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diaryland: sirilyan.diaryland.com: entry for 2001-10-23 (02:09:00)
In which our plucky young hero writes a long, boring review.

Thoughts On Media is the topic today, because if there's anything I know something about, it's da meedja. (Note the clever misspelling for comedic effect. This is the same genius technique that has raised political discourse in the United States from blind Republican vs. Democrat name-calling to informed Repugnican vs. Demon-rat name-calling.)

First off, I know that if you're still reading this diary, you obviously still want to know more about MTV Canada. I will happily oblige. It sucks.

(If you don't give a crap about MTV Canada, I don't blame you. But would you rather I talked about the war? No you don't. I'll try to inject some sarcastic humor in here, at least.)

Now, when people say "MTV sucks", they usually mean that MTV doesn't play videos anymore. And when they say "MTV doesn't play videos anymore", they usually mean that it plays plenty of videos, but they all suck, and they're on at inconvenient times anyway.

Well, MTV Canada does play videos, and it does play them at a convenient time (a two-hour block every afternoon at 6pm Eastern). And yes, I think the videos suck, but they only suck because I'm not part of the Target Demographic. I'm the type of person who could pay the college education of everyone in Canada if I had a penny every time I said "Go to hell, Sum 41. Go to hell. I hope you drown at that stupid swim meet."

(I'm sure Sum 41 are really nice kids once you get to know them, but after the five thousandth time they don't want to be a casyooooolty of society, you just want to ship them to the goddamn salt mines, okay?)

No, the problem with MTV Canada has nothing to do with music videos. The problem is that it offers none of the advantages of the MTV brand while bringing along all of the weaknesses.

If you want to point at anything that is symbolic of MTV's success in the United States, you point at Carson Daly and "Total Request Live". Anything that can get PBS to produce condemning documentaries on a music video channel, most people will (correctly) figure, has to have something going for it. Everyone hates TRL because lots of kids watch it, and lots of kids watch it because it's very good at what it does. The first time I saw it I knew that it was the worst program that I would absolutely end up watching every day if I had the capability. Crack cocaine could only hope for such magical powers of addiction.

Pop quiz: you are an executive with Viacom and you are developing MTV Canada's schedule. You are given an insanely successful American program which is a guaranteed ratings grabber and has no Canadian equivalent whatsoever (we'll get back to this). What do you do?

A. Tell Carson Daly to add "And hello to our new viewers in Canada" to his introduction, and watch the viewers tune in to see something that's on MTV, which all their American friends have been lording over their heads for years. Sit back, watch the Canadian viewers roll in, and snort cocaine off a hooker's chest.

B. Produce a lame TRL ripoff with a host nobody has heard of, poor production values, a bland windowless set, and a stupid name.

Answer: it's called "Select".

"Select" is just sad. It eliminates the prime advantage of the TRL format by playing entire videos without interruption, instead of a 45-second snippet. Sure, this sounds great, but it turns out that most of TRL's appeal (to me, anyway) is that it is fast and viewer-focused. TRL isn't about watching videos, it's about watching MTV viewers watch videos. (Woooooooo!) Showing the whole video interferes with this process and takes the focus away from the audience. The show feels bogged down as a result. You might as well flip over to MuchMusic and watch the exact same videos, quicker.

The problem with Select is pretty much the problem with all of MTVC: it's not that great, most of the good parts are already available elsewhere, and it's not worth putting up with the problems. If you want to watch "Real World", "Road Rules", Tom Green, or "Spy Groove", you've already been watching them for months, and with fewer commercials! And one of the big drawing points of MTVC's original programming is extreme sports coverage, presumably because no other network on cable has snowboarding footage.

(On the upside, MTV has great promos, especially the series where the guy with the MTV logo head gets into zany scrapes and fixes like philandering and armed robbery. I bet a DVD of nothing but MTV promos would sell like hotcakes.)

MTV Canada isn't going to shut its doors. Viacom has too much invested in the MTV brand to show any sign of weakness, and there is a vast library of original programming that really hasn't been seen in Canada, ever. (I think I'd probably walk over a pile of bodies to see the original episodes of the Jon Stewart Show.) The channel is going to survive, but it won't destroy MuchMusic. And I'm already done watching it.


Now, as a reward for sitting through all that, here's tonight's One-Line Movie Reviews.

Akira: "Blade Runner" for people who are still pissy Speed Racer got cancelled.

Thirteen Ghosts: Of Scooby Doo! (Just like all fortune cookies are improved by "in bed", this movie can only be improved by adding "of Scooby Doo!" at the end of every line of dialogue. Trust me, it'll be even more fun than yelling "Slut!" at Susan Sarandon.)

Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (DVD): "Includes special features you'll actually want to watch!" Now if only they'd included a movie I actually wanted to watch. (Ba-da-bom!) More seriously, the fact that this movie was essentially review-proof on its opening weekend gives me really bad vibes for Lord of the Rings....

(Browse: previous or next. Notes: post or read.)

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