Friday, April 1, 2011

I (don't) Want my MTV

I am of the MTV generation; however, I just don’t get MTV. Growing up I was very into music, but always held a certain disdain for music videos (there were a few notable exceptions, namely anything by the Foo Fighters and Weezer’s “Buddy Holly”). Anyway, with the sharp decline in music video production, MTV has adapted and turned itself into one of the lowest bastions of pop culture (I’m aware that is an oxymoron). The channel managed to stay afloat by stumbling upon reality hit series “Laguna Beach” and its spinoff “The Hills.” Then when aspirational TV lost its allure, MTV appealed to that horrible aspect of the human psyche and specialized in what I like to call “trainwreck television.” I’m talking “Jersey Shore,” “16 and Pregnant” and “Teen Mom” - television that features people who are so horrible, you can’t help but watch. I imagine watching these shows can be very life-affirming; “I may not have a job or a husband or a family or whatever it is that I so greatly desire in life, but at least I’m not from Jersey!” Despite my own personal taste, this formula seems to be working for them, which is why I can’t explain MTV’s sudden obsession with fictionalized teen dramas and comedies.

I mentioned MTV’s adaptation of “Skins” in an earlier post. Let’s revisit the show now that it’s wrapped its run. It was pretty much a disaster – the ratings steadily declined over the ten episodes; sponsors couldn’t pullout fast enough (pun possibly intended); and its future at the network is still uncertain...also, it was unwatchable by normal television standards. Anyway, after this disaster, MTV has just announced that it plans on adapting yet another British series – the mostly hilarious “Inbetweeners.” Now, I actually really enjoy this show and I encourage you to check it out if you can; however, my biggest pet peeve with it is its overuse of gross-out humor (see: fart jokes, shit jokes, puke jokes, piss jokes, cum jokes…you catch my drift). Now, being on a US conventional network might solve some of these problems, but given MTV’s track record, my hopes remain very, very low. Their other recent foray into scripted comedy, “The Hard Times of RJ Berger,” does not bode well. The ratings were alright, but the couple of episodes that I caught were a disgrace to the teen raunch genre (which standards are pretty low to begin with). The structure was completely all over the place (which can be explained by the fact that it was originally conceived as a screenplay) and the “jokes” were merely teens saying nonsensical, weird shit. It also lacked any trace of heart – even though it has been self-described as “Superbad” meets “The Wonder Years.”

On a more optimistic note, MTV is also developing a series called “Savage U,” in which the intelligent and witty blogger, Dan Savage gives sex advice to college students; and “The Substitute” which is being heralded as “Cash Cab” in a high school classroom.

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