You should be watching this: HitRECord on TV

The new variety show from Joseph Gordon-Levitt is like nothing else on TV.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt hosts and directs HitRECord on TV airing Saturday nights at 9pm on Pivot.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt hosts and directs HitRECord on TV airing Saturday nights at 9pm on Pivot.

As the curtain goes up in the theater where HitRECord on TV is shot, a voice instructs the crowd, "Turn ON all your recording devices." While bright phone and camera screens have become the bane of concerts and other live performances, in the world of HitRECord, it's not only accepted, but encouraged.

HitRECord on TV is the latest project to come out of the community, an online collaborative production company started by multihyphenate Joseph Gordon-Levitt and his brother Dan in 2005. The site encourages users to upload all manner of artwork including film, music, photos, illustrations and writing. In doing so, users allow the other members of the online community to re-purpose their work into other, larger projects. Using this model, HitRECord has produced shorts films, albums and books and now they're taking on television.

Framed with a taped live-theater component similar to Comedy Central sketch shows like Key & Peele, Gordon-Levitt acts as host, brandishing a microphone stand topped with a digital camera that allows him to take video of the audience as the show unfolds. He's a capable showman, guiding the in-theater and at-home audience through the various works that make up the half-hour of programming. While the episodes feature performances that are recorded in the theater like live musical performances, the meat of the show tends to be presentations of short films cobbled woven together via elements from HitRECord contributors.

Each episode tackles a particular theme and HitRECord on TV's premiere fittingly tackles "The Number One." In addressing the concept of "first times," a short film called "First Stars I See Tonight" serves as a shining example of what HitRECord can accomplish. Based on a story from a young woman with night-blindness describing the first time she saw the stars, the film is utilizes voice-over work, music, illustrations and animation submitted by members of the community to create a stunningly beautiful and moving interpretation that began with one user's written work.

If you're at all concerned about Gordon-Levitt and HitRECord taking advantage of their users for profit, don't be. HitRECord has always shared the profits of its projects with contributors. The site's Terms of Service indicate that the budget of each episode has allocated $50,000 to distribute to artists whose work appears on the show and, if the company manages to turn a profit at some point, that money will also be split in half with the artists.

The one downside to HitRecord on TV is that it appears on Participant Media's new network Pivot, which is currently available in Chicago only to AT&T, DirecTV and Dish subscribers. However, "RE: The Number One" is available to watch online via YouTube and Hulu and is well worth checking out. Hopefully, by the time the show gets around to its second season—Pivot renewed the series before the first episode aired—the network will have expanded its reach.

HitRECord on TV is a refreshing new approach to television that should not be missed. You will be instantly immersed in the work that the incredibly talented online community creates and you might even be motivated to fire up and contribute something of your own to the process.

HitRECord on TV airs Saturday nights at 9pm on Pivot.

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Laura Baginski, Editor (@TimeOutChicago)