Wednesday, August 02, 2006
I Miss My MTV
MTV officially turned 25 years old the other day, but you wouldn’t know it from watching the channel. That is apparently a closely held secret at the network which doesn’t want its target audience of adolescents to know that it was around long before most of them were born.
I was part of MTV’s target audience back when it first came out in 1981. I was turning 16 that summer and my family had just hooked up to cable TV for the first time. I had a little black and white television in my room that was permanently tuned to MTV throughout my latter high school years and I absorbed as many videos as I could.
I still remember coming home from school one evening shortly after our cable was hooked up and having one of my friends call to excitedly tell me that one of the Go-Gos videos was on.
Interestingly enough, back when it was getting started, MTV was relatively commercial free. I naively thought this was because we paid for cable and therefore didn’t have to watch commercials. Now I realize it was more likely due to the fact that the fledgling channel had not lured advertisers away from the big three networks at that early stage. But very soon I noticed that they would have the video jockeys or VJs hawking Snickers bars in between videos and before long there were just as many ads on cable as anywhere else.
MTV had a huge impact on my musical tastes during that time. I became a huge fan of The Police largely because of the video for “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic.” Other favorites included Cheap Trick, the Go-Gos, J. Geils Band, Loverboy, Asia, Joan Jett, John Cougar (Mellencamp) and Rick Springfield. I also became very familiar with many other groups that I otherwise would probably never have been exposed to such as Adam Ant, Duran Duran, Madness, Men at Work, The Pretenders, Flock of Seagulls, Squeeze and many others.
When I went off to college in the Fall of ‘83 I missed out on the next couple years worth of MTV since freshmen and sophomores in the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M were not allowed to have televisions in their rooms. By the time I got a TV in my junior year, MTV had changed significantly. All the original VJs I was familiar with were gone and they were busy phasing out the whole VJ format. Furthermore, the random and unstructured stringing of videos together that had at first seemed so novel and fresh was now being replaced with niche blocks of video programming with a heavy concentration on rap, heavy metal and alternative music, none of which particularly appealed to me at the time.
So my MTV viewing became much less frequent and by the time they introduced Beavis and Butthead as a regular feature on the network, I was about through with it. I had no interest in the reality programs that they pioneered or the inane Spring Break programming that would last all summer. I feel very fortunate that I totally missed out on seeing the Jackass series (which later became a movie that I have avoided seeing even though Richard Roeper of Ebert and Roeper fame gave it “thumbs up” the same year that he gave Lord of the Rings a thumbs down - Moron!).
Now, even the alternative VH-1 channel rarely shows videos. I feel disconnected from the current music scene because I don’t get to see the videos and can’t even find radio stations that will play current day music most of the time.
So I guess I am just too old now because I find MTV to be unwatchable. Thus I can understand why MTV would avoid celebrating its 25th anniversary. Because the folks like me who would care about it have pretty much the opinion best articulated by Beavis and Butthead: MTV Sucks.