MTV at 30 – Who Cares If It’s about the Music?

The moon landing was used as an ident for MTV ...

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Yesterday, MTV celebrated its 30th birthday.  Many writers are commemorating the big day by bemoaning the lack of music programming on the network. See, back when it first started out, MTV was actually all about the music. And then The Real World came around and changed everything.

I’m 34, and I have to admit that I’ve rarely ever watched MTV for the music. We didn’t have cable in my house until after I had left for college, so I didn’t start to watch the network until the late 90s. Programming had already begun to shift towards reality TV. The music videos they did show were mostly grunge, R&B, rap, and hip-hop. I’ve never been into any of that stuff. I liked watching The Real World, Road Rules, and the Real World/Road Rules challenges in the years before the first Vegas season, back when the shows really were a social experiment. And then there was Daria, one of my favorite cartoons ever. I caught a rerun of it the other day on some random cable channel and found myself laughing just as hard as ever.

The only time Contrapuntist and I had a few moments of interest in MTV’s recent music programming was when they revived Headbanger’s Ball. Sure, we hated most of the bands because they all sounded the same. But it was pretty exciting every now and again when they’d show one of our favorites, like Dream Theater, Lacuna Coil, or Opeth. Then, the network started pushing the show into increasingly later time slots. It eventually ended up at 1:00 AM in the morning, far too late at night for old fogies like us.

Even though I’m slightly over the demographic, I still indulge in watching The Real World and the various Challenges. However, there isn’t anything else on the network in which I’m even moderately interested. You couldn’t get me to watch Jersey Shore or Teen Mom if you taped my eyelids open.

These days, the network seems to be breeding increasingly ridiculous reality shows. MySpace and YouTube have certainly surpassed MTV as the source for discovering new music. So how can MTV maintain contact with its musical origins? had an interesting take on it:

It seems MTV is doing one of two things: It’s either banking on the nostalgia of its older viewers or realizing that it needs to get back to its roots and return to a time when the programming was better. Just as people have revelations as they approach their thirtieth birthdays, maybe MTV’s executives are doing a little soul-searching and trying to get back in touch with their roots. They’ve passed through the pig-headed teenage years and their promiscuous 20s—it’s time to grow up, self-reflect and find some quality shows.

Maybe their next step will be to dedicate more of their schedule to music and introduce new programs that don’t suck.

I’ll tell you one thing. If they ever decide to resurrect Daria, I’m so there.

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