Let me start by saying, I love you. You’ve played an integral role in the person I, and many of my peers, have become. You opened my mind to the world of music. You introduced me to my favorite artists. You gave me insight to the meaning behind the lyrics of my favorite songs. Most of all, you made music accessible. But things have changed. You’ve lost your way and, honestly, I’m deeply concerned with the path that you have chosen. Consider this an intervention.
When you first aired on that bright summer morning on August 1, 1981, you claimed that a new concept was born: Music Television. You even vowed that we “would never look at music the same way again”. You even gave me the words: I want my MTV. Guess what? I still want my MTV. And I want it now.
You tweeted recently that 90’s kids should rejoice for Nickelodeon is bringing back our favorite shows we grew up with. Why aren’t you following your own advice? Think of all of the MTV-boomers that you groomed whom you have now forsaken. Did you ever even care? Or was this your plan all along – to rope us in and leave us high and dry? (I would sing Radiohead right now, but you probably wouldn’t even get the reference.)
I don’t know where I would be today without the presence of TRL in my life. Being able to vote for my favorite music video then seeing it at #1 on the countdown proved to me that, yes, I too can make a difference. You created a world where anything was possible. Britney Spears could pop out of nowhere to wish you a good afternoon and to show off her pink tinted aviators with the bejeweled heart on the lens. Justin Timberlake may turn your world upside down by calling in, just to serenade you with the hook of “I Drive Myself Crazy“. The Holy Grail of boy bands themselves (The Backstreet Boys, obviously) could just show up, melting hearts and obliterating tear ducts with an acoustic version of “All I Have To Give”. These random celebrity pop-ups helped shape my life, reminding me to never give up hope.
You still claim to be “music television”, but that’s a lie. In reality, the only time you allocate towards music is during the designated meth-head hours of 2am-5am. What are we supposed to do? Watch music videos on YouTube, like heathens? Am I supposed to just boot up my laptop and watch Vevo like I’m Steven Glansberg? (Shoutout to Superbad.) I’m a realist, and I understand the need to sprinkle non-music centered shows into your scheduled programming to appeal to a larger audience. I get it. But with that, have some self- respect. You used to be well balanced while still maintaining your integrity with House of Style, PunkD, or Daria. But those days are gone. (I’ll excuse Follow the Rules. Obviously, focusing on Ja Rule is a step in the right direction and I commend you for having the where-with-all to realize that. We need to see more of this.)
Let’s get real. You’re downfall started with the Real World and Road Rules. These shows opened the door to diminishing morals, and once that door is open, it’s a hard and fast fall to rock bottom where self-respect and humility are abandoned. As your audience became immune to the crass filth that were the center-points of those programs, matters progressed to Laguna Beach. But when the knockoff versions of LC and Kristin Cavalarri inevitably lost everyone’s attention by the third season, you again took a sharp turn with My Super Sweet 16. Don’t you realize that the majority of 16-year-old girls are already astonishingly bratty, disturbingly dramatic, and overly entitled? Why do you feel the need to glorify arrogant self-possessed children? But the horrors don’t stop there. Teen Mom? 16 and pregnant? WTF are you doing? Seriously, what happened? Did Jesse Camp roofie you? When you lost sight of your moral standpoint, you lowered the age of your target demographic. Doesn’t that seem backward?
Just when we thought this moral wasteland of television programming couldn’t possibly mutate any further, you dropped the STD ridden, bedazzled East-Coast boom on us with Jersey Shore. The scarce whispers of modesty and self-respect that remained were utterly vanquished with this move. You sold out. You followed the well-traveled Kardashian-laid-path of complete exploitation in order to gain recognition, and you hammered that concept into the impressionable minds of your young viewers. Examples of how to be a positive contribution to society are nowhere to be found. You have become a key player in the dissolve of moral and the praise of self-obsession.
To make matters worse, in terms of a business stand point, you’re missing a huge opportunity. It’s simple: just reboot your old popular shows. Why in the world isn’t there Taylor Swift Making the Video? Can you imagine Ariana Grande’s segment on Diary? Just THINK of Miley Cyrus on Cribs. I bet the Jonas Brothers would have hosted their own music video countdown too, but you’ve obviously missed that opportunity. At this point, I would even settle for Celebrity Death Match. At least it was centered around pop culture! (The fact that Celebrity Death Match is being used to reference your “glory days” proves just how serious your decline is.) If anything, at least give us the re-runs. If you aired old episodes of your once popular shows, ratings would sky rocket. Guaranteed. Literally, just relaunch your original business plan and go back to your promise of changing the way we perceive music. You have the power to enlighten a new generation.
It’s not too late. There’s still time to turn things around, but that window of opportunity is closing. If you don’t change your direction, and fast, you’ve let VH1 win. Will you accept this gift?