Time for MTV to get back to the music

Edward Leonard

MTV, my old friend, what has happened to you? You used to be the best channel on the whole of cable television with music videos. Now look at you. You give me things like “True Life” and “Jersey Shore.” Why have you done this to me? To yourself? To all of your loyal, devoted fans from days of yore?

When you started, the year was 1981, and when you launched you were on top of the world — figuratively, the footage from the moon landing was used in the first moments on-air. You were modern, you were edgy, and you became a crux of pop culture almost overnight

Oh and you were clever: famously playing “Video Killed the Radio Star” as your first ever music video. Did I detect a hint of symbolism? I think so.

You elevated the music video from a cheap sideshow promotional gimmick for a band into a legitimate art form; attractions in and of themselves. Your rise gave rise to an entirely new format of music, another dimension of an artist’s work that could convey meanings like nothing else up to that point.

Even through the 1990s, when my generation and I were in our formative years, you dominated, nay, defined the idea of “cool.” You were the ones telling people Nirvana was great; the ones who got rid of the hair-metal of the 1980s; and made hip-hop and pop into what they are today.

It’s quite the resume you’ve built yourself. What do all of your accomplishments have in common? The innovation and development of music.

So one would think that you’d try to keep that up. The musical spectrum is just as diverse now as it ever was when you started out or in your glory days, maybe even more so. But if I were to turn on my TV right now chances are I’d be greeted with such quality programming as “16 and Pregnant” or some other such reality show nonsense.

Don’t get me wrong, I love schadenfreude as much as the next guy. And as much as I hate to admit it, there’s a niche for low-quality programs about stupid people doing stupid things for stupid reasons. “Jackass” became three movies.

But if I tune in to the station I that defined cool for 20 years, Snooki and The Situation are not the people I want to see. “Punk’d” was not funny. If I wanted to see Ashton Kutcher shouting like a baboon I would watch “That ’70s show,”  which is, incidentally, now playing its reruns on MTV.

In fact, it seems like stupidity is really the thing you tout most now, even encourage. “Bully Beatdown” is a rip-off of UFC, which is pretty high quality programming to begin with. Watching an egotistical moron punch a self-centered idiot for an hour or two seems so fun!

Alternatively, we have “Silent Library,” a game show where the contestants are to make fools of themselves without making noise. Described as “‘Jackass’ … set in a closed environment,” this show not only highlights your quality intellectual programming but also your striking originality.

So come back to your roots, MTV. Come back and show me music videos for hours on end, let the VJ’s educate me and open my eyes to new artists, genres and ideas. The path you’re on is a betrayal your exceptional heritage and the brilliancy that you once displayed. Your name stands for “Music Television.” Get back to the music. Preferably at sometime that isn’t 3 a.m.