Written by: Jason Garoutte
In 2010, when MTV dropped the slogan “Music Television” from underneath their renowned logo, they finally got something right. The original purpose of MTV was to be “Music Television”, playing music videos 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but the famous cable music channel hasn’t been the same since the dawn of the reality show sensation.
In the year 2000, MTV aired 36.5 percent fewer music videos than they did in 1995. In the year 2000 MTV still managed to air upwards of eight hours of music videos per day. By 2008, that number dropped to just three hours of air time for the music videos that MTV was so famous for a decade ago.
To fill the air time, MTV decided to introduce reality based shows like “A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila.” For those unfamiliar with the show, it was similar to “The Bachelorette” where male contestants vied for Tila’s “love”. Since she is a bisexual, female contestants also competed for her attention, which was the subject of much criticism.
Another show that has acquired more controversy than it can handle is “Jersey Shore.” This show brings eight young adults into one home on the Jersey shore to watch them experience the drama that comes with living together, including fights, drinking, sex, and enough crazy antics to deem it a reality show.
These reality shows cross a fine line when it comes to defining true life reality, especially when MTV’s targeted audience are adolescent teenagers. The President of MTV, Van Toeffler explained, “Clearly, the novelty of just showing music videos has worn off. It’s required us to reinvent ourselves to a contemporary audience.”
Why are these kinds of shows so popular on the air? What is a contemporary audience and how is it that Snooki & JWoww appeal to that contemporary audience? Why does MTV need to reinvent themselves if its original purpose was to air music videos? And why are parents allowing their children to view this kind of entertainment? These are questions that deserve answers, and nobody seems to know the answers.
Some people believe reality shows such as these are appealing because it allows the audience to feel as if they’re participating vice being spectators. Americans have a fascination, a morbid curiosity if you will, for tales of self-destruction and MTV provides that. Yet others believe the script-less programming allows the audience to feel that the show is happening in real time. Another reason for the appeal may be the fact that viewers witness the lives of screwed up individuals and realize their problems and daily life routine aren’t as bad as what they are witnessing on television.
If MTV continues to air these reality based shows and not bring back music videos like their name suggests, perhaps they should consider changing their name to RTV (Reality Television) and alter their entire logo.