Who was the last VJ on MTV? Maybe this will be a question in Trivial Pursuit in the…let’s face it, the near future. Maybe the answer was Beavis and Butthead, which I read in a comment section on a blog. Like a has-been celebrity, MTV has tried to revive its relevance again, but in a post-reality TV world, with an audience who was probably in pre-school when Beavis and Butthead had their first go-round, it makes me wonder that instead of snarking on Lady Gaga and Kanye videos, maybe they should go the way of “Drawn Together” and have a camera follow them around, two men in their thirties, living in a trailer park, dead-end jobs, with the only form of real entertainment is snarking on one of MTV’s spinoff channels, M2, MTV Jams, etc, seeing as that the original has long since stopped playing videos.
2011 marks it’s 30th anniversary, and as usual, the media outlets paid their homage, VH1 (MTV for people over 25), of all channels even had a tribute. Other outlets probably showed old clips and talking heads rattling off the history, and of course someone, somewhere, mentions Michael Jackson as the first black artist, as well as the backpedaling of the network’s bigwigs at the time; it’s not that they didn’t want Black People on their network, they weren’t enough black people who played rock. Right.
So, what happened to the M part of this abbreviation? The original channel only shows music about 6 hours a day, usually when its target demographic is asleep, the other 18 hours….endless loop of reality tv.
The US’s fascination with reality TV is like a terminal disease. Americans love to watch trainwrecks; America loves schadenfruede; no matter how much your life may suck, you can always turn on most cable channels for a flavor-of-the-month reality TV show and say “At least I’m not as fucked up as that guy.”
We even expect, maybe even demand trainwreckiness from our celebrities; entertainers known more for their public fuck ups then they are for their art. Amy Winehouse’s death had celebrity gossip blogs busting out of their seams with comments. A lot of commentators couldn’t name one song she sang, let alone heard one.
I was on the planet nine years and 344 days when MTV went on the air for the first time. Back then. I didn’t get to experience MTV until my late teens, when my family signed up for Comcast Cable. Before that, music video options were limited to Friday Night Videos on NBC, or a local show called Video Rock, which aired on one of the local UHF channels (readers under 21 can ask their parents about that). Back in those days, there were videos, and a few animated shows crept into the lineup. There was Yo! MTV Raps, 120 minutes, Headbangers’ Ball; the two Julies and their respective shows…now replaced with Real World Any City USA, Teen Mom, and True Life. There was Liquid TV, Beavis and Butthead, Daria, The Maxx, Spy Grove, (hey, I liked that show). Even though they weren’t music shows, at least most of them were soundtracked to the same tunes you listened to on the same channel.
I’m not the first one to get in “get off my lawn” mode when it comes to music channels, nor am I the first one to say a variation of “MTV suck because they don’t play videos anymore.” Still, like a can of New Coke, Viacom dropped M2, which was supposed to show nothing but music, while the “classic” was still showing, and quietly getting rid of their animated shows, and picking up cameras to follow 7 young people around while they were crashed in a nice apartment for a few weeks. Normally, I would use a little decorum, but fuck it. Mary Ellis Bunim single-handedly killed off music television and replaced it with a visual zombie that infected the viewing public, leaving it to stumble around and satisfy its hunger for fuckery.
With the state of the world and the fickleness of American audiences, to reach 30 truly is reason to celebrate, but in MTV’s case, it’s like finding out that the coworker you can take or leave to at work had a birthday that day. You think it’s nice, shrug your shoulders, and wish for a beer. Right now, cable has a million channels, with a few that are annexes of the original music channels: any three letters here, with Classic, Soul, Jams, Hits. VH1 also turned into a platform for bad reality shows, most of them portraying African-American women in a bad light. Like its older sister station, appealing to the younger folks, music is given the third shift. It’s as if both of these stations, decided in their twenties that they wanted a new look, and went with something that was all wrong for them. But their friends don’t have the heart to tell them, because this new looking is bringing in money from advertisers and rating. It makes me wish that MTV, like many 30 year olds, would go though a pre-midlife crisis, wonder when it stopped being about the music and turned into the cable neighborhood douche-bag by unleashing Puck and Carson Daly onto the world.
Just like video killed the radio star, fuckery killed the video star.
I wonder what’s on Fuse right now.