Tune in to The Groton Channel, Groton’s public cable access station, on any Thursday evening at 7:30, and it is a sure bet you will see Jane Alpert Bouvier hosting “Around Town,” a weekly talk show she has stood at the forefront of for the past 20 years.
What is far less certain is who will be in the other chair. It might be a town selectman or the school superintendent, of course. But it might also be a state official, a middle school musical star, a local artist, or shopkeeper. If you caught the show the last week in January, you might have even seen Bouvier interviewing a police dog.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad guest,” Bouvier said about The Groton Channel’s anchor show, which she has produced for 17 years. “Once people start talking, there’s always something interesting to learn from them.”
Bouvier’s tenure with the show started when it was still run out of a small studio at the old Groton-Dunstable High School; today the studio is located in the new school building. “The station manager saw me at Town Meeting one night and ran over to say he wanted me to do a show. I said, ‘You’re crazy. Don’t be ridiculous.’ But there was a woman on the other side of the auditorium whom he somehow knew I was not fond of, and he said to me, ‘If you don’t do it, I’ll go ask her.’ I said, ‘OK, I’ll do it.’ ”
The tenacious station manager no doubt knew something of Bouvier’s background. A former stage actress, she grew up in New York City, where her father worked as a theatrical agent, having previously served as bandleader at the ill-fated Coconut Grove dance hall in Boston; he was there the night it went up in flames.
The network’s longest-running cable access show, Around Town airs live every Thursday evening and is replayed daily throughout the week. Each episode typically includes two guest segments. Bouvier tells her guests to plan to talk for about 12 minutes. “Most people will say, ‘Oh, no, I could never do that,’” she reflected. “Then they come on and they love it so much they want their own show.”
Bouvier has interviewed everyone from Deval Patrick — with whom she bonded on air over the topic of his forthcoming hip replacement — to Martha Coakley to the late J. Geils to Groton native and Globe sports reporter Dan Shaughnessy. She is proud of the fact that she doesn’t do much preparation or research before an interview but mostly ad-libs her questions.
“I like learning about someone just as if I were in the audience,” she said. “And I’m not distracted by looking down at notes.”
Joshua Degen, a 17-year veteran of the Select Board, appreciates Bouvier both as a citizen and an elected official. “She stays on top of town-related hot-button topics and brings people on both sides of an issue on to debate the relative merits. She’s a great resource for people who don’t have time to attend town meetings or familiarize themselves with the issues they’ll be voting on at the polls.”
As a mother of four and a grandmother to seven, Bouvier, 74, particularly enjoys interviewing children. If one of the schools in town has an upcoming performance or other special project, she’ll invite young participants to talk about it with her on air.
Giving voice to a range of local personalities serves a critical function in a semi-rural community like Groton, Bouvier pointed out. “I invite elderly people who have been in town for a million years but never get a chance to be seen,” she said. “That way more people know who they are. When there’s a selectmen’s race underway, I have the candidates appear together to discuss the issues. I provide a way for people to get to know everyone in town. Half of Groton’s population lives nowhere near the center and goes to work in Boston and never see what’s going on around town. I try to bring it to them.”Nancy Shohet West can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.