Cranky Poll: When Did MTV Lose It?

Today is the 25th anniversary of the launch of MTV, back in 1981, with “Video Killed the Radio Star.” Blogdom is, appropriately enough, full of people offering tributes and soliciting fond recollections of the days when they played music videos on MTV. See, for example, posts by Abel and Scalzi.

Just to be contrarian, here’s a space for a different sort of reminscence: When, in your opinion, did MTV pass the point of no return on the path that led to the current nearly-music-free channel?

My personal feeling is that while it became irretrievable with the launch of “The Real World,” the process actually began earlier, quite possibly with the game show “Remote Control.” While it seemed enjoyable at the time (hey, I’m a child of the 80′s…), it was actually the first step away from straight music programming.

What do you think?

Comments

  1. #1 Steinn Sigurdsson
    August 1, 2006

    Clearly MTV lost it just after I turned 20.

  2. #2 Rob Knop
    August 1, 2006

    Nerd alert.

    I was never interested in MTV. I’m one of these guys who thinks of Aaron Copeland as modern music… even though I was very much chronologically part of the MTV generation when it first came out.

    -Rob

  3. #3 Dylan
    August 1, 2006

    Huh, I’d always thought MTV started with Jenny McCarthy on Singled Out.

  4. #4 RPM
    August 1, 2006

    “…the process actually began earlier, quite possibly with the game show Remote Control.”

    Ha! I put down Remote Control as my favorite MTV momment on Abel’s blog. If any of the shows today could capture the spontaneity, absurdity, and downright unscripted disorganization that remote control had, I’d start watching MTV again (with or without videos).

  5. #5 Chad Orzel
    August 1, 2006

    Ha! I put down Remote Control as my favorite MTV momment on Abel’s blog. If any of the shows today could capture the spontaneity, absurdity, and downright unscripted disorganization that remote control had, I’d start watching MTV again (with or without videos).

    Oh, I was a big fan at the time. But in hindsight, it seems like that’s about the point that they really started to lose the focus on music, and move toward making their own shows.

    The network continued to be watchable up until “The Real World,” but they started to go bad around the time of “Remote Control.”

  6. #6 cisko
    August 1, 2006

    With no cable in my college and post-college years, I’m unsure of what “Remote Control” was, exactly. IIRC it was more TV trivia… which is definitely a sign of the impending doom. ‘Beavis and Butthead’ was another big milemarker along the way.

    I would postulate that any ‘niche’ network will migrate towards mainstream programming at exactly its rate of popular acceptance. ESPN is another example, unless you want to claim that poker and (shudder) dominoes are actually sports. And watch OLN (soon to be: Versus) for another example.

  7. #7 Dennis
    August 1, 2006

    I would have to vote for the rise of “The Real World.” While “Remote Control” was definitely the first show I can remember that wasn’t strictly music videos, at least the whole point was that it was _about_ music videos. “The Real World” had nothing to do with music videos.

    That “identify the 10 music videos” at the end was so hard. I never got more than about three.

  8. #8 Captain C
    August 2, 2006

    “My personal feeling is that while it became irretrievable with the launch of “The Real World,” the process actually began earlier, quite possibly with the game show “Remote Control.” While it seemed enjoyable at the time (hey, I’m a child of the 80′s…), it was actually the first step away from straight music programming.”

    This sounds about right to me; I don’t think there was one specific turning point, but rather a continuum of programming decisions which led to the non-MTV those of us with cable (not me, thankfully) know and probably don’t love, for the most part. I do remember when MTV was pretty much nothing but videos, with the odd Saturday night concert thrown into the mix (I remember seeing Rush’s Exit Stage Left, and an Ozzy show this way, back when Ozzy was about as far out as you could go).

    While Beavis & Butthead might not fit into the process in which MTV stopped showing music videos, they did have a devastating effect on many hair metal bands. I read a book, “Bang Your Head,” about the history of metal, which states that Winger knew they were about to go completely under when the uncool wannabe kid on B&B was depicted wearing a Winger shirt. Likewise, B&B helped break White Zombie by pushing and loving their video.

    “I was never interested in MTV. I’m one of these guys who thinks of Aaron Copeland as modern music… even though I was very much chronologically part of the MTV generation when it first came out.”

    I was working in a record store in the early- to mid-’90s, during the wave of “alternative.” When people could come up to me asking for some “alternative,” I was sorely tempted to show them some free (or other out) jazz, or world music, or modern classical. What they meant, though, was flannel-wearing, faux-Seattle, depressing-lyrics, 70s-rock-with-minor-chords music that was prevalent on MTV and the radio in those days. “Alternative” became Establishment Rock pretty bleeping quick.

  9. #9 Daniel Harper
    August 3, 2006

    When I got into the whole MTV thing in the mid-nineties (yes, the alternative era, and yes, I still enjoy classic Nirvana, Pearl Jam, etc.) they aired a lot of the half-hour or hour-long shows, but there were still blocks devoted to videos. Besides the late-late “midnight to seven AM” block, on weeknights at least they’d put on an hour or two of videos in early prime-time, say from six to eight.

    Personally, I think it was the influence of TRL, i.e. “let’s only show about ninety seconds of a video, and interrupt it with screaming footage from fans of ELO who think ELO is totally hawwt in the middle”.

  10. #10 Chad Orzel
    August 3, 2006

    Personally, I think it was the influence of TRL, i.e. “let’s only show about ninety seconds of a video, and interrupt it with screaming footage from fans of ELO who think ELO is totally hawwt in the middle”.

    See, I blame that on Beavis and Butt-Head

  11. #11 Jamie Bowden
    August 3, 2006

    I’m curoius as to why MTV was showing fans of the Electric Light Orchestra in the middle 90s?

  12. #12 Daniel Harper
    August 5, 2006

    I’m curoius as to why MTV was showing fans of the Electric Light Orchestra in the middle 90s?

    Sorry, should have been LFO.

    And B&B might have started the trend, but at least that was intended as humorous commentary — with TRL, the music literally became just fodder for the fans to scream about.

  13. #13 uncle
    August 5, 2006

    Liquid television and The Oddities were great shows that brought us Æon Flux and the Maxx. The point of no return was when MTV began to have less time devoted to videos and more to everything else. Probably around the time that MTV made its first movie Joe’s Apartment.

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