Sunday, March 3, 2013

It wasn't always this way

Friday night we were hanging in the kitchen, cooking dinner, and thought it would be a good idea to turn on MTV, see what the music mothership was showing on a Friday night. For kids who grew up in the 90s, there’s nothing cooler than a little MTV on a TGIF. From TRL, to Puck the bike messenger, to THE HILLS, MTV was the background of our teenaged and early twenties. There were weekends when it would be on from Friday to Sunday without rest. MTV was the pulse of all things cool. So we turned on channel 57 and were met by something called RIDICU-LIST.

From what I could tell this is a show that plays videos of people doing dumb things then a panel of F-List celebrities make fun of them. After that: The latest half-hour staple from those two human waste-disposals: J-Woww and Snooki. Um, not to sound old and outdated, but this is MTV on a Friday? Really? To get figurative: Does anyone remember when MTV was the cool dude at the party, with the sunglasses and leather coat, who hung in the corner, gave out the vibe? Now MTV’s the over-tanned, tattooed idiot who’s wearing a graphic t-shirt and drinking beer on his head before beating up somebody because he supposedly looked at his girlfriend. MTV is mean-spirited and uncool now. It’s not MTV anymore.

I’m not another of these knuckleheads who’s saying “put all videos back on.” Videos haven’t played on a whip in twenty years. In the 90s, post-videos, MTV was putting out pioneering television. The shows had heart and soul, and were fun. MTV was on the forefront in a responsible way. MTV was the voice of our generation.

This turn to trash-barrel TV has happened in just the last five years. MTV did what so many are doing in today’s world: It took the quick score, the instant gratification, rather than weighing the long-term and responsible course. When MTV got in bed with the JERSEY SHORE, it allowed crude and cruel to python around 1515 Broadway, squeeze the last drop of importance from the channel. The money came and the attention was huge. JERSEY SHORE added phrases to the lexicon, and everyone was watching to see what this bottom-feeding gang from Seaside would do next. MTV had stabled the hottest thing on TV. Cha-Ching. But it also had a malignant tumor growing in its gut.

What MTV didn’t realize as they reshaped the network’s image around this freak-fest was that they were rubber stamping alcohol abuse for fun, nonstop sex with anyone, extreme violence, and worst of all, finding humor from being cruel. That’s my greatest complaint with MTV now: It’s a 24/7 celebration of making fun of people. Of course shows like the REAL WORLD discussed alcohol and sexuality, but it was dealt with tastefully and responsibly. The Real Worlders didn't just get loaded and laid. They argued issues of race, and worked jobs, and fell in love, and chased dreams, and dealt with heartbreak and sickness and death, and grew as people THEN got wasted and laid. But MTV said to hell with the human condition, we’ll take the payday. A slippery slope with a nation of 14-24 year olds watching.

Why is MTV so worried about making money? The channel is established, the ratings will come. Why throw aside quality control just to ring the register? MTV was once a serious piece of pop culture. It gave the masses a lens to the music industry. It made us feel like we knew the Madonnas and Axl Roses of the world. It educated us about racism and AIDS and war. It got Bill Clinton elected. Kurt Loder brought a serious news presence to the network. Their handling of Cobain’s death was epic. Who does the news now: Ronnie and Teen Mom? Don’t be silly, Brian, MTV doesn’t do news anymore. They put on videos of guys riding snowmobiles into walls and make fun of it. They put on scripted reality shows that promise a good fight, a good lay, and a good round of cruel ribbing in every install. That really speaks to the youth with responsibility.

How can MTV even call itself MTV anymore? John Lennon would roll in his grave if he knew that Snooki and the Situation were being aired out as music television. Bunim would roll in hers too. Even MTV’s TRUE LIFE is scripted and phony now. The channel went from landmark television to 24/7 crap. And for anyone who thinks MTV and VH1 are against each other, I beg to differ. I think the channels are thick as thieves. I would’ve loved to have turned on 57 Friday night and seen an old concert on replay, or a video countdown, or a documentary about Justin Timberlake making his new album, or anything except three idiots making fun of people when their pants fell down. It wasn't always this way. MTV was once the coolest cat in the room, daddy-o.

RIP, MTV (1981-2012) Cause of Death: Swelling wallet pockets from complications of JERSEY SHORE cancer.

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Brian Huba

1 comment:

  1. this is a sad tale I've been griping over for years now, & it truthfully makes me relieved that good ol' channel 57 is not included in Time Warner's basic cable so there's no risk of accidentally being subject to even a brief glimpse of MTV's continuing self-destruction.