Growing up, I didn't have cable. I couldn't have watched it if I did have it, though, as I was too busy working on the farm, hiking through three foot snow drifts to and from my one-room school and fighting off wild, rabid animals that menaced me and my siblings.
I'm sorry, that wasn't me. Those are memories I have from watching Little House On The Prairie. My bad...
But it is true that I didn't have cable TV. So, I didn't get to watch the beginnings of the social and pop cultural revolution that was music television. I wanted my MTV, I just couldn't have it.
I see that MTV is now celebrating it's 25th anniversary. Like many 25-year-olds, MTV seems to be struggling with it's identity. Questioning it's relevance. Pondering it's future. Obsessively curious about adulthood, and how it will fit in with the same crowd it used to defy and dismiss.
Remember when MTV was just 15 years old? Being young and hip allowed it to make fun of the other adult networks and cable channels? It regularly gave the finger to those old bastards by using the original ideas and creative efforts that come with a youthful, fresh perspective. MTV gave a stage to music-themed aid movements, and invented reality TV.
At 21, MTV became pretty self-absorbed, thinking itself too hip and cool for the friends it used to hang with. The channel lost a lot of friends with that attitude, but it didn't seem to care. It was still young, full of piss and vinegar. Quick with the "screw 'em" attitude for anyone that didn't get it. The Osbournes was great TV, MTV said. Trust us...You'll get it, eventually.
At 24, MTV hung around a lot with the 17-year-olds, often buying them beer and cigs. MTV knew making the wrong move with those not-quite-adults was risky, but risky behavior was still OK. The channel wasn't really an adult, yet. Mistakes were understandable, after all, because MTV was just a kid. Madonna kissed Britney Spears. And Christina Aguilera. At the same time. MTV was cool again, yes? Well, it tried to be.
Now 25, MTV has reached a crossroads. It can't rely on it's youthful exuberance any longer. It can't party every night with the teens, and still feel fresh when it gets to the office first thing in the morning. Buying the kids beer ain't cool at 25; in fact, it's kinda creepy. And when it screws up, MTV can no longer argue: "But I'm just a kid. Give me another chance." Nope. 25-year-olds who say that sound pathetic. And rightfully so.
So, happy birthday, MTV. And good luck. You have a long life ahead of you. The lifestyle you choose--and the consequences it brings-- is up to you.