AFTER YEARS OF broken promises and cable runarounds, the all-music all-the-time MTV2 has officially arrived in Seattle (on AT&T Broadband cable). Of course, MTV parent>"/>
AFTER YEARS OF broken promises and cable runarounds, the all-music all-the-time MTV2 has officially arrived in Seattle (on AT&T Broadband cable). Of course, MTV parent company Viacom didn't have much of a reason to hurry. MTV2 general manager Dave Cohn tells Seattle Weekly, "People kept complaining about the lack of videos, but they were watching the nonmusic programming in greater and greater numbers." So, are the Cribs and TRL aficionados and the record store clerks and Radiohead-crazy urbanites one and the same? Well, as Cohn says, the median viewer age jumps from 20 years old for the original to an ancient 24 years old for its offspring. Two writers who lean more toward the wrinkly end of that scale discuss the latest MTV empire offshoot and its long-term side effects on their malleable, media-marinated minds.
I WANT MY MTV2
It's been days since I've seen the sun. Outside, trees blossom and birds sing sweetly, but the only Trees I see are Screaming, and the birds all look like Nelly Furtado. My boyfriend is Booker, my best bud, Jancee. Yes, my MTV2 habit has made previous addictions to E! Entertainment Television and The Sopranos look like the dabblings of a flaky coed. This is hard-core: Sonic Youth's "Bull in the Heather," Daft Punk's "One More Time," Gorillaz's "Clint Eastwood," JJ Fad's "Supersonic"—and, god help me, that's just a Tuesday afternoon.
Long ago I stopped expecting music videos from MTV—and I had made my peace with it. Then, just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in: No song is too old, no band too obscure. I'll admit the local request programming is a misstep; our great scene is woefully underrepresented by the giddy circuit boys who clog the airwaves with Hi-NRG votes. But oh, the VJs—they of the active brain waves and true passion for music! The Hilfiger puppets and fossilized newsboys of MTV2's sister channel are becoming but a distant memory.
Well, not entirely. I have not yet forsaken that older, more popular sibling. She's just too insidious—and not an easy habit to break. Her heavy rotation of up to 12 videos a week represents the very best and big-budgeted this great industry has to offer, wildly running the gamut from A to B (Aaliyah to Britney). Plus, what is life without the soft-porn shenanigans of Undressed, the piercing squeals of TRL, the claymation hoot that is Celebrity Deathmatch? Actually, all those shows suck, but breaking up is hard to do, and they have not yet produced a Nicorette-like substance capable of weaning me away. At least, not as long as the guilty pleasures of those scandalous True Life hours ("I'm in Boot Camp!" "I'm Fixing My Breasts, and Doing It on National Cable Without Even Blurring Out My Nipples!" and, hopefully, many more to come) and the fabulously voyeuristic Cribs remain. Some things, however, I can live without: Poor Janet looked absolutely terrified throughout her entire lackluster Icon tribute, her smile as glued on as her hair extensions. Keep cornering her like that, and she'll scoot off to the Neverland Ranch with Michael and Bubbles, never to be seen again. And that two-hour Destiny's Child "record release special"? If I want to watch an infomercial, I'll take the one for Nad's any day.
Enough of that. MTV doesn't need my validation; at the ripe old age of 23, I am no longer even a part of their target demographic. But before I drag my aging carcass over to VH1 full-time (and they do have lots to love, but that is a story for another day), I'll be wrapping my arms around the cable box that brings me that upstart stepchild MTV2 every blessed day and dreaming of the time when it will be music's true television king. A humbled MTV will abdicate the throne, changing its name once-and-forever to NTV (that's Not-for-anyone-old-enough-to-vote-or-remember-when-there-were-two-Germanys TV). After all, at the age of 20 MTV is, by its own standards, nearly past its prime.
TURN IT OFF—NO, WAIT!
MTV2 is like the second, incomplete, "even more powerful" Death Star in Return of the Jedi. Its predecessor, MTV, formerly a juggernaut of groundbreaking video imagery, exploded into a billion shards of toxic variety shows and lobotomized personalities. Rebuilding from scratch may be the right thing to do, but the idea is so wafer-thin, so familiar, that it's slipping under cultural radar as an innovation, not a rehash.
So before we celebrate the simple (and I mean chimps-hitting-chimps-with-rocks simple) pleasures of MTV2, a warning: Evil begets evil. Would you buy the debut album from a band that Fred Durst discovered? Of course not, but you'd sure as shit laugh at it. The same principle applies here. MTV2 is the Where's Waldo? of the popular music lexicon; nine fresh piles of Linkin Park dung for every priceless "Been Caught Stealing." The longer you endure, the more this proportion skews to your liking.
MTV2 is still building a personality for its body. Earnest-to-the-point-of- sedation VJs like Jancee Dunn materialize on barren soundstages to champion At The Drive-In, only to have Iann Robinson mock the El Paso punkers' ideology minutes later on "MTV News." Telegenic as an armpit, Robinson is nevertheless the mouthpiece the station should—and probably will—exploit. He can be as intolerably encyclopedic as doppelganger Matt Pinfield but exudes an authenticity that is otherwise clearly lacking. Still, by virtue of "telling it like it is" in MTV's universe, Robinson is no more than a feisty mongrel suffocating in an airtight plastic bag. That's "reality TV" I can appreciate.
Few mindfucks compare to the network's daily hour-long Control Freak, in which online voters choose the next video from three comparable candidates. Ever find yourself audibly rooting for Seven Mary Three's "Cumbersome" to topple Kid Rock's "Cowboy"? I have—and have only eluded institutionalization by doing so behind locked doors.
Try watching with your significant other. You'll bond over sing-along monstrosities like Josh Joplin Group's "Camera One" and Staind's "It's Been Awhile," then have 20-minute shouting matches over whether Mudvayne's "Dig" is pathetic enough to warrant hook-em horns. And just when you're ready to kill yourselves, "Head Like a Hole" will take you back to a pants-peeingly innovative time when MTV was not quite so utterly fucking reprehensible. Long live today's MTV2 in all of its C-innocence.