It’s a bird, it’s a plane – no, it’s Greensboro Zoning Man.
While he may not exactly keep Greensboro as safe as Batman keeps Gotham, Zoning Man does seem to know a lot about zoning.
Area citizen’s who tuned in to Spectrum cable’s Channel 13 on Thursday. Dec. 27 – whether accidently or on purpose – found themselves treated to the season premiere of the longest and most involved episode yet of the spirited instructional series that now claims three shows in all.
There’s no evidence that Zoning Man can fly – despite having a red cape – and, apparently, his only superpower is that he knows everything and anything one could wish to know about zoning laws officially the Land Development Ordinance.
While, as superpowers go, that ranks just slightly above the power to pour exactly two aspirins out of the bottle every time on the first attempt, Zoning Man – if not superhuman – is highly effective in serving his purpose: teaching citizens about zoning rules and regulations. The new episode, like the previous two installments, is geared to help residents better understand what to do during rezoning cases that affect them.
This latest Zoning Manadventure has the hero guiding a city resident through a rezoning hearing for a property on her street.
While the show isn’t eligible for an Academy Award since it has never had theater release, it’s clear that city staff had a barrel of fun making the episode. There are all sorts of self-referential jokes that give the show a depth rarely seen in municipally produced videos. In fact, it may very well be the most interesting show ever made about municipal rezoning hearings.
For instance, when Zoning Man is waiting for a hearing to start, he is reading a Zoning Man comic book. And the woman who plays one of the leads at spots planning officials and says, “Oh yeah, there are those nice Planning Department staff – super helpful folks!” Also, throughout the show, the hero inexplicably calls Greensboro, “Greeeeeeeensboro!”
Aside from lots of little-hidden jewels, the show has superhero sound effects, dramatic special effects – if not always Pixar quality – and cartoon graphics overlaid on the “action” scenes, just like in the old Batman shows when the word “Pow!” or “Kaboom!” would appear on screen in a graphics bubble when the masked avenger hits a bad guy.
Two Zoning Board members portrayed in the show are Al Letemehaveit and Tina Talksalot, though the Rhino Timescould not verify that either of these two had ever actually served as Greensboro Zoning Board members.
The truest to life aspect of the show is the angry resident who looks like he’s about to clock someone during the hearing. The burly man shouts, with dramatic music playing for emphasis: “Yes I have a concern! Won’t the lighting sources from this new development affect our property and our sleeping habits? I don’t want it there!”
There is one – or 50 – of these people at many rezoning hearings.
The only information in the show that seems misguided is Zoning Man’s claim that zoning boards follow comprehensive plans.
The video series is produced by the Greensboro Television Network (GTN). Last year, Devon Smith, a producer with the GTN won a Telly Award for his work on “Zoning Man.” Telly Awards are given out as part of a national competition that recognizes excellence in broadcast production in local, regional and cable TV commercials. Last year’s honor was the first Telly Award for Smith and it was the 32nd award won by GTN since 2000.