On The Record: FNMTV, FNLA and FNBASTARDSOFYOUNG
I am not, as they say, an “L.A. person.” In fact, I am probably the most un-L.A. person I know. I deplore traffic, VIP areas cordoned off with cushy velveteen ropes, California Pizza Kitchen, that dude the Cobra Snake and bands like Mickey Avalon — and as far as I can tell, those are pretty much the only things that exist in Los Angeles. I thought I was the anti-Randy Newman until someone told me his 1983 song “I Love L.A.” is at least partially ironic. Anyway, I strongly dislike L.A.
So why, exactly, am I here? Surely there must be some colossally important reason I’ve flown west, subjected myself once again to all that is terrible about this place and am now sitting in a big, fancy hotel on Hollywood Boulevard, far away from my wife and our apartment, with my window open, listening to the sons and daughters of old money squeal and cavort in the well-manicured courtyard below me as I hammer out this week’s column on a bed with high-thread-count sheets.
Well, actually, yes, there is. I’m trying to save the music video.
Or, more specifically, Pete Wentz is trying to save the music video. Tim Kash and I are here to help.
See, about a month ago, Wentz called me and asked if I’d be interested in helping him out with a project he was working on: a show based on the very simple idea that, once upon a time, music videos meant something. They were big deals, things you’d stay up late to watch, with a VHS tape cued and ready to record. They were like mini movies, grand unveilings of new songs and new looks and even new bass players. Some of them were great, some were terrible and some were even art, but they all meant something to someone somewhere.
Sadly, all of that seems like ancient history — the silly logic of some bygone era. But wouldn’t it be great if it weren’t? Wouldn’t it be amazing if videos mattered again, were celebrated and given the proper treatment they deserve? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they were shown in their entirety? The answer, I thought after rolling it around in my jaded brain for a minute, was unequivocally yes.
And that’s basically how I ended up on “FNMTV,” a new video show hosted by Wentz that premieres Friday night (June 13) at 8 p.m. ET/PT. (There was also some auditioning involved, but I’ll spare you the grisly details.) We’re currently rehearsing for the first episode — which will feature a live performance by Panic at the Disco and world premieres of videos from Flo Rida, the Ting Tings, Snoop Dogg and the Pussycat Dolls — in a heavily stucco’ed studio in Hollywood; I’m told it’s the same lot where they film that show “Weeds.” So far, I have sat through processes with names like “dry blocking” and “read-thrus” and have learned exactly two things: that I am incredibly terrible at TV (seriously, you should tune in just to see if my head will explode, because there’s a 50-50 chance it will), and that despite my best efforts, this show could actually be really good.
And I’m not just saying that because MTV is putting me up in a big, fancy hotel with nice sheets, either. If you are a fan of music videos — or even a fan of music — you are probably going to like what we’re doing here. And if, like me, you can remember the halcyon days of the early-to-mid 1990s, you’re going to be happy too, because we’re actually going to be playing the kind of videos that ran ad infinitum back then. Seriously!
And for fans of live performances, surprise guests and all sorts of user-generated content and interactive widgetry, that’ll all be in there too — it is MTV, after all.
It’s a delightfully antiquated idea — to premiere brand-new videos, often in their entirety, and then talk about them — but it’s also a really vital one. Because, for better or worse, an entire generation of music fans has grown up bereft of the knowledge that music videos can really be amazing. It is a safe bet that today’s 13-year-old does not have a VHS tape loaded with gems like Beck’s “Where It’s At,” Pavement’s “Range Life” or Yo La Tengo’s “Sugarcube” (plus a whole lot of awkward Matt Pinfield interviews), and that’s not just because VHS tapes are obsolete. It’s because a lot of today’s music videos aren’t worth recording — or remembering, for that matter.
Through programming decisions and YouTube pixelations, the average video now has approximately the same worth (and life span) as a McDonald’s hamburger or an issue of the PennySaver: They’re disposable, meant for quick and soulless consumption. And if videos are basically just belched into the ether like so much burnt trash, well, why should directors even bother trying to make something of value? It’s all going into the same cosmic junkheap anyhow.
I hope “FNMTV” helps to change all that. It may be naive, but hey, it’s a start. And along the way, perhaps it could also help breathe life back into the genre (or something like that). If we treat music videos like events, then perhaps music videos will start actually becoming events once again. Or at the very least, maybe some kid will tune in, see a video like the Replacements’ legendary “Bastards of Young,” and go, “Wow, what is that?”
Regardless, you can’t say we didn’t try. Actually, a lot of people already are saying things like that: Maybe we’re not premiering enough videos, or maybe people will never be satisfied no matter what. Still, you should tune in anyway, because at the very least, you’ll get to see my goofy ass clam up on live TV (this will be particularly satisfying to the thousands of David Cook fans I’ve offended over the past few weeks). After all, I’d hate to think I came all the way out to Los Angeles for nothing.
“FNMTV” premieres Friday at 8 p.m. ET/PT on MTV.
Questions? Concerns? Video Picks? E-mail ’em to me at BTTS@MTVStaff.com.