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Monday, August 8, 2011

I Want My 80s TV Back

Recently, VH1 Classic ran the first hour of MTV’s original broadcast for the 30th anniversary. Funny. Don’t you think MTV would want to celebrate their own milestone by rebroadcasting their first on air moments? Oh, that’s right. That would involve MTV actually playing music videos which they have said they don’t do anymore.

In fact, they even changed the logo, albeit they simply cropped the words MUSIC TELEVISION with the aid of something as simple as MS Paint. And how does last year’s decision bode for having the VMAs? Sort of like tits on a bull to show a Video Music Award show on a station that no longer shows music videos.

But this is nothing new, MTV… er, TV has been reduced to scripted reality shows for the last fifteen years. Such a far fall from television that used to premiere groundbreaking shows like 120 Minutes, Head Banger’s Ball, Unplugged, Liquid Television, and the self deprecating Beavis and Butthead which made fun of the same videos MTV played, and some it didn’t. In fact, MTV created its own demise with the debut of The Real World. How could we have known that one of the biggest trail blazers would be consumed by its own flame?

So, it shouldn’t be a surprise that MTV’s biggest competitor in terms of playing videos should get the spoils of playing its progenitor’s old home movies. After all, both networks are owned by Viacom.
Now, I was a wee Mongo, only six years old, when MTV first aired on August 1st, 1981. I never saw it. We didn’t have cable or that many channels in those days, except for stealing HBO. It wasn’t until MTV came to Armstrong Cable (South Western PA) that I got to watch and by then, MTV was huge. So, it was kind of like seeing it for the first time when it re-aired this past August 1st.

My initial thoughts were “What a waste of 10 minutes?” The first thing you see is the build up to the launch of Space Shuttle Columbia, which goes on forever. Finally, the shuttle launches and the screen transitions to the launch of Apollo 11, ending with Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon and the flag, emblazoned with the original MTV logo pronouncing that Rock and Roll television has arrived.

What a missed opportunity, in my opinion. For anyone not knowing what was to come, they might have switched off the television, thinking this was a joke or just a rebroadcast of the shuttle launch from four months earlier. In fact, I was thinking this was such a shame because it was the first hour of such a landmark event, and fifteen minutes of it was wasted on actual footage of a space launch from mission control and the launch pad. I DVR’ed the show because I had to be at work in less than six hours. I wasn’t about to stay up and watch what was possibly the first three hours because I didn’t know it was perhaps part one of three.

But there it was, the first breath ever in this world. From there, The Buggles and Pat Benatar carved the path for the fresh new faces of VJs to come on and take us by the hand into a brave new world. Mark Goodman, the first VJ we see, introduces himself along with Nina Blackwood, the late J.J. Jackson, Alan Hunter, and Martha Quinn, who still looks 21, today, ensuring us that this new experiment will change the world. And it did.

Sadly, we see this broadcast, on a sister station at a time when most kids don’t know that MTV actually play videos. Before YouTube or OnDemand, there was actually a network that played 24 hours of music videos. It’s like watching the early days of Elvis or Michael Jackson when all people today really see is them at their death, a shadow of what they used to be like in their prime. It’s almost a sad joke or a lie. It’s Toto pulling back the curtain to see that the Wizard is merely a humbug.

And, truthfully, do we really have music today that needs videos? The real pioneers and trailblazers are hard to find in the sea of crap. Maybe the 80s were like that as well. For every Peter Gabriel, Herbie Hancock, Madonna and Michael Jackson moments of genius, there were plenty of Gerardo, Right Said Fred and yes Michael Jackson moments to drown them out.

And even, even, Leonard Nimoy.

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