Happy Birthday, MTV: Getting Rid of Music Videos Since the Beginning
MTV is 30. It would be easy to go off on how it doesn't play music videos anymore. But that is really old news. Yes, for a while, it used to play all videos, then it was a lot of videos and some original programming, then it was about half videos/half TV shows, and somehow it's eliminated all music from its television.
For as long as MTV has made original programming, it's made a habit of rerunning every chance it got. Remember Making Michael Jackson's Thriller? This hourlong documentary ran heavily on MTV in 1983, just two years into the network's lifespan. The image of Michael Jackson being covered in plaster and crying because his cat eye contact lenses hurt is burnt into our minds.
In the late '80s/early '90s, MTV added a lot of killer shows to its roster. 120 Minutes was the spot where kids who were too young to go to shows were able to find out about bands like Pavement, Rancid, and Afghan Whigs. MTV Unplugged was something to look forward to and something talked about for days after.
Shows like MTV's Half Hour Comedy Hour, You Wrote It You Watch It, and The State are where we were first introduced to some of the biggest names in comedy. Dave Spade, Adam Sandler, Rob Schneider, Jon Stewart, Chris Rock, and Michael Ian Black all got face time on MTV's comedy shows before making their way into everyone's living room via SNL, The Daily Show, and I Love the '80s.
Even in the realm of animation, MTV scored big with Liquid Television, Aeon Flux, and Beavis & Butt-Head. Of course, it needn't be said that all the aforementioned shows were on constant repeat rotation with Kurt Loder and Tabitha Soren interjecting every hour to give us our Music News first.
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As MTV's creative team was working hard being, um, creative, The Real World was slowly creeping into the collective American subconscious, and as it became clear that we loved watching people being caught acting like dickheads and dorks on TV, it started whittling down the video time even more. And, it stopped making cool-ass cartoons and hilarious game shows altogether.
Shit started getting weird. Real World spun off into Road Rules, and they'd spin off into each other to do battles and quests and zip-gliding. MTV became the unofficial home for reality TV. True Life certainly keeps our attention with its coverage of Teenage Vampires Who Only Eat the Inside of Cushions and Pearls. Jersey Shore is an addictive watch, sure, but the lack of creativity and music from the network is really sad.
So, happy 30th birthday, MTV. You've grown up and learned to blend in with the crowd -- congrats! Is MTV not playing music videos even an issue anymore? No one watches videos on TV anymore. We watch them on YouTube; it's like the Box, but it is instantly gratifying and free. MTV is just another network to flip through while we wait for Parks and Recreation and Breaking Bad to come on.
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