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On Aug. 1, MTV turns 30. The big 3-0. The channel is now much older than anyone in the 12-24 demographic it caters to.
I was music video editor at Billboard in the early ‘90s. Covering MTV fell under my purview and it felt like the largest, most powerful force not just in the music industry, but in pop culture. That’s because it was. This was before the internet. This was before the dominance of video games. MTV wasn’t just king of the mountain, it was the mountain.
To be sure, there were other music video outlets—VH1, BET, TNN (The Nashville Network), CMT, “Friday Night Videos,” and several dozen local and regional video shows (virtually all of which died off when labels began charging for videos), but nothing came close to MTV’s reach and breadth. It’s hard to imagine any one entity now having the power that MTV once had; we’re too diffuse and we get our entertainment delivered through too many different ways.
While I was music video editor, MTV was spreading its manifest destiny across the world and it never ceased to amaze me that certain Eastern Bloc countries may have still been in political and civil turmoil back then, but, by God, they would have their MTV. The company, and many of its employees, had an evangelical zeal that bordered on scary. During my tenure, MTV wanted to pretend it was still run by the cool kids, but it was already owned by Viacom and was very corporate, despite its deep desire to appear otherwise. A publicist sat in on every interview and the spin came fast, furious and, occasionally, with a very heavy hand.
Some fellow journalists are writing a book about MTV’s first 30 years and the significant impact the channel has had on history. I can’t wait to read it. But in the meantime, here is my highly subjective list of MTV’s 12 most influential moments in chronological order.
“Video Killed The Radio Star” (1981): Any story about the history and significance of MTV has to include the first clip ever played on the channel for its 1981 launch. The clip, by British New Wave group The Buggles, proved very prophetic as MTV signaled the cultural shift of image over music. Ugly bands could no longer get signed.
“Billie Jean” (1982): Prior to adding the opening clip from Michael Jackson’s 1982’s “Thriller,” a then 18-month old MTV played very few videos by black artists, as it considered itself an album rock format. CBS Records swears they played hardball with MTV to force them to play “Billie Jean,” MTV execs swear they always planned to play “Billie Jean,” and needed no arm twisting. Regardless of how it happened, adding “Billie Jean” to MTV’s rotation swung open the doors for black artists like Prince at the channel and catapulted Jackson’s career.
“Thriller” (1983): If “Billie Jean” bolstered Jackson’s superstar career, the “Thriller” video rocketed it—and MTV—into the stratosphere. MTV ponied up $1 million for the exclusive rights to the 14-minute clip, marking the first time MTV paid a label to air a video (paving the way for the exclusive label deals to come later that increased MTV’s dominance). MTV played the John Landis-directed mini-movie five times a day, a shrewd move that made MTV destination viewing and spiked ratings tenfold.
“LiveAid” (1985): Though there had been multi-artist benefit concerts before, none had been televised from start to finish as MTV did with LiveAid. Beaming back and forth between London’s Wembley Stadium and Philadelphia’s JFK Stadium, MTV changed such concerts into global events with the world watching. ABC broadcast during primetime, but MTV kept the cameras rolling for the entire 16 hours (albeit with commercials).
“120 Minutes” (1986): As MTV’s regular programming became more mainstream, the channel took two hours out of every week for truly alternative music videos that were hard to see anywhere else. Originally hosted by Dave Kendall (and later Matt Pinfield), the first few years of “120 Minutes” were a wonderful place to learn about The Replacements, the Jesus & Mary Chain, Robyn Hitchcock, and all manner of rockers that weren’t finding homes on mainstream radio. If nothing else, “120” earns its place on this list for hosting the world premiere of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” music video in 1991. ("120 Minutes" was resurrected July 31 on MTV2 with Pinfield)
“The Real World” (1992): Arguably the first reality show, “The Real World” is the network’s longest running program. Though the concept is so commonplace now: throw some strangers into a house and keep cameras rolling 24/7, back then, the sociological experiment was something new. It brought us some memorable characters, such as the repugnant Puck, but also some that touched our hearts, none more so than Pedro Zamora, who was living with AIDS. MTV’s inclusion of Zamora, who died in 1994, was one of TV’s first programs to have a gay male with AIDS, and the network used it to spread tolerance and understanding.
Choose or Lose (1992): Every now and then, MTV uses its powers for great good, perhaps none more so than its Choose Or Lose campaign. While it’s lost some of its potency, the ongoing program, started in 1992, attempts to educate young voters on the issues and often pairs with other organization, such as Rock the Vote, to support voter registration.
William Jefferson Clinton Town Hall (1992): While technically under the umbrella of “Choose or Lose, “ Clinton’s Town Hall meeting is so significant, it deserves its own bullet point. Baby boomer Clinton was the first presidential candidate to actively court the youth vote and harness the power that MTV offered to address voters under 25. Despite someone asking Clinton if he had to do it all over again, if he would inhale, the Town Hall showed the intelligence, inquisitiveness and interest of many young voters, who helped propel Clinton into office.
Kurt Cobain's death (1994): MTV wasn’t the first to break the news of the Nirvana frontman, but it was the most resonant as MTV News anchor Kurt Loder led the coverage. MTV understood better than an other national outlet the significance of what had just happened and why it mattered.
The Madonna and Britney Spears Kiss (2003): The MTV Video Music Awards always took inordinate pride in pushing the envelope (a term MTV execs loved to use), which usually played itself out by trying way too hard to be audacious. After Madonna, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera performed together, Madonna kissed each of the ladies, but for some reason, the Madonna/Britney kiss, perhaps because there was a hint of tongue, turns the world upside down... It wasn’t even much of a kiss and there was never any doubt that it was anything more than a publicity ploy, but it was the kiss seen around the world.
“16 and Pregnant” (2009): In an attempt to show the difficulties of teen pregnancy, MTV created the next generation of tabloid stars. Two years later, the initial cast members are still cover-story fixtures on celebrity magazines. And with MTV creating spin-offs such as “Teen Mom,” many have wondered if MTV is encouraging a proliferation of teen pregnancies by girls who believe having a baby is the quickest way to stardom. Hey, if it worked for Amber Portwood...
“Jersey Shore” (2009): One week prior to its December 2009 debut, none of us knew what a Snooki was, the next, we couldn’t escape her. As MTV no longer had any upper hand as a video outlet (other than the occasional premiere) over YouTube and then Vevo, both of which leveled the playing field, the channel had to find ways to keep its relevance. And it got back at all of us by unleashing “Jersey Shore” upon the world. I’ve never seen an episode and I can name at least six cast members. That’s saying something.
What are your favorite and worst memories of MTV?
A review of last night's "Louie" coming up just as soon as I hang my jersey from the rafters...
Miranda July has become a polarizing figure among the film fans who know her work, and I understand why. She is eccentric, both as a writer/director and as a performer, and it's such an organic, complete part of her personality that I can't imagine her ever shutting that off and making more "conventional" films, and I think that's just fine. The voice she's developing as a filmmaker is sweet and funny and odd, and it feels like she's grown in the six years since she made her first film, "Me and You and Everyone We Know."
The film opens with a voice-over by a cat named Paw-Paw who is wasting away in a shelter, dying, praying for someone to take him home. Her salvation comes in the form of Sophie (July) and Jason (Hamish Linklater), a couple who have been rolling along in a state of inertia for years. They're determined to change things, experience new things, and try to accept some new responsibilities. They haven't accomplished much, and they're at that point in life where they have to start thinking that maybe they won't, and it's obvious that the thought scares them.
Well, it’s another Thursday and another two contestants sadly must be sent home. Thankfully, “So You Think You Can Dance” has some of the more entertaining elimination episodes on reality television so at least we have a few things to look forward to before we must face the sadness. Also, this week there’s no awkward product placement, which is always a plus.
Rumors are flying that someone will return to the “Big Brother” house tonight. May that person have a that elusive quality known as a “personality” and save us from these recent doldrums. However, the “Lost” fan in me is hoping that Tricia Tanaka shows up and attracts a fireball from the sky to come crashing down on the whole endeavor. Who will be voted off? How instantly will the game change once it’s down to single elimination? Will the live audience continue to have that glazed, “I’ll be good, just don’t hurt my family” look that they always seem to have? Only one way to find out! Unfortunately, that one way is to actually watch the episode.
There is no denying that the dual performances at the heart of "The Devil's Double" are impressive, and Dominic Cooper will, I'm sure, be duly rewarded with more work and acclaim, and he deserves it.
But aside from those performances, I'm not really sure what the point of "The Devil's Double" is. It's based on the true story of Latif Yahia, an Iraqi soldier who went to boarding school with Uday Hussein, where the tremendous similarity between the two of them was noticed by everyone. Years passed, and Uday finally sent for Latif, ordering him to undergo plastic surgery and dental work to make the appearance even more similar so that Latif could appear in public as his fiday, his double. Latif tried to resist, but when his family was threatened, he finally agreed and spent several years in the role, horrified by Uday's cruel and brutal excesses. He finally escaped in 1992, and became an author, eventually writing about his experiences.
Can you believe it’s been SO long since we’ve had “Project Runway”? I’ve almost forgotten what Heidi Klum looks like! Governments have crumbled, natural disasters have struck and inflexible workaholic stylist Rachel Zoe has reproduced! It’s an upside down world we live in. Tim Gunn, carry me away! But because I am SO excited about “PR” being back on the air (and I do hope you will join my “PR” HitFix Fantasy League at hitfix.com/projectrunway), I’m starting early (yes, I’m watching that filler casting episode) and I’m live blogging. I simply cannot wait to get my “PR” fix. I’m jonesing!
Tim Gunn will be narrating this time filler episode, which makes it quite alright with me. We get to see the initial judging process. Some people bring crap to auditions. And this is unlike any other reality show? Um, not it's not. Seth Aaron Hnderson and Zanna Roberts-Rossi of Marie Claire will also offer input.
We meet Cecilia. She thinks fashion is war. She will fight with her spear toll the last drop of blood. So violent! She licks butts when she has to. I am scared of Cecilia. So is Zanna. My first candidate for a workroom catfight!
Amanda is chirpy. That's all we get, really.
Julie skateboards. She sings karaoke. Everything she designs looks like a blanket. But Seth is super duper impressed. Personally, if I wanted someone to cut up crap from REI I'd just do it myself. She doesn't like pretty. But if pretty is defined by Laura, I don't either.
Gosh-golly! It feels like just yesterday I live-blogged a panel for HBO's "True Blood." It was actually just last Friday at Comic-Con, which means my gap between "True Blood" live-blogging was longer than Sepinwall's gap between "Doctor Who" live-blogs. This is bound to be a different experience, since the Comic-Con panel featured most of the cast and was 50 percent dedicated to questions about male toplessness.
Let's see if any different material comes out of the TCA panel...
5:18 p.m. Instead of the whole cast, today we just have Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer and Alan Ball, which means nobody can ask Nelsan Ellis to call them "hooker."
5:18 p.m. Is Alan leaving at the end of this season? "No." "Well, everything ends. There will be an end for me on this show at some point. I just closed a deal to do another season and I don't have any desire to leave, because I'm having more fun than I've had in my life," Ball continues.
5:19 p.m. "I think stubborn people get themselves in a lot of trouble, but they also get things done," Anna Paquin says of Sookie's stubbornness. Paquin thinks Sookie has decided to stand on her own this season and that that has made Sookie more interesting.
5:20 p.m. "I'm having the best time of my life. And I'm not just a little thing, thank you very much. I can hold my own. I dare him to say something I'd say no to," Paquin says when a reporter asks if she resents all of the awful things Ball keeps having happen to Sookie. "I am working from source material," Ball maintains.
5:22 p.m. "If there were to be a good reason that were totally grounded in the reality of this show for her to undergo some massive transformation, I would welcome that," Paquin says when asked if she'd want Sookie to transform as radically as Bill and Eric have changed this season.
5:23 p.m. Question about The Creepy Baby. "They're so adorable and they're so socialized and welcoming and they seem to enjoy people and they're not fazed by production," Ball says, taking pleasure in the angelic baby and the creepy behavior.
5:24 p.m. What's the biggest challenge on the show? "The biggest challenge is telling all of the stories in the time we have to tell them," Ball says. I'm thinking fans might have a suggestion there. What's the key to getting everything done on time? They scale back. They drop scenes. "The key do it is that everybody just loves working on the show," Ball says.
5:27 p.m. How does Ball decide which pieces from the book he stays faithful to and which he wants to change? The answer goes back to his Comic-Con answer about how the books are Sookie's story, so he has more freedom with the other stories. "It's an organic process. I work with five really good, smart writers," Ball claims, calling it "a democratic process."
5:28 p.m. Have the actors gained more input over the years? "What's amazing about the show is that they write for us now, so they go 'Wouldn't it be interesting to see Steve, Alex, Nelsan do this?" Moyer says. "I certainly feel like they write for our strengths, or maybe that's just a giant coincidence," adds Paquin, saying that she pitched something in Episode 9 this season that may or may not have been intended as a joke and that may or may not have been used.
5:31 p.m. "Those things don't occur to me," Ball says when asked about casting Harry Potter's witch-hating aunt as a witch this season. He says that unlike other people on the show, he doesn't care about outside credits. "I just feel like 'Let's get the best actor for this role that we can get' and what else they've done doesn't cross my mind," Ball explains.
5:32 p.m. The creepy doll and the creepy baby are in creepy cahoots.
5:33 p.m. Critic asks if they'd ever been to Comic-Con before. "Fourth time," Paquin says. Moyer compares their reception down at Comic-Con -- to an audience "that eats this stuff up, if you'll excuse the pun" -- to in this room of critics. Moyer pantomimes us clapping without enthusiasm. That's a lie. We didn't clap at all. "What I love about it is how passionate people are about the show and how much they love the show," Ball says.
5:38 p.m. "What I like about the show is that it can be very serious, it can be life and death serious, but it doesn't take itself too seriously," Ball says of the ability to drop humor in with disturbing moments. Paquin agrees, "I like my messed-up mixed with my humor as much as the next girl." Moyer loved that he finally got to have a one-liner (about Pam's beekeeper outfit) in last week's episode. Moyer teases that Kristin Bauer Van Straten has an all-time great line coming up soon.
5:40 p.m. Who do they want more scenes with? Well, Paquin works with everybody. Moyer wants to have more scenes with Carrie Preston and Todd Lowe. He adds, "I very rarely get to go to Merlottes."
5:41 p.m. Moyer has enjoyed Bill's arc leading up to becoming Vampire King this season. "It's been a really interesting dynamic for me to play and in a way, Bill gets to become perhaps somebody she can respect again."
5:44 p.m. Have Paquin and Moyer enjoyed playing not-in-love this season? "Our love in real life is fine, so I'm totally happy for our characters to be as sad and distraught and messed up and hating each other as they like," Paquin says. "I actually pitched to Alan that I was getting a bit bored with our life and could he add somebody else to the mix," Moyer jokes. More seriously says, "It's also about Sookie growing up as well." We just had Gloria Steinem on another panel. Maybe Moyer was listening?
And that's all, folks!
If there is one city Hollywood adores more than New York to mine for dramatic intrigue, it's Washington, D.C. So, with the 2012 Presidential election just around the corner, it isn't surprising a political thriller with allegories to today's political climate in heading to theaters. Case in point? George Clooney's return to the director's chair, the politically charged adaptation of Beau Willimon's play "Farragut North," "The Ides of March."
"March" will open the Venice Film Festival at the end of the month and will also screen at Toronto in September. It's already a prime contender for awards season consideration not just because of Clooney's involvement, but an ensemble that includes Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Evan Rachel Wood, Marisa Tomei and Jeffrey Wright. On paper, it's a total Oscar bait film except Clooney doesn't really make Oscar bait films (they just end up thrown into that pool). In fact, Clooney has a potential awards season player with his performance in Alexander Payne's "The Descendants" this December. Unless it's an "Ocean's Eleven" film, it's hard for the former winner to escape the Academy's love or attention.
As the new trailer for "Ides" reveals, Gosling plays a campaign manager for a Presidential candidate of the Barack Obama mold (although in actuality Willimon was inspired by the 2004 campaign of Howard Dean). Gosling's character is a rising star who finds himself played by a rival and has to decide how far he's willing to go to get back in the game. Will he destroy the campaign of his now former boss (Clooney) just to keep his access to power? Where Clooney and longtime screenwriting and producing collaborator Grant Heslove have decided to take Willimon's play is unclear and the preview thankfully doesn't give that answer away.
To get your first glimpse of "Ides," check out the trailer embedded below. And no matter what your political persuasion, it's intriguing stuff.
"The Ides of March" debuts on Oct. 7 nationwide.
For year round entertainment commentary and awards season news follow Gregory Ellwood on Twitter @HitFixGregory.
I'm not sure what big questions the Television Critics Association is going to have for HBO Co-President Richard Plepler and for HBO Programming President Michael Lombardo, but click through for any updates on "Game of Thrones," "Luck" or whatever else gets discussed...
We wondered how long that would take. Retailers are expressing their severe dismay that “Watch The Throne,” the August album from Jay-Z and Kanye West (as The Throne), will be offered first through iTunes and that Best Buy will have an exclusivity on a deluxe version.
More than 100 independent retailers have signed an open letter to the two, asking the pair to reconsider. The retailers, in a letter that appeared in Billboard, call the exclusivity decision “a short-sighted strategy...Your decisions will be doing great damage to over 1,700 independent record stores--stores that have supported you and your music for years.” The album will be available at iTunes starting Aug. 8, and at physical retail on Aug. 12. Best Buy's exclusive on the deluxe version would last until Aug. 23. Billboard estimates that a deluxe version can amount to 70% of sales for the first weeks of a superstar release.
The news comes as Live Nation announced this morning that The Throne tour will add more dates, due to "overwhelming demand" (we're not sure how that can happen before tickets even go on sale). The new tour schedule will be released Aug. 1 and the presale has been move to Aug. 2. The public on-sale date remains Aug. 8.
Below is the letter from retailers to the two rap superstars. We've reached out to Island Def Jam to see if they have any response to the retailers' letter.
Dear Jay-Z and Kanye West,â€¨â€¨
Independent record stores serve our communities. Our passion is music, and we convey this to the millions of customers who come to our stores. That's what we do.â€¨â€¨
Four years ago independent music stores across the country banded together to create Record Store Day. Our goal was to counter the negative media coverage about the supposed demise of record stores brought on by the closing of the Tower stores and to respond to the music business practices that fans deemed to be manipulative and onerous.â€¨â€¨
We reached out to the artist community to see if they would join us, and the response was overwhelming, with words of support coming in from Paul McCartney, Erykah Badu, Tom Waits, Chuck D, the Foo Fighters and countless others. Working with their label partners, many of these musicians created limited edition works of art, including vinyl and CDs made especially for music-specialty retail. Hundreds of these artists took the opportunity to perform, DJ, and interact with their fans in our record stores. Here in the U.S., Record Store Day lifted the entire music business by 8% and contributed to the growth in music sales. Record Store Day is now one of the biggest music events in history, with millions of people participating worldwide. We also continue to work throughout the year with labels, artists and managers and run regular promotions via physical independent retail and recordstoreday.com.â€¨â€¨
We are responding to the bad news that your new album will not be available to independent record stores until after iTunes gets a window of exclusivity. We also learned that the deluxe version (which is what the true music fans who shop our stores will want, by an overwhelming majority) will only be available at Best Buy exclusively for a period of time. We believe this is a short-sighted strategy, and that your decisions will be doing great damage to over 1,700 independent record stores -- stores that have supported you and your music for years.â€¨â€¨
We know that you are busy, and that you put most of your energies into creating great music, but we are writing to you in the hope that you will hear us and take the time to rectify this matter. As representatives of the independent record store music community, we are asking you to allow record stores and music fans equal access to your new album.â€¨â€¨
With the utmost respect,
Dedry Jones, The Music Experience
Mike Dreese, Newbury Comics
Judy Negley, Independent Records
Rachelle Friedman, J&R Music World
Mike Batt, Silver Platters
John Kunz, Waterloo Records
Tobago Benito, DBS Sounds
Brian Faber, Zia Records
Karen Pearson, Amoeba Music
Bryan Burkert, The Sound Garden
Paul Epstein, Twist and Shout
Mike Wise, Monster
Rob Roth, Vintage Vinyl
Karl Groeger, Looney Tunes
Joe Nardone, Jr., Gallery of Sound
Jonathan Fernandez, Rasputin Music
Mike Fratt, Homers
Dilyn Radakovitz, Dimple Records
Lisa Teger-Zhen, Uncle Sam's Music
Dustin Hansen, Graywhale Entertainment
Bill Kennedy, BK Music
Jim Bland and Bob Schick, Plan Nine
Steve Wilson, Kiefs
Tom King, Central Square Records
Alayna Hill Alderman, Richard Storms, Record Archive
Nancy Salzer, Salzer's Records
Rick Ziegler, Indy CD
Laura, Finders Records
Deon Borchard, Nic Fritze, The Long Ear
Chuck Oken, Rhino /Mad Platter
Allan Miller, John Bevis, Disc Exchange
Charlotte Kubat, Magnolia Thunderpussy
Chris Avino, Rainbow Records
Rich Koch, Off the Record
Skip Hermans, Skip's Record and CD World
Jason Patton, Oz Music
Quinn Bishop, Cactus Records
John Timmons, ear X tacy
Lou Russell, Lou's Records
Roger Weiss, Streetlight Records
Terry Currier, Music Millenium
Andrew Chinnici, Lakeshore Record Exchange
Michael Bunnell, The Record Exchange
Mike White, Boo Boo Records
Steve Baron, CD Central
Eric Levin, Criminal Records
Pat O'connor, Culture Clash
Dan Plunkett, End Of An Ear
Paula Kret, Exile On Main St
Chris Penn, Good Records
Doyle Davis, Grimey's
Travis Searle, Guestroom Records
Jim Mcguinn, Hot Poop
Isaac Slusarenko, Jackpot Records
Jason Nickey & Heath Byers, Landlocked Music
Todd Robinson, Luna Music
Darren & Jim Blase, Shake It
Anna & Chris Brozek, Slowtrain
Kimber Lanning, Stinkweeds
Tom "Papa" Ray, Vintage Vinyl
Jack Dennis and Christopher Ashely, Earshot
Lisa Tiger-Zhen, Uncle Sams
Dave Zero, Mad City Music Exchange
Sarah Hefte, Everyday Music
Mike Madrigale, Mr. Suit Records
Lance Price, CD Source
Bruce Carlock, Cats Music
Thomas "Toonz" Predovich, Vinyl Solution Records
Neal Becton, Som Records
Marc Lasky, Music Box
Ryan Shoemaker, Galaxy CDs
John Thominet, Rainbow Records
Rick Linie, Creative Leisure
Chris, Young Ones
Morrison Agen, Neat Neat Neat Records and Music
Peter Gianakopoulos, The Old School Records
Reid Robinson, Co-Op Records, Moline
Carol Copfer, Movie Trading Company, Vintage Stock
John Anderson, Reverberation Vinyl
Rob Kimple, Ramalama Records
Randy Wagner, Radio KAOS Records
Sam Lock, CD.Game Exchange
Rob Bourqu, Music Matters
Steve Hyland, Down In the Valley
Melanie Cade, Mojo Books and Music
Tony Cicalese, We Got The Beats
Andy Schneidkraut, Albums on the Hill
Robert Stapleton, Southwest Sound
Sharon & Shirley Bechor, Rock and Soul Records
Rich and Sue Graves, Budget Tapes & Records
Todd Fundaro, Flipside Records
Adam Hirzel, Saki Records
Kelly, Patrick and Robby, Back Door Records
Stacey Pepper, Vertigo Music
Josh Castleberry, Toxic Beauty Records