MTV Presses the Rewind Button, Brings ‘TRL’ Out of Retirement—but Why?

Source: ABC News

For television executives, future success seems to lie in the past. From sequel series, such as “Raven’s Home”, to reunion reboots, such as “Will & Grace”, many TV networks are turning to old favorites to attract new audiences. Yet, while nostalgia certainly seems to sell these days, MTV’s upcoming “Total Request Live” revival fails to take the passage of time into account.

When “TRL” began its initial run in 1998, life was much different than we’re used to now. YouTube was still about seven years away from its debut, internet connections were primarily of the dial-up variety, and cell phones were bulky, analog devices that belonged to businessmen and… well, Zack Morris. Texting wasn’t possible, but beepers were still popular, and killing time on the “World Wide Web” meant monopolizing your family’s landline. Without music television, video never would’ve killed the radio star.

By the time “TRL” called it quits in 2008, the world had transformed dramatically. Smartphones existed, even if they weren’t yet widespread, social media was on the rise, though it didn’t retain the same level of influence it does today, and nearly every video you could imagine was accessible on-demand thanks to Wi-Fi networks.

Now, nearly 10 years later, MTV’s already fighting an uphill battle before “TRL” even premieres.

First and foremost, the team must tackle the elephant in the studio: social media. For those of us who grew up during Carson Daly’s “TRL” days—the days before DVR and live-streaming—our idea of “sharing” was talking about the latest Britney Spears video the next morning before the first middle school bell rang.

Source: Scott Gries/ImageDirect

Today’s teens and tweens, however, will likely spend more time staring down at their smartphone screen than their TV. Perhaps that’s why the network plans to split hosting duties among five VJs during this go ’round—they need to satisfy this generation’s self-induced ADHD. How they’ll integrate social media remains to be seen, of course, but it’ll likely distract the viewers from the true premise of the show.

MTV will also have to pad the show’s latest incarnation with plenty of appearances and performances by today’s top artists if the network hopes to gain and retain the interest of these fickle viewers. Anyone can watch the hottest music videos of the day via YouTube now—a luxury unavailable to its original audience—so even the countdown alone won’t draw people in, no matter how interested they might be. Plus, anyone who’s ever watched “TRL” knows that they only play videos in their entirety when they premiere and when they retire, so if they stay true to the nature of the show, they’ll need to find a way to alleviate the subsequent disappointment.

While “TRL” was our reason to rush home back in the day, it doesn’t hold much allure for modern audiences, at least not in its original form.

MTV lost its way for years as executives focused on developing reality programming that disregarded the “M” in “music television” entirely—think “Jersey Shore” in all its spray tan glory—but the current leadership hopes to return the network to its lyrical roots. If executives can channel today’s young music lovers’ fascination with social interaction and use these behaviors to enhance the “TRL” experience, they might just attract the audience they seek.

As for us oldies? We will probably take the Carson Daly route and leave well enough alone. If you need us, we’ll be off in the corner relearning the dance moves to “Bye, Bye, Bye” for old times’ sake.

(This post originally appeared on Storia.)

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Reality TV Exploits Real-Life Drama — and Viewers Are to Blame

Everyone who’s ever watched multiple seasons of any given reality show knows that the producers are following some semblance of a script. Take the “Bachelor/Bachelorette” franchise, for instance. Each season features one set of archenemies that must ultimately endure a ‘dramatic’ two-on-one date. Sure, personalities are likely to clash when living in close quarters with strangers, but this level of conflict always comes around like clockwork. Throw in some whacky professions—such as Free Spirit, Chicken Enthusiast, and Tickle Monster, for example—and you’ve got yourself some entertainment value.

But, as viewers begin to grow weary of the tiresome cycle, producers have become desperate to spice things up now and then. When Kayleigh Morris of “Big Brother” was forcibly evicted recently, the star brought attention to how eager producers are to manufacture drama, even if it’s at the expense of the cast’s reputation.

Morris told Aisleyne Horgan-Wallace of The Sun that it’s “really frustrating, as I had so many happy times in the house, but only the bad parts were aired, which I guess is the nature of the beast, but still…” Reality TV surely offers an opportunity to achieve fame and fortune for those who maintain their dignity, but those who’re targeted as villains live on in infamy, nothing more.

Nothing, however, compares to the fiasco on the set of “Bachelor In Paradise.” While the summertime offshoot never garnered quite the audience of its parent series, producers have tried to up the ante each season by cultivating the most controversial cast members of seasons past. For the upcoming incarnation, Corinne Olympios (Nick Viall’s season) and DeMario Jackson (Rachel Lindsay’s season) were set to reprise their ‘roles’ for some fun in the sun. But, just days into filming, everyone was sent home so investigators could look into claims of sexual assault involving the two stars.

Prior reports claimed that both Olympios and Jackson had been drinking excessively throughout the day, and that an encounter may have taken place while Olympios was too intoxicated to consent. Since then, officials have concluded that no such assault happened, allowing the show to resume filming ahead of its August premiere date. Olympios retained representation in order to get to the bottom of this matter, while Jackson has been dealing with the ramifications of being portrayed as a rapist, guilty before proven innocent.

While I’m not one to disregard assault allegations, for I don’t doubt that there could’ve been foul play, I can’t help but wonder if ABC will use this incident to boost its audience—and viewers are to blame.

Essentially, viewers are the addicts and producers are our enablers. When excitement from the typical drama fails to satisfy our cravings, showrunners must find new ways to draw the audience back into the fray. Each hit must be more extreme than the one prior to ensure our satisfaction. We sit on the sidelines, complaining about how reality TV has gotten out of hand, yet we still tune in to gawk as the drama unfolds.

Of course, while I’d hope that this particular case wasn’t manufactured—for the sake of assault victims everywhere—I’m positive that ABC will use this story to lure viewers, old and new, as the premiere date draws near.

However, we have the power to condemn such exploitation, and doing so takes little effort. Next time you see a Kayleigh Morris-like outburst, just change the channel.

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(This post originally appeared on Storia.)

 

Could the Fictional Suicide in ‘13 Reasons Why’ Inspire Real-Life Copycats?

Source: IMDb

It’s the latest title on everyone’s binge list. Yet, while Netflix’s “13 Reasons Why” has captured the imagination of countless viewers since its March debut, the most tweeted about show in TV history may also be one of its most controversial.

Based on the young adult novel by Jay Asher, the series revolves around Hannah Baker’s suicide and the cassette tapes she leaves behind. As you might’ve guessed, each tape explains one reason that drove her to take such drastic action. Producers behind the series, including Selena Gomez, hoped the fictional suicide would spark conversations about the state of mental health amongst tweens and teens. But school officials across the country are now warning parents about the show in their attempt to prevent copycat suicides.

Jia Tolentino, contributing writer for The New Yorker, writes, “Rather than starting a valuable conversation that could help students who are struggling with mental-health issues, the show, these schools fear, might push students with issues over the edge.”

Many administrators believe “13 Reasons Why” could romanticize the idea of suicide among the younger set, and rightfully so. Known as the Werther Effect, researchers have seen spikes in copycat deaths in response to celebrity or fictional suicides throughout history. Vulnerable parties often derive inspiration from examples in the media when seeking justification for their own impulses—and that’s precisely what has adults worried right now.

Source: IMDb

“For kids who are vulnerable, who suffer from depression and anxiety, it can be a trigger for suicidal idealization and that is of course a concern,” Anne Moss Rogers, who lost her 20-year-old son to suicide two years ago, told WTVR. If mainstream depictions of suicidal acts become ingrained in the fabric of modern pop culture, these hypothetical concerns might very well become real-life epidemics.

According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, researchers noted a 50 percent increase in intentional exposures—the third most common form of suicide—by adolescents between 2012 and 2016. MarketWatch reports that, in 2016 alone, poison centers managed more than 76,500 cases of intentional exposures in young adults. Overall, incoming call volume to poison centers continues to decrease, but cases with more serious clinical outcomes, including death, have increased by 4.3 percent per year since 2000. Some centers, however, have seen an uptick in cases just since the show’s premiere.

Lee Cantrell, director of the San Diego division of the California Poison Control System, told MarketWatch that these suspected suicide cases are particularly worrisome. “In our center alone, adolescent suicide and suicidal intent cases for the month of April were the highest we have observed in the past two years. Many of the more recent calls have referenced popular television shows that include messages of suicide, sometimes glamorizing suicide or inspiring deadly copycat behavior.”

Source: IMDb

One group of teens, however, has made it their mission to counteract the potentially detrimental undertones of “13 Reasons Why” by creating their own mental health awareness campaign. The “13 Reasons Why Not” project aims to provide students of Oxford High School in Michigan with an outlet for their emotions so they can work through their struggles without resorting to self-harm.

Launched in honor of Megan Abbott, a former student who committed suicide in 2013, the group surprised their classmates with audio recordings broadcast over the school’s loudspeaker system. Not only did these students share their experiences with bullying, body shaming, and abuse, but they also added how the support they received saved them from the brink. It’s with this element of hope that the group aims to inspire those in need to seek the help they require.

Riley Juntti, one of the program’s leading organizers, has struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts for years, so this project holds special meaning, as she’s an advocate for suicide prevention. “I know this project was extremely emotionally painful for a lot of the participants to go through,” she wrote via Twitter. “I just hope someone took the meaning out of it that life is always worth living, there [are] people who love you, and your value is not tarnished by others perceptions.”

Source: IMDb

While “13 Reasons Why” has certainly cleared the path for honest discussions about mental health, entertainment outlets must also acknowledge the negative impact this runaway hit may have on its target market. As Patrick Devitt writes for Scientific American, “…the message that suicide can have simple, or a simple set, of causes, or that suicide represents some type of solution, is unfortunate. There is never one reason why, or even thirteen.”

Suicide awareness, in general, stands as another major issue, for global suicide rates have skyrocketed since the Great Recession. Close to 800,000 people die due to suicide every year, while many more attempt to take their own lives. Subsequently, millions of people are affected by or experience suicide bereavement every year, according to the World Health Organization.

Just as children now have easy access to Netflix and the news, we must also guarantee that they know where to find the resources they’ll need when life becomes overwhelming if we are to truly make an impact and save young lives.

If you or someone you know shows signs of suicidal thoughts or tendencies, you’re not alone. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifelineat 1 (800) 273-8255 or message the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 for access to crisis and support services. Suicide isn’t your only option. Please seek help before deciding to end your own life.

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(This post originally appeared on Storia.)

We All Know Why They Announced the New “Bachelorette” Early

Fans of ABC’s “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” are accustomed to the formula by now. Producers allow the current season to play out. Then, shortly after the finale—sometimes during the ‘After the Final Rose’ broadcast itself—they announce that one of the show’s most recent rejects will headline the next season.

Of course, while current “Bachelor” Nick Viall wasn’t rejected by “Bachelorette” Jojo Fletcher, his two prior appearances on the show, plus his “Bachelor in Paradise” stint, made him the prime candidate. (Or ABC knew he’d never leave them alone unless they financed his own “journey” to find love—one or the other.)

Yet, despite causing much drama during both Andi Dorfman and Kaitlyn Bristowe’s seasons, Viall’s own adventures have been rather bland by comparison. ABC was probably banking on ratings gold, but even Chris Harrison can’t claim it’s the “most dramatic season ever” at this point.

That’s probably why ABC announced Rachel Lindsay will be the next “Bachelorette” an entire month before the finale—and long before her own “Bachelor” elimination, oddly enough.

When ABC revealed its choice, critics were thrilled that producers made this diverse casting decision. (She’s the first black lead in the show’s 20+ season history.) Bachelor Nation sighed one collective “FINALLY!” into the void, and that was that. But deep down, it’s not hard to see why ABC bucked tradition and made this announcement before Viall and Lindsay’s inevitable break-up: They wanted to boost Viall’s ratings!

By announcing Lindsay’s upcoming role before her exit this season, producers were able to redirect viewers’ waning interest from this season’s lackluster lead to next season’s groundbreaking star. Even those who’d become bored with Viall’s relatively by-the-book season gained renewed interest because they wanted to learn more about Lindsay.

Producers claim this announcement came earlier than usual in an effort to cast an exceptional array of men, but it’s obvious that they wanted people to invest in Lindsay’s “journey” long before those limos pull up in front of the “Bachelor” mansion next season. Viewers witnessed her heartbreak after the overnight dates and now viewers cannot wait to see Lindsay pursue love on her own terms.

ABC will do whatever it must to keep this stale series fresh. In this case, their strategy just might work.

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(This post originally appeared on Storia.)

The Bill Paxton Effect

Despite our presumed differences, it’s safe to say that we’re all looking for that elusive “something” that makes us feel complete. Our specific pursuits are irrelevant when we stop to consider that, deep down, we’re all desperate to find meaning in a world that seems devoid of logic, especially now.

Film and television are notorious for bringing such feelings to light, for it’s in the eyes of the actors that we can see ourselves. Bill Paxton’s body of work—his characters, in particular—personifies our innate desire to seek what’s just out of reach. But if there’s one thing we can learn from what the beloved actor and director left behind, it’s that what we want and what we need don’t always align.

Source: CraveOnline

Source: CraveOnline

Paxton’s roles often looked to the outside world for direction. His unhinged persona in Frailty believed he was destined to rid the world of demons, for instance, while his adventurous alter ego in Twister unearthed renewed purpose when chasing tornadoes. But it was his turn as Brock Lovett in 1997’s Titanic that demonstrated how tunnel vision might distract us from the critical lessons of life.

“Three years, I’ve thought of nothing except Titanic, but I never got it. I never let it in.”

Spoken by Paxton’s Lovett at the end of the film, these words emphasize the character’s epiphany. While he’d spent years searching for the Heart of the Ocean, a rare diamond once worn by the now aging Rose Calvert, he neglected to explore the rich history buried deep within the ship’s wreckage. Lovett longed to find artifacts, forgetting that each item pulled from the ocean floor carried the stories of those lost and found. As he said, he never let the immensity of the disaster sink in, so to speak.

Source: CinemaBlend

Source: CinemaBlend

But isn’t that how most of us go about our daily lives? We are selfish. We rarely stop to observe what’s all around. We are oblivious to both the beauty and the injustice right before our eyes.

Though we live in an increasingly enlightened time—an era filled with activists who wish to fix the faults of our ailing society—many people opt to look the other way. Face forward and eyes down, they trudge through life with little regard for those who are suffering. If they stop to acknowledge these issues, they run the risk of derailing their own efforts. One step off the beaten path could mark the beginning of the end for their personal success.

Nowadays, we call that privilege. Historically, we call that ignorance.

But now, more than ever, we need to open our eyes and our ears. We must extend our hand and heart to our neighbor, both near and far. Local communities may be close-knit, but we’re all global citizens now. We owe to our people and our planet to seek solutions to the problems that affect everyone worldwide. We must spread the stories and amplify the voices of those in need to educate the selfish and encourage the selfless.

Source: YouTube

Source: YouTube

During an interview with “Film School Rejects” in 2014, Paxton expressed his boundless fascination with human-interest stories. “My father always read obituaries to me out loud, not because he was maudlin or morbid, but because they were mini biographies. ‘Listen to what this guy did! Look what he said. Look how he started out.’”

Human-interest stories, those that truly touch our hearts and inspire change, are born from an interest in humans from all walks of life. But to learn the lessons our friends and strangers have to teach, we must commit to walking with them, hand-in-hand, even if only for a short while.

Fans will surely quote Paxton for generations: “Game over, man!” For those blessed with life, however, the game has only just begun.

But we’ve got to be in it to win it.

Let’s allow Paxton, the director, to call the next shot. Let’s show more interest in our fellow humans, for it’s in every human’s best interest to cultivate an overarching culture of curiosity and compassion. From this core value, we can achieve anything as long as we do so together.

Source: SunStar

Source: SunStar

Knock It Off, Nostalgia!

iStock_000002879254_SmallIf George Santayana was correct, and those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it, then those who become consumed by nostalgia are doomed to dwell in another era. Pop culture buffs, in particular, have created this trap from which the entertainment industry cannot escape.

Nostalgia has become the primary impetus behind creativity throughout Hollywood, according to recent memory, driving numerous endeavors to “reboot” or “remake” the movies and TV shows of yesteryear. Yet, while this wave of inspiration—or lack thereof—appears to be motivated by an unyielding yearning for days gone by, one may also perceive this trend as an attempt to capitalize on prior successes. (Who am I kidding? That’s exactly what they’re doing…)

Most studios and investors prefer to sink money into ideas that are essentially past their expiration date simply because these once profitable entities still remain vivid within our collective consciousness. But these lackluster attempts to restore characters and concepts to their former glory could very well be the key to their imminent demise. You see, it’s their memory that holds the appeal. TV shows, such as Full House, and films, such as Poltergeist, remain popular in their original form because they carry an innate timelessness that cannot be replicated. Despite the1980s vibe, each exists outside the confines of the given decade, allowing generation after generation to enjoy what attracted audiences in the first place.

Of course, remakes and reboots are by no means new to the industry. Hollywood’s history is chock full of unnecessary spinoffs and sequels. (Please see Three’s A Crowd, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), and every installment of the Leprechaun series for reference.) But today, it’s as if nearly all major films and franchises are born from what already exists. It’s as if there’s simply no room for unique thought and creativity in today’s entertainment space. Just check out this list of upcoming movies as assembled by Grantland:harris-sequels-2

Also, if you can’t get the original cast to sign on, that clearly means you shouldn’t pursue the idea any further. The Prince and Me and its subsequent straight-to-DVD iterations, for instance, defy industry expectations, ultimately representing all that’s wrong with the entertainment world today. Not only was the initial film rather lackluster and poorly received, overall, but also its three follow-ups—which I can happily say I’ve never seen—steadily deteriorated, as the creators grasped onto farfetched concepts despite the exit of their primary star, Julia Stiles. (I wish I could tell you that 2010’s The Prince and Me 4: The Elephant Adventure was something I just made up myself, but alas, even I was unaware that this atrocity existed.) Who decided to spend money on these $5 bargain bin liners instead of investing in something worthwhile? Even something risky would’ve been more profitable, I’m sure.

Our society desperately needs to open the pathways for innovation and invention. Yet, instead of rewarding unique concepts, we get too-soon remakes, like She’s All That (which came out in 1999, mind you) and Girl Meets World, the more modern, slightly urbanized version of its original incarnation, Boy Meets World. If Hollywood continues down this road, we will be forced to indulge the same ideas over and over, leaving no room for new forms of nostalgia to blossom. Our children will only have our stale, used memories to revel in themselves. Let’s nurture future creatives by allowing the new to become old again.

Measured By the Moments

To watch the news is to watch history in the making, to learn what the books will never actually teach.  Some may think the constant fixation on tragedy marks our desire to draw pleasure from another’s pain, but our obsessions are nothing more than curiosity.  Most do not wish to see their fellow humans suffer.  We simply long to make sense out of the horrors that consistently grace our screens.

Ever since the earthquake and tsunami altered Japanese lives forever, one cannot turn on the television or browse the Internet without images, articles and live footage staring back at them from all angles.  Yet we do not point and laugh, sitting idly by to brag about our good fortune.  Instead, we gather whatever aid we can provide, even if only just a few pennies found between the couch cushions, and we forego our economic woes to help those whose homes, loved ones and livelihoods were washed away by the unforgiving ocean.  We come together and lend humanity a hand because our cruel world can still ignite that occasional spark of warmth and compassion.

Every major television network continues to provide extensive coverage, while key news outlets continuously update their homepages and social media accounts in an effort to keep the public up-to-date and aware.  Natural disasters baffle, so we watch the footage incessantly just in case a secret lies within that may unlock the key to controlling such phenomena.  But as of right now, we all cling to the unknown, bound by the fact that we will all inevitably die.

You see, most believe in some sort of higher power.  The “something greater” accounts for all those instances that life and science just cannot control or explain.  Humans have yet to determine what everything means, so we latch onto something intangible in hope that there really is more to our journey than life and death.

Religion holds so much power, in fact, that many die in its defense.  We ignore the fact that many believe in said higher power, and fight over the intricacies.  We disregard the fundamental similarity and kill over the differences.  We neglect the fact that we are all part of one whole and focus our attention on eliminating anyone whose theories contradict or differ from our own.  We are complete fools who insist we know what’s correct, when we all know, deep down, that defending our specific beliefs simply makes us feel as if we have a better grip on reality.

Instead, find solace in the fact that you don’t know the truth, for no one does, and embrace the differences by remembering that we are not alone in our search for understanding.  Help the hurt and save the suffering – do anything you can to ease other’s burdens and lighten their loads.  We may not know if there are truly angels up in Heaven, or if Heaven even exist, but we can certainly spread a sense of peace and hope within our world today.