topics this week include "The Price of Vice: Making Money by Legalizing Sex, Drugs and Gambling" and "Five Worst Hells: Countdown of the World's Worst Afterlives."

Other TakePart TV fare includes:

— "American Savage": Columnist-podcaster-pundit Dan Savage sounds off on such topics as sex, religion and politics.

— "Compton Cricket": This docuseries will follow an effort to introduce troubled youth in Compton, Calif., to the gentleman's game of cricket, fusing them into an exceptional team.

— "Mission": Basketball great Kobe Bryant heads to Los Angeles' Skid Row to investigate the plague of homelessness.

— "Capitalism": Poet-writer-activist Henry Rollins hits the campaign trail with a two-month odyssey to all 50 state capitals, fueled by his own vision of the issues driving the election.

In discussing the potential for TakePart TV, Shapiro points to the thousands of "Call Me Maybe" covers and parodies that sprang up in response to the original by Carly Rae Jepsen. He cites the hundreds of millions of viewings of South Korean rapper PSY's "Gangnam Style."

What would happen if such interest and viral response were spurred by issues TakePart TV's audience embraces as socially significant?

"This generation cares, and they're looking to be part of something larger than themselves," says Shapiro. "We're giving them that — something actionable on a daily basis — as well as something to enjoy."

TakePart TV is the first effort by Participant Television, which Shapiro joined last May after previously serving as president of IFC TV and Sundance Television. He has executive produced such documentaries and series as "This Film Is Not Yet Rated," and the Peabody Award-winning "Brick City" and "Portlandia."

"Television is not a box, a place or a time slot," says Shapiro. "It's an exchange of values between an artist and an audience. TakePart TV is a piece of television that happens to be online."

Meanwhile, Participant Television has "big plans" for programming on TV as well, he adds.

Parent company Participant Media has produced fiction and nonfiction films including "Charlie Wilson's War," ''An Inconvenient Truth," ''Good Night and Good Luck" and "The Help," as well as the upcoming Steven Spielberg-directed biopic "Lincoln."

Now, with TakePart TV, it aims to bring social relevance to online video.

"It's meant to be entertaining and fun, raw and viral," says Shapiro. "And it's meant to have a brain. If there are kittens on skateboards, they'll have something to say."