The words most closely associated with the launch of MTV—which took place 40 years ago this weekend—were spoken by John Lack, one of Music Television’s many founders: “Ladies and gentlemen, rock ’n’ roll.” But that benediction, spoken over guitar crunch and artfully vandalized moon landing photography, doesn’t capture the actual sensation of watching the 24-hour music video channel’s first day on the air. For that, we turn to VJ Mark Goodman, caught in a broadcast hiccup between the video for The Who’s “You Better You Bet” and a Mountain Dew commercial: “Are we on? About 15 minutes? This is incredible!” MTV would come to symbolize the slick, commercialized face of rock (and, when it got over some of its early biases, pop and rap and R&B), but on August 1, 1981, it looked a lot more like Goodman squinting at his watch, marveling with geeky aplomb about beaming Pat Benatar, The Pretenders, and Todd Rundgren to an audience that amounted to little more than a handful of New Jersey households.
I’m thinking about Goodman today because of that upcoming anniversary, but also because I’m also trying to get something off the ground through the combined forces of enthusiasm, recommendation, and modern communication technology. Granted, a weekly guide to how The A.V. Club thinks its readers should spend their weekends is by no means the potential cultural institution on the level of the one that brought us Remote Control, Prince in assless yellow pants, and wall-to-wall Ridiculousness. Over the years, The A.V. Club has made such suggestions via NOT OPTIONAL, Staff Picks, and To Do List, so we’re not exactly reinventing the wheel here. Then again, neither were Goodman and the other original VJs, who spent their workdays presenting a radio-but-on-TV format whose programming depended on pre-existing promotional clips that would’ve been playing in records stores or on Top Of The Pops if MTV weren’t there to put them in heavy rotation.
So what’s new here? Well, for one, the feature doesn’t have a name yet—perhaps you have some suggestions? Also, we’re hoping that this can eventually be a forum for an A.V. Club staffer/multiple A.V. Club staffers to shine, to express a little bit of their voice and personality while relaying any given week’s must-sees, must-watches, must-hears, must-plays, and must-reads. It’s a work-in-progress, but we can make you this guarantee: This is the last time you have to sift through my musings on four-decades-old cable TV footage before learning why The Green Knight rules.
The movie to see: The Green Knight
Dev Patel stars as Knight of the Round Table Sir Gawain in this Arthurian adaptation from director David Lowery, which was one of the many hotly anticipated films of 2020 to have its premiere delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. A pandemic, it’s worth noting, that is still very much in the present tense: Please consult the experts before going to the movie theater, even if you’re vaccinated. But at least that’ll go with the sense of dread Lowery draws out of this centuries old tale.
What our review says: “Over two-plus hours, the film never stops dazzling the viewer with mythic imagery. During one interlude, which may be real or a vision brought on by mushrooms (the whole movie has the vibe of a psychotropic trip), pale, naked giants of almost extraterrestrial wonder lumber across the landscape. They’re amazing, in their scale and otherworldliness. Yet so is just about everything captured by Andrew Droz Palermo’s camera, affording the natural world of this medieval setting the same storybook awe framing its supernatural intrusions.” [A.A. Dowd]
The show to stream: FBOY Island
As examined elsewhere on the web, everybody knows what the “F” in “FBOY” stands for—and yet, FBOY Island daren’t utter it. Which of the 24 “fboys” on this dating competition is a “for real boy,” and which are just “fooling around boys?” That’s up to you, Nakia Renee, CJ Franco, and Sarah Emig to find out, with a little help from host Nikki Glaser.
What our review says: “As many people noted in the lead up to the premiere, FBOY Island sounds like a show that someone on 30 Rock would have pitched and/or watched. The series certainly acts more like a comedy than the more straightforward matchmaking shows like The Bachelor, but the emphasis is on silly fun. Aside from a few dust-ups, FBOY Island is downright pleasant—fans of the genre might actually find themselves wanting more drama. Even ‘Limbro,’ which is where fboys are exiled after being eliminated, is right on the beach. The camaraderie among the women is also refreshing: Sarah, Nakia, and CJ quickly bond, helping each other suss out the fboys and coming to each other’s aid during dates.” [Danette Chavez]
Apologies to everyone else dropping new music on July 30, 2021, which includes such heavyweights as Jack Antonoff (producing his own songs for a change) and the late, aforementioned Prince. You’ve chosen the same release date as the follow-up to Billie Eilish’s chart-topping, Grammy-hoarding When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? Trying to compete with Eilish for ears? Well, I hate to say (actually, I love to say it, because I love wordplay), but that’s nothing but a “Lost Cause.”
What our review says: The A.V. Club was unable to get our hands on an advance copy of Happier Than Ever (watch for a full review in the coming days”, but here’s what Alex McLevy had to say about “Lost Cause” in our July music preview: “unmistakably Eilish: the quietly intense vocals; the understated, jazzy arrangement; the lacerating lyrics… it’s all there.”