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April 28, 2011  | by: Kerri O'Malley

VH1's Music Video Show Returns

After interviewing a collection of women ages 25 to 35, VH1 researchers came to a startling conclusion: viewers of their formerly music-oriented channel wanted something…music-oriented.  To remedy this (extremely obvious) oversight, the channel is bringing back Pop-Up Video, the snarky yet informative music video show.

Pop-Up Video originally aired from 1996 to 2002 and featured not only behind-the-scenes details on music videos, but also a plenitude of false yet funny info and rude yet hilarious side comments.  Kind of like a semi-informed Beavis & Butthead without the heavy breathing.

What this means is so unexpected it’s almost impossible to comprehend: VH1 is going to start playing music videos. On air!  Can you believe it?

This announcement comes in the midst of an almost TV-wide revival of 90s programming.  From the aforementioned Beavis & Butthead‘s return to MTV to Nickelodeon’s new late-night block of 90s shows, it seems like the 90s are back in a big way.  Is this because we’ve all developed a sudden penchant for wrapping plaid shirts around our waist?  Or is “I Love the 90s” about to replace the top-to-bottom 80s craze I had to suffer through in high school?

Neither, I think.  The surge in 90s programming can be explained through two words: money and nostalgia.  VH1 researchers weren’t just interviewing women ages 25 to 35 because they think they’re pretty.  As The Wall Street Journal reports, VH1 is searching for a way to draw those ladies back to the channel.  For advertisers, that age range and gender is becoming the most important.

“As professional women continue to become more affluent and make more inroads into the working world, advertisers are growing more desperate to reach them,” Brad Adgate, an advertising analyst at Horizon Media told WSJ.  “If you can effectively reach elite, affluent women, marketers will pay a huge premium for that, but it’s also much harder to reach them than it used to be.”

Apparently, women ages 25 to 35 spend the most.  And so, VH1 is at their feet, begging for the keys to the treasure chest (in a way I’m sure all women of that age are all used to).  These women expressed a nostalgia for the VH1 of their early 20s, and so Pop-Up Video is returning to the channel again. But why the love of the past?  Why don’t these women embrace current programming or desire entirely new programming?

“Through our research, we found this new group of reluctant adults,” Van Toffler, Viacom’s MTV Networks president explains.  “And we are trying to make entertainment for this new generation of viewers that may have serious jobs and mortgages but also wants to maintain their irreverence.  It’s about growing up without growing old.”

“Irreverence” is an interesting word to use.  It’s sort of the perfect hip attitude, the eternal definition of cool: a lack of respect for what is.  To long to be “irreverent” is to long to be “cool.”  In music video culture, Beavis & Butthead and Pop-Up Video embraced this attitude, making fun of the videos they played and the industry in general.  They were, and still are, extremely cool.

But the irreverent approach to cool comes with its consequences and contradictions.  Trying to maintain the appropriate level of disrespect and detachment is exhausting in this day and age.   And often leaves you cold and calculating, which may be “cool” but certainly isn’t fun.

My Former Idol: Ms. Spears

It’s ironic to me for Toffler to talk about 90s programming as a way to “maintain irreverence.”  A few years below their target research age, I was a kid all through the 90s and just starting high school when Pop-Up Video left the airwaves.  At that time, I was full of reverence and absolute starry-eyed adoration for Britney Spears.  (I even won a plush Minnie Mouse for being the only 6th grader who correctly performed Britney’s entire “Oops! I Did It Again” dance at our school sock-hop.)  My love was without irony or pretension.  While it’s true that liking Britney was “cool” for the under 13 crowd at the time, it wasn’t the irreverent kind of cool.  It was the our-Barbies-slow-dance-to-”Sometimes“-while-we-close-our-eyes-and-sing-along kind of cool.

For me, watching 90s programming isn’t an affirmation of my cool irreverence.  It’s a reminder of what it was like to love a piece of pop culture before the complications of the hierarchy of “cool” became obvious.  It’s innocence, but better yet: it’s authenticity.  As I grow up, I hope not to maintain my irreverence, but to maintain my ability to truly love something without concern for how cool that makes me.

Perhaps VH1 could use a little bit of that.

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