Like most Americans, I can pinpoint the exact moment I stopped watching VH1: Summer of 2006, Flava Of Love 2, Episode One. A woman known only as "Sumthin" poops on the stairs within the first 15 minutes of the show. Surprisingly, the prospect of finding out the answer to the question, "Is defecating on the stairs of a fiberglass reality-show mansion a dealbreaker for Flava Flav?" couldn't get me to keep watching.
Traumatizing memories like that one make me (and every other American who has ever watched VH1 only to suddenly look around and realize "What is this pile of putrid filth I'm wallowing in?" before changing the channel) incredibly jealous of VH1's president Tom Calderone. Because while we all had to suffer through untold minutes of VH1's terrible Celebreality programming before finally deciding to change the channel, Tom Calderone has never had to stop watching VH1 for fear of giant mushy stakes of garbage suddenly shooting from his TV and stabbing him directly in the eyes. Why? Because apparently Tom Calderone never started watching VH1 in the first place.
From the NY Times:
VH1’s president, Tom Calderone, says he wants to diversify the channel’s programming. “It’s important for us that we’re not famous for one thing,” Mr. Calderone said more than once in a telephone interview last week in the wake of the murder [allegedly committed by VH1 contestant, Ryan Jenkins]. The channel is introducing new shows led by B-list, rather than D-list, celebrities, and is bringing back some of its retired music franchises.
The “celebreality” strategy “has given us an opportunity to define what VH1 stood for and still stands for, as one of our buckets, but it isn’t the overall riding definition of what we are anymore,” Mr. Calderone said, identifying redemptive shows as another category.
Redemptive shows like, say, Real Chance Of Love 2? Or That Girl From That Other Dating Show Now Has A Dating Show!? Or Sharon Osbourne Yells At Old Dating Show Contestants? Or Dr. Drew Knows What's Best For Has-Been Addicts: A Reality Show Starring Dr. Drew! 3?
I understand that the president of VH1 might want to distance himself and his network from the kind of programming that many people are (unfairly) blaming for a murder/suicide. But pretending that 95% of your network's programming isn't reality shows where volatile people are rewarded for acting crazy/trashy/volatile probably isn't the best way to go about that. Nice try, Calderone. But we can all see the Tool Academy behind the curtain—there's a trail of body glitter and discarded tubes of bronzer and bleeped out expletives leading to it.
Don't worry, though. According to Calderone, in addition to its current slate of "redemptive" programming, VH1 has some really different, upscale shows on right now: Like the one about some football player, and the one about a stable of volatile women competing to date some has-been actor:
New shows like “The T.O. Show,” starring the professional football player Terrell Owens, and “My Antonio,” starring the actor Antonio Sabato Jr., were ordered in part to attract a more upscale advertiser base. With stories about celebrities who are between quarterlife and midlife crises, they may also draw a slightly older audience, helping to differentiate from MTV.
Mr. Calderone cited Mr. Owens’s show as an example. “What does he do after football is over?,” he said, adding, “To some extent I think you can replace the word football with anybody’s career.”
Oh, Calderone. No you can't.
Still, "What does some football guy do after football is over?" is certainly a less disgusting question than "Is defecating on the stairs of a fiberglass reality-show mansion a dealbreaker for Flava Flav?" Unfortunately, though, it's no more interesting. Progress?