Besides sharing his name with the always civic-minded Captain America, videographer Steve Rogers maintains a not-so secret identity as the creator, producer, host and high-mileage guy behind the wheel of Driving Jersey, the hyperlocal public television series that rolls into its fifth season on New Jersey Public Television this fall.
Like Vic Rallo’s Eat! Drink! Italy and other independently produced regional PBS programming, Driving Jersey depends entirely on the support of regional sponsors, with a much greater emphasis on contributions from “viewers like you” than what commonly funds nationally broadcast fare like Masterpiece and Nova. And, at the start of a season that promises a portrait of “an extraordinary public music teacher from Tinton and the amazing results she gets from her students using a ‘unique’ teaching style that emphasizes courage, love and inspiration,” captain Rogers is giving a curbside call-out to area residents who appreciate the opportunity to see themselves and their neighbors in a setting that reclaims the concept of “reality TV” in a way that’s refreshingly devoid of scripting, manipulative editing and the studio-bound same-old.
Other upcoming episodes in the new slate of Driving programs include a profile of area-based band Thomas Wesley Stern — “six childhood friends who, only in their late twenties, are finding success by playing music that’s over a century old” — and a look at Asbury Park-based Premier Theatre Company and its annual production of Scrooge at the historic Paramount Theater — a tradition that “started when the city was still just a shuttered, dark has-been,” and a documentary that “follows the ghosts of Asbury’s past, present and future, against the backdrop of the play’s production unfolding from rehearsal, to opening night.”
As Rogers tells it, “Those are just a few stories we’re telling this year, but the internal story of our show is also unfolding, it also is a tale of ups and downs. We’re covering these great stories that are true, engaging and uplifting, but we continue to do so without sponsorship, paying for the production with whatever we can scrape together. And this year we had a series of unfortunate mechanical and technical difficulties that have ended up costing us a lot. Now, as we are knee-deep in the edit on our fifth season, we are struggling to keep this show on the road.
“We continue to seek out a sponsor who understands and respects the kind of genuine, sympathetic storytelling that we produce and also appreciates the large audience we play to, 2.2 million people in 5 states in the Northeast. But we are also forced to have an online fundraiser, something we’ve only ever done once before in the seven years we’ve been creating. It’s difficult for us to do this, because we’re proud of being a show for the people, of the people, without asking for it also to be BY the people, but without some help from our friends and neighbors our fifth season on PBS will have to be our last.”
Take it here to donate to the Kickstarter campaign for Driving Jersey — and email Hello@DrivingJersey.com for more on the program and its ongoing effort to keep the tank fueled up for further adventures.