Hey Paramount+, I want my (old) MTV
Paramount+ clearly understands the value of nostalgia, but it doesn’t deliver nearly enough of it.
When the streaming service launched last month, one of its “new” shows was a reunion of the first cast of MTV’s “Real World.”
I’m not a big fan of reality television. I love “Top Chef” and don’t have a problem with shows like “American Idol” or “The Voice,” which focus on the contestants’ talents. But I have no tolerance for what I call trainwreck television — miserable excuses for human beings being miserable to one another.
When I see the commercials for other Bravo shows while watching “Top Chef,” I think someone would have to build the contraption used to program Malcolm McDowell in “A Clockwork Orange” to get me to watch anything else on this network. Why spend time watching people on television you would avoid at all costs if you encountered them in real life?
That said, I loved “The Real World” when it debuted. In 1992 the show truly was unique, and it was the first — and only — time when the cast members on a reality series had little or no expectations about what the experience would do to their lives.
Every “Survivor” and “Big Brother” and “Real World” cast that followed was filled with people who understood the fame the platform could deliver and tried to manipulate it. And the TV producers got better at casting people guaranteed to cause conflict.
When one of my daughters decided to sign up for a Paramount+ monthlong free trial, I quickly watched the the four episodes of “The Real World Reunion” that already had aired and caught the last two within a day of their debut.
It was fun to catch up with the old gang, hear what’s happened to them in the last 29 years and see how self-aware they are this time. It was fascinating to watch the seven people — well, six of them — determined not to make the same mistakes they did in 1992.
While the “Real World” nostalgia was fun, the streaming service is more Paramount- when it comes to delivering MTV nostalgia for young Boomers and Gen Xers who know that M once stood for “Music.”
I was in college when MTV came to the cable system in Oxford, Ohio, in 1982-83. That and sports were the only things that ever were on our television.
In a filmmaking class, I made a mock documentary called “Willie: Portrait of a Cableholic” that essentially was a comedic spin on one of my roommates, who stayed up all night watching MTV and flunked out of architecture school.
Paramount+ has episodes of the 21st century MTV game show “Parental Control,” but the snarky pop culture-obsessed “Remote Control” is nowhere to be found.
There are only two episodes of VH-1’s”Behind the Music” available — Madonna and Jennifer Lopez. Yawn. I want to hear the bandmates from Styx and Journey complaining about each other and bribing DJs with cocaine to get their songs on the radio.
The selection is a little better for “MTV Unplugged” but only a tiny fraction of the episodes currently are available. I want the really old episodes with bands like Smithereens and Squeeze (tip of the hat to those who remember when “MTV Unplugged” had a host who occasionally sat in with the bands — that host was Jules Shear).
I realize they can’t post everything, but I can guarantee if they made available a dozen random episodes each of “120 Minutes,” “Headbanger’s Ball” and “Yo! MTV Raps.” there are generations of music fans who would love a glimpse at those time capsules.
Maybe Paramount+ will add more of these shows as the streaming service continues. Maybe renegotiating the music licensing rights for shows that aired before streaming existed is too cost prohibitive.
Whatever the excuse, all I know is we’ll be subtracting Paramount+ when the 30 days expires.
Andy Gray is the entertainment editor of Ticket. Write to him at email@example.com.