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New Television; O Panama

Part of New Television Workshop.


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New Television
O Panama
Series Description

"New Television" began as a local pilot production of WNET (New York) in 1986. In 1987, WGBH signed on as co-producer, and the shows were aired in Boston and New York. In 1988 and 1989, KCET (Los Angeles) and WETA (D.C.) became producers in association. In 1991, PBS picked up "New Television," and it was broadcast nationally. The following year, the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio, replaced WNET, WETA, and KCET as co-producer with WGBH. In 1993, WGBH ceased to be a co-producer for the series, and the "home base" moved to Connecticut Public Television (CPTV) in Hartford, CT.

"New Television" commissioned, produced, and acquired programming. In its early years, "New Television" broadcast works commissioned by The Contemporary Art Television (CAT) Fund. Increasingly, experimental films as well as video works were broadcast as a part of this series. Many of the later episodes of "New Television" contain works that play with and deconstruct the documentary genre. Series release date: 1986

Program Description

“O Panama,” 1985, a video drama, was created by James Benning, based on a story by Burt Barr. A series of short images or vignettes, some of which are repeated, build to tell the story of a feverish man (Willem Dafoe) in a city apartment remembering time he spent in Panama, probably as a soldier. The suggestion is that as he endures the fever, he is visited by recollections, visualizations, and hallucinations of other places and events. Early on in the work, words describing but not pinpointing the man's illness slowly cross the screen. There is very little spoken text. Dafoe is seen lying in bed, sweating, moving about the apartment, watching a Western on television, walking his dog, and listening to the radio. Intercut with this are images of postcards and snapshots of exotic animals; snowy buildings; and Dafoe at a waterfall, playing baseball, and underneath an army tent singing a warbling version of the national anthem.



Asset Type

Broadcast program

Media Type


Film and Television
Miller, Craig ()
Gurley, Thomas ()
Benefield, Sebastian Moore ()
Gurley, Joseph ()
Dafoe, Willem ()
Barr, Burt ()
Benning, James ()
Chicago: “New Television; O Panama,” 12/03/1985, GBH Archives, accessed December 9, 2023,
MLA: “New Television; O Panama.” 12/03/1985. GBH Archives. Web. December 9, 2023. <>.
APA: New Television; O Panama. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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