MTV’s Reinvention Mines Heritage as TRL Returns

For my 11th birthday, my parents bought me a 13-inch, white Panasonic TV/VCR set. I was most excited about the fact that it was white, and therefore girly, but also the fact that it gave me access to the exclusive club of sixth grade girls at my school who could invite their friends over to watch MTV.

My neighbor Lauren had been the first of my friends to enter this coterie when her older brother moved out and gave her his TV. I skip my bus stop and get off at her house, raid the fridge for Pepperoni lunch-ables, Dunkaroos and Cherry Coke, and head to her basement playroom, where we’d turn the TV straight to TRL and watch Carson Daly countdown the day’s 10 hottest music videos.

On a typical spring afternoon in 2002, we’d watch the same *NSYNC video for the fourth time that week, along with hits from Blink 182, Christina Aguilara, Britney Spears, Shakira, Michelle Branch, Brandy and Kylie Minogue. Sometimes we’d call in our request, but usually we’d just try to guess which one was coming next. Most of the time, we were right.

Check out this TRL throwback:

By the time my new TV allowed me to form my own girls club to watch TRL, Carson Daly had stepped down as host, and we were introduced to a downright dreamy group of regular “VJs” (video deejays, something I learned much later in life). My friends and I crushed hard on Damien Fahey, and wanted to look just like the trendy, chic Vanessa Minnillo.

Now, MTV is bringing back this iconic video countdown show, which ran for 10 years between 1998 and 2008. TRL’s revival is set for October 2, to be broadcast from a renovated version of its iconic Times Square studio.

TRL will be different than the one I remember— the video countdown model and audience request integration will stay, but the new show yanks the format into the post-2008 world of social and interactive media, with a mélange of linear, social and digital dimensions (expect some TRL Snapchat filters and daily updates on Instagram and Twitter).

A new generation of VJs will rotate through the studio, including, as of now, D.C. Young Fly, Erik Zachary, Amy Pham, Tamara Dhia and Lawrence Jackson. Learn more about the hosts here.

The revival of this flagship show is a logical move for the network as it shepherds in a new era of MTV that is remarkably similar to the one my friends and I would watch on that 13-inch TV in my bedroom.

With revivals of My Super Sweet 16 (a reality show I watched religiously as a teen, which I wrote about here) and Fear Factor (NBC’s gruesome game show, re-invented with a millennial twist), as well as a new show called Siesta Key (created by the same producers responsible for MTV’s original, laid back teen-paradise reality show, Laguna Beach), MTV seems ready for a millennial renaissance.

Watch the teaser for Siesta Key:

And why not? All of us who grew up watching these shows as kids are now in our 20s, able to buy our own TVs (albeit without VHS players attached), subscribe for VOD streaming services or cable packages and browse the internet without parental controls. Above all else, we’re nostalgic for the carefree shows of our childhood.

When I used to watch Kristin Cavallari flirt with Stephen Colletti back in middle school, I desperately wanted to be in her $300 Tory Burch kitten heels. Now, I’m in my mid-20s and have slightly different summer aspirations than spending it prancing around a beach with my high school crush, but that doesn’t mean I can’t relive the fun.

MTV President Chris McCarthy is largely responsible for this mining of the network’s history to inform its current programming. “MTV’s reinvention,” he told recently told The New York Times, “is coming by harnessing its heritage.”

As a business strategy, this has been remarkably successful. In June and July, ratings for MTV’s target demographic – millennials, aka 18 to 34-year-olds—soared. It was the first time the network experienced two consecutive months of ratings growth in four years.

As Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish told The New York Times, “[McCarthy] reset the brand filter, cleaned out the pipeline and began building a new MTV that’s much more based on reality, unscripted and music content.”

What next?

As Kanye would say, “Listen to the kids, bro!”

And that’s exactly what MTV executives are doing by bringing back TRL.

“It’s the right route,” said McCarthy to the New York Times. “When you talk to artists and they say to you, unaware of what we’re doing, can you bring back TRL? We’d be crazy not to reinvent that.”

What to Expect at the 2017 VMAs: Katy Perry, Moon People, and the End of Gendered Categories

When MTV became one of the first American award shows to eliminate gender categories at the MTV Movie and TV Awards in May, people noticed.

“I give [MTV] credit for having the audacity to shake up the cultural DNA, to show us what a new kind of post-gender consciousness feels like,” said Variety columnist Owen Glieberman. “For kicking open a door by simply doing it.”

Now, MTV is doing it again.

In July, the network announced nominations for the VMAs – and gender-specific awards categories were conspicuously absent.

The categories formerly known as Best Female Video and Best Male Video have been consolidated into Artist of the Year. Nominees within this category include Ariana Grande, Ed Sheeran, and Kendrick Lamar, whose music video Humble received eight nominations – the highest total of all nominees this year.

Several days after this news broke, we learned that the iconic astronaut trophy has evolved alongside the categories. Meet the MTV Moon Person.

“Why should it be a man?” MTV President Chris McCarthy asked The New York Times. “It could be a man, it could be a woman, it could be transgender, it could be nonconformist.”

MTV also announced that Katy Perry would host the event. Her music video Chained to the Rhythm featuring Skip Marley received five nominations, tying her with fellow Artist of the Year nominee The Weeknd for the second highest number of nominations this year.

The VMAs will also carry over the Movie and TV Awards’ new category, Best Fight Against the System.

The Movie and TV Awards’ category celebrated “characters fighting back against systems that hold them down,” and the VMA version will honor music videos that do the same thing, such as The Hamilton Mixtape’s Immigrants (We Get the Job Done) and Alessia Cara’s Scars to Your Beautiful. Both videos generated positive buzz for their stance on important issues: immigration and body positivity, respectively.

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A Super Sweet Resurgence of Reality on MTV

In 2005, a show called My Super Sweet 16 premiered on MTV. I was 14, fixated yet mildly disturbed as I watched teenagers just a couple of years my senior scream at their parents for buying  the wrong type of Mercedes as a birthday present.

Hillary Duff sang the infections theme song (which is stuck in my head as I type this). The episodes typically involved 16-year-olds barking orders at their parents and outlining outlandish demands, such as a casual half million dollar budget. The birthday princess would change costumes more times than Rihanna at the VMAs.

We watched in lurid fascination as catfights unfolded between friends, celebrity guests, and parents. We witnessed harsh consequences for parents who bought their children an underwhelming amount of diamonds:

Yashika, aka the Veruca Salt of diamonds, makes herself clear. (Photo courtesy of MTV)

This was the golden age of early 2000s reality TV. As always, MTV defined what was in vogue—and at the time, it was delightfully depraved, unscripted programming.

Along with My Super Sweet 16, MTV produced some of the most addictively decadent shows of that era—Laguna Beach, Cribs, 8th & Ocean, The Osbournes, et al. Americans were collectively hooked.

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Power Struggles, Catfights, and Cocktails: VH1’s Daytime Divas Ring Nasdaq’s Opening Bell

VH1 rang the Nasdaq opening bell to celebrate its new scripted series, Daytime Divas. Nasdaq’s Rob Phillips welcomed the stars of the show to the podium, along with Maggie Malina, senior vice president and head of scripted for MTV and VH1.

Phillips praised Viacom’s “innovative and imaginative programming,” noting how much buzz the show has been generating. “We are honored to have Viacom as part of the Nasdaq family,” said Phillips. “Viacom truly represents what it means to be a Nasdaq company—the visionaries, the game changers.”

Watch the ceremony:

Daytime Divas is based on Star Jones’ novel, Satan’s Sisters. The book and series follow the women behind a long-running talk show called The Lunch Hour. On screen, their quirky personalities shine and their friendships seem genuine. Backstage, it’s a world of backstabbing, blackmail, and botched plastic surgery (luckily, these antics were not present on the podium at Nasdaq.)

But for a drama about a fake talk show, the plot points couldn’t be more real. Daytime Divas tackles ageism, sexism, transgender issues, sexuality, spousal abuse, addiction, sexual harassment in the workplace…and that’s just in the pilot.

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MTV + Movies + Television = The MTV Movie & TV Awards

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Since Demi Moore announced Terminator 2: Judgement Day as Best Movie from a Burbank stage in June of 1992, the MTV Movie Awards have celebrated the best of Hollywood’s explosive, moving, heart-pounding annual slate – with an MTV-appropriate musical touch delivered by the big name performers of the day (that inaugural show included En Vogue, Ugly Kid Joe, and Arrested Development).

After 25 years of Golden Popcorn statues and hijinks that have included Jim Carrey crashing the stage as an anonymous hippie, Rainn Wilson gearing up in nothing but a Teddy bear, and lots of surprise makeout sessions, MTV is taking a great thing and making it even better, with the inclusion of television in its award categories. The network has officially renamed the show the MTV Movie & TV Awards.

MTV Movie and TV Awards

“We’re living in a golden age of content, and great storytelling and characters resonate regardless of whether you’re watching it in a theater or on TV,” said MTV President Chris McCarthy. “The new MTV Movie & TV Awards will celebrate even more of the brightest, bravest, funniest and most shared films and TV shows resonating across youth culture.”

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Robin Thicke Saves the Music to Start the School Year

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom
VH1 Save The Music Foundation & Viacommunity R…
VH1 Save The Music Foundation & Viacommunity R…
Stuart Stuart

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 26: Robin Thicke performs at VH1 Save The Music Foundation & Viacommunity… Read More

VH1 Save The Music Foundation & Viacommunity R…
VH1 Save The Music Foundation & Viacommunity R…
Stuart Stuart

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 26: Robin Thicke performs at VH1 Save The Music Foundation & Viacommunity… Read More

VH1 Save The Music Foundation & Viacommunity R…
VH1 Save The Music Foundation & Viacommunity R…
Stuart Stuart

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 26: General Manager of VH1 and Charman of VH1 Save the Music, Chis McCarthy a… Read More

VH1 Save The Music Foundation & Viacommunity R…
VH1 Save The Music Foundation & Viacommunity R…
Stuart Stuart

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 26: VH1 Save The Music Foundation & Viacommunity Robin Thicke Piano Deliv… Read More

VH1 Save The Music Foundation & Viacommunity R…
VH1 Save The Music Foundation & Viacommunity R…
Stuart Stuart

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 26: VH1 Save The Music Foundation & Viacommunity Robin Thicke Piano Deliv… Read More

VH1 Save The Music Foundation & Viacommunity R…
VH1 Save The Music Foundation & Viacommunity R…
Stuart Stuart

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 26: Robin Thicke performs at VH1 Save The Music Foundation & Viacommunity… Read More

VH1 Save The Music Foundation & Viacommunity R…
VH1 Save The Music Foundation & Viacommunity R…
Stuart Stuart

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 26: Robin Thicke performs at VH1 Save The Music Foundation & Viacommunity… Read More

VH1 Save The Music Foundation & Viacommunity R…
VH1 Save The Music Foundation & Viacommunity R…
Stuart Stuart

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 26: President and CEO of Viacom, Philippe Dauman, Executive Director, VH1 Sav… Read More

VH1 Save The Music Foundation & Viacommunity R…
VH1 Save The Music Foundation & Viacommunity R…
Stuart Stuart

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 26: Robin Thicke attends VH1 Save The Music Foundation & Viacommunity Rob… Read More

VH1 Save The Music Foundation & Viacommunity R…
VH1 Save The Music Foundation & Viacommunity R…
Stuart Stuart

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 26: Robin Thicke attends VH1 Save The Music Foundation & Viacommunity Rob… Read More

VH1 Save The Music Foundation & Viacommunity R…
VH1 Save The Music Foundation & Viacommunity R…
Stuart Stuart

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 26: President and CEO of Viacom, Philippe Dauman and Robin Thicke attend VH1… Read More

VH1 Save The Music Foundation & Viacommunity R…
VH1 Save The Music Foundation & Viacommunity R…
Stuart Stuart

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 26: Trell Thomas, Music Director East Quogue Elementary School, Penni Russo, V… Read More

Robin Thicke knows a few things about succeeding young. He taught himself to play piano at 12. At 16, he was writing and producing songs for top R&B artists. By 21, he had written and produced more than 20 gold and platinum albums. At the starting line of that climb to the entertainment world’s summit was one very important thing: access to the tools that allowed him to make music.

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