by Jeffery Racheff
Video killed the radio star, and now MTV has killed the video.
After an increasing amount of programming dedicated to all things reality, the cable giant has officially struck the tag “music television” from its logo. It will now make its mark with an expanded, transparent “M” (presumably one in which the entire “Real World” cast can fit) and the same spray-painted “TV” in the corner.
Anyone who has happened upon MTV in the past few years knows that little music actually airs on the network anymore. The endless stream of music videos and countdowns that graced the channel for two decades have been replaced with shows like “16 And Pregnant,” “America’s Best Dance Crew” and “The Jersey Shore,” which milk semi-scripted, semi-human drama for ratings not attainable by strictly music-oriented programming.
And that’s fine. If viewers want to watch drunk people get punchy and pull each other’s hair one minute and then make-out in hot tubs the next, whatever. If anything, that sounds like the premise of most 80s music videos. But still, what took so long to change the name? And why don’t they drop the “M” as well? Critics have long pointed out the hypocrisy of using “music television” when any actual music on the network has already been switched off. At 29 you’d think the channel was well past puberty and comfortable with its image, yet recently MTV has found itself trying to rearrange its identity in order to fit in.
“The people who watch it today, they don’t refer to MTV as music television,” the network’s head of marketing, Tina Exarhos, told the L.A. Times. “Now felt like the right time. It felt like, ‘Why have we been so scared when the channel itself has evolved so much over the years?'”
In other words, MTV gets to keep their logo and all of its connotations (for those of us who can remember when the channel wasn’t overrun with little orange “Guidettes“), all while finally admitting they are no longer music television. Like KFC, whose letters are each debatable in their own way, the brand is so tied to the acronym that it would be almost impossible to separate the two. R(eality)TV or I(talian)A(american)S(tereotype)TV just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
MTV was just admitting to itself what the rest of us already knew — music television is dead. And like many rock stars, the network blazed out before its 30th birthday. Only this time it didn’t involve a gang war or Courtney Love. It was just an identity crisis.