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Coming of age in the early ’90s among the hills and pits of Fitchburg, there weren’t too many opportunities to get your mind warped (in the non-kegger sense).

The state college had a radio station that got adventurous a few hours a week; the hockey rink by the park hosted a bunch of unlikely touring bands from Fugazi to Nirvana; and it was a half-hour drive to Worcester, where the Tatnuck Bookseller had all the stuff the Waldenbooks wouldn’t carry. Apart from that, I had “Twin Peaks” and “Alive From Off Center.

“Alive From Off Center” was (quite literally) a showcase of contemporary art and artists, broadcast by WNET and select PBS stations from 1985 to 1986. Each episode took a different form, denting impressionable minds with video works, dance, theater, and experiments from artists like Laurie Anderson, Spalding Gray, Tom Rubnitz, and Zbigniew Rybczynski. PBS’s “POV” was also where I experienced Marlon Riggs’s seminal work on the black experience of the AIDS crisis, “Tongues Untied.”

I hadn’t thought of Riggs or “Alive” in years, but both came rushing to mind last Friday when I watched my first (and hopefully long from last) episode of Terence Nance’s visionary new show for HBO, “Random Acts of Flyness.” (Which has just been renewed for a second season.)

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Each episode is a melange of documentary film, surrealist skits, rattling satire, musical performances, and whatever other forms Nance’s imagination assumes. This could mean a stream-of-consciousness animation that spirits you back to the days of “Liquid Television,” or a cutting critique on “white thoughts” in the form of a twisted public access program — imagine a way more woke “Wonder Showzen.”

This first season also serves as a showcase for a number of talented directors (including Frances Bodomo, Naima Ramos-Chapman, Mariama Diallo, and Darius Clark Monroe) as well as guest stars like Dominique Fishback, Whoopi Goldberg, Ntare Guma Mwine, Adepero Oduye, and Jon Hamm.

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Rarely do we get to see TV treated as a conduit for change, a commons for discourse, or a medium for art; but “Random Acts of Flyness” manages all three in a tidy 30 minutes. And its midnight airtime is worth staying up for, as it really feels like television passing into something like a dream state — offering a different kind of consciousness.


Michael Andor Brodeur can be reached at mbrodeur@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @MBrodeur.