My post this morning about MTV reality shows yielded some comments on the age-old theme: remember when MTV used to play videos? The short answer, of course, is that if you can answer yes to that question, you are really too old to be watching MTV.
The longer answer to that question is that MTV does still play videos. (And no, I’m not talking about MTV2, which except for a few hours is now a clearinghouse for Crank Yankers and Wildboyz reruns.) You just need to set your alarm clock. In the winter months, I work out at my local Y in the mornings, and when I get there well before 6 a.m., you can see MTV’s morning video block playing on the treadmill screens. Granted, every other one is Gwen Stefani’s The Sweet Escape, but nonetheless there they are: actual, honest to God, beginning-to-end music videos.
Of course, the very fact of the videos’ scheduling proves the music-video generation gap. If you’ve been up late partying, or are sleeping in because your first lecture class doesn’t start until 10, you’re going to snooze on, blissfully unaware that MTV is even on the air at this unholy hour. But if you’re getting up far too early in the morning, because you have a long commute ahead, or because you want to fit in 40 minutes on the elliptical trainer before the kids wake up, or because your doctor has assessed your blood-lipid level and middle-aged paunch and told you to shape up–why, then, you are just old and tired enough to flip on MTV for some video adrenaline, a fleeting injection of youth and vigor in the form of the music-with-pictures stories you recall from the days when the Flock of Seagulls guys had all their hair.
And so it will likely remain, until the last Gen-Xers have fallen off the treadmill, and MTV launches MTV Golden Years, a digital-cable offshoot that will broadcast classic 20th-century videos into our retirement homes and hospices.