“Video Killed the Radio Star,” sang the Buggles as they synthesized their way into pop culture history. Home entertainment changed forever on Aug. 1, 1980 when America declared “I want my MTV” and the age of the music video began. In the beginning, MTV was music television, meaning television that played music. It was a frenzy of videos, killer cartoon shorts and contests that other stations wouldnʼt even pitch at a board meeting, let alone actually put on the air. Where else could you enter a sweepstakes to have a ruthless heavy metal band like Anthrax destroy your house? Nowhere but on MTV. But what has it evolved into over the course of its 25 years on our collective radar? If video killed the radio star, then who killed the video star? The answer: reality TV. It all started when seven strangers stopped being polite and started getting “real.” But it didnʼt stop with Puck and Pedro. Sure, there were still old favorites such as “Headbangerʼs Ball” and “Yo! MTV Raps,” but as the network grew, along with its executivesʼ bank accounts, it became less about edge and more about income. The stars of MTV became less and less musical and more and more commercial. Icons such as Tommy Lee and Bon Jovi became few and far between as virtues like having talent and playing your own instruments became less conducive to musical success. But where is the music today? Not on MTV, thatʼs for sure, unless you manage to catch an old Britney Spears clip at four in the morning. Now all youʼll find fumblingacross the airwavesthese days is a stringof shows that are nothing more than the same three ideas with a slight twist. For those who enjoy seeing people put into uncomfortable situations and having strangers rifle through their underwear drawer, might I suggest “Room Raiders.” Or, if invading the world of spoiled and whiny high school kids is more appealing, thereʼs always “Made” and the newest addition to MTVʼs mind-numbing arsenal, “My Super Sweet Sixteen.”
But for those with a more vintage taste, weʼll always have “The Real World,” which is currently airing its 15 season in our very own Philadelphia, as well as its cousin, “Road Rules.” But if that isnʼt enough cat fighting and bungee- jumping for you, fear not, for there are such original creations as “Battle of the Sexes” and “Battle of the Seasons.” All this originality is a little too rich for my blood.As much fun as all this panty-throwing, vodka-swilling entertainment is, some of us just want to know: What happened to the music? When did we put stars like Eddie Vedder and Bono out to pasture? When did it stop being cool for artists to write their own songs, and whose bright idea was it to give Ashlee Simpson a record contract, let alone her own show? The days of VJs actually interviewing artists, the days of VJs at all, for that matter, and having a choice in what music you can like without being force-fed by “TRL” are over. As America seems to have decided to sit back and tolerate the ride, I just want to say: “I want my MTV.” It looks like Iʼll be waiting for a while.