Let’s be clear upfront: It’s not new to notice that MTV runs a lot of Ridiculousness. Since the network began front, back, and side-loading the ultra-cheap reality show—in which network mascot Rob Dyrdek and friends Sterling Brim and Chanel West Coast yell while watching upsetting internet videos, for 616 episodes now and counting—onto its schedule over the last few years, there have been a number of pieces about it hitting a sort of saturation tipping point. Variety pointed out the trend back in May of 2020; The Ringer and MediaPost did deeper dives in the fall. And to be clear, this isn’t just “Why doesn’t MTV run videos anymore?!” hysterics; this is people trying to figure out why a network would regularly give over more than half its programming time to a single show—and usually coming away with the same answer, i.e., that it’s cheap, they’ve got a lot of it, and it appeals to the same lizard brain parts of everybody, regardless of age or other demographics.
Still, though: This is a lot of Ridiculousness.
The above scheduling chart was produced by @MTVSchedule, a fascinating, non-MTV-affiliated account that has, since mid-2019, been charting the network’s not-all-that-slow transformation into The Ridiculousness Network. Scrolling up through all the account’s posts is a bit like watching a once-beloved friend be slowly drowned in Tang, as the orange creeps higher and higher until we get to, well, see above. Like: Even people who like Ridiculousness—again, think America’s Home Videos, but meaner, more violent, and with a celebrity skateboarder doing the commentary instead of a veteran comedian—probably don’t like 128 hours of it, i.e., 5.3 days, i.e., 76 percent of a week of television programming, right? (That’s comparable to this block from New Year’s 2020, which at least had the dignity to label itself as a Ridiculousness marathon.)
Spurred on by a tweet declaring that MTV would be “going to hell” for this—as if it wasn’t in a self-imposed one of sorts, already—people have been dragging the network online this weekend for giving in so fully and nakedly to its own basest impulses. But also, this trend has revealed for a while now a fairly grim question about the fate of cable networks in our current media landscape: What’s the point of creating and scheduling new original programming, when running one single, endless show—and hey, we’re looking at you, too, Impractical Jokers—will keep people glued to their sets the same way they might consume all the endless content feeds online? Yes, programming 256 episodes of Ridiculousness in a single week of cable television isn’t especially artistic, even for the network that Teen Mom and Jersey Shore built. (Or, at least, rebuilt). But, then, who ever stayed in business making art?