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In Defense of MTV

January 22, 2013

I can’t believe I’m writing this.

Seriously, I can’t believe I’d ever write up anything with the title or phrase within: In defense of MTV.

But hey, stranger things have happened and have yet to happen.

So the other night I was at the gym, spinning out on the elliptical and my eyes caught the end of an episode of Catfish TV. From what I gathered, the premise of the show is that these two guys who host it get emails from people who are involved in online relationships and the hosts investigate to see if the other people involved are real or instead impostors. It’s based on a movie (which is based on a true story).

At first I thought to myself, ah, another way of exploiting and perpetuating the lowest common denominators of American society.

First off, shame on me for casting such an aspersion on people from my high and mighty pillar of virtue.

Second off, my workout was such that it started with five minutes left in the show and ended 20 minutes into the next one. And though I was listening to some rad tunes on my slick iPhone 4, the TV’s subtitles were enabled so I could read the dialogue.

I am generally jaded toward MTV. However, there is some cool stuff to come from it; at least their film department. I have enjoyed a few episodes of Made, Rob & Big, and Liquid Television back in the day when I wasn’t supposed to watch it.

Anyway, as the next episode ramped up, I found myself getting hooked. The story was of a lad in upstate New York who was corresponding via Facebook with an apparent model in L.A. Shortly after he and his girlfriend broke up, this west coast gal contacted him. They seemed to hit it off, as only one could via FB messaging, and it wasn’t long before “I love you’s” were exchanged. NY fella wanted to meet west coast gal but was afraid this situation was too good to be true so he contacted the Catfish folks for help.

It really is an interesting drama to see play out, and I’d easily recommend it to any of you. It’s easy viewing and gripping drama – especially when it reaches its climax. I was so hooked I extended my workout another 40 minutes so I could see the whole show.

And it was toward the bottom of the hour when it hit me – MTV is still indeed music television.

It’s a widespread and common criticism leveled at the network that because they don’t feature music videos anymore they’re no longer truly a network dedicated to music. Now it’s fraught with “reality” shows and dramas and asinine programming catering to…well…people with generally low standards for entertainment. I mean, Jackass? Ridiculousness?

But I digress.

I couldn’t hear it since I had headphones on, but one thing I have noticed when I’ve viewed MTV shows in the past is a prominent use of music in their productions; and generally contemporary hits. I specifically notice this because whenever I’ve produced something in the past or have ideas for something, I want to use music of which I can’t afford the rights. MTV is owned by Viacom which is owned by something else which owns a LOT of rights to a LOT of songs. So they can use practically all the music they want to weave a musical story that complements whatever story it is they’re telling visually and it all adds to the DRAMA.

Something new I saw, though, was that a little text box would pop up at the bottom of the screen with the name of the song playing and the artist who sings it. “Brilliant!” I thought to myself. There are many times where I hear a song while watching something and I wonder – what is that fantastic song? Here, MTV is providing a great service to the viewer!

Also, during commercial breaks, they’ll throw in a few second spot highlighting some new, up and coming artist. How great is that?

Sure, some folks can and do take the cynical route and will realize that MTV is a business and their product is music. The more music they sell the more money they get. Or maybe not MTV, but MTV’s mom and dad. But still, these musicians have busted their tails to get noticed. Some do it for the ignoble purpose of seeking fame; but I’d hazard a guess that by and large most folks get into the game because they must – they are musicians. And before any cynics get on that horse and say, “Yeah, but it’s crap artists,” one of the songs featured in the show was by The Lumineers.

Right.

That means something to some of y’all, but not even a hill of beans to others of ya.

And that’s the real rub of it all, right there – tastes and opinion.

But again, I digress in a mighty way.

Music Television uses music to help tell their stories.

And isn’t that what music is all about? Telling stories! Stories of love, heartache, dead dogs, going to the candy shop, defeating impossible odds, enjoying mundane pleasures – and artfully, melodically so. MTV started out with the regular Top 40 shows and rotation of music videos, but it has evolved.

MTV is indeed a business. At some point the masses started getting bored with all the videos. Why not get into what the music is about? The drama, the romance, the blood and guts of life? And there is plenty of drama to go around.

Sure, a lot of the programming is trashy, but it is, I daresay, honest.

There’s a lot I wouldn’t recommend because I haven’t seen a lot of it and my recommendation would be uninformed. But based on the promos I fear I’d have my intelligence insulted or just get a lot of stuff into my head I’d rather do without.

But saying all of that to say, I think MTV is still a Musical network, just different.

That’s it.

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SONG PLAYING WHEN THE MUSE STRUCK: For a Few Dollars More – Morricone RMX – Terranova

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