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news

Much More Mediocre

2008_03_02_MuchMediocre.jpg
We’ve said it before: MuchMusic kinda sucks nowadays.
Dave Bidini says the same thing, but more eloquently, in his column at This Magazine. The front man of the now-defunct Rheostatics reminisces about a time when his band was “afforded two hours at midnight to present bands live in an empty garage studio in the bowels of the Much/City colossus.”
Regrettably, those days of low-fi Canadocentric programming are long gone. Bidini continues:

Circa 2008, MuchMusic has aged worse than anyone could have expected. It has mutilated itself to the point that there are very few videos programmed anymore; instead, OC reruns, sad pop star reality shows, gossip and style dailies and the failed life journey of Scott Baio dominate a television station that does little to address or articulate the tastes of young Canadians.

This would have never happened if Master T were still around.


Torontoist can pinpoint the precise moment when we stopped watching MuchMusic. It was December 2005: Canada was gearing up for a federal election, New Generation Sushi suffered a massive fire, and Devon Soltendieck confidently named his two favourite albums of the year as Funeral by The Arcade Fire and X&Y by Coldplay. It seemed baffling at the time that a person whose profession was music journalism could had missed the fact that the epic Funeral was released in 2004, and that X&Y was merely another bland, inoffensive album in Coldplay’s repertoire. Today, it is even more evident that an appreciation and understanding of music is not a prerequisite for being a MuchMusic VJ, especially since there are barely any vee’s to jay.
Of course, the music and youth culture channels of this era are nearly synonymous with trashy reality programming, and it’s unrealistic to imagine them returning to the way they were in the Rheostatics’ heyday. Besides, do we really want to give up My Super Sweet Sixteen and So You Think You Can Dance? While Bidini is justified in calling out MuchMusic on their suckage, he misses the opportunity to discuss newcomer MTV Canada and its role in the changing youth media scene.
It is embarrassing that the American import was able to trump MuchMusic immediately after its inception in spring 2006, but MTV seems considerably more relevant when compared to its Canadian cousin. MTV has no programming dedicated purely to music videos due to a CRTC licensing issue, but MuchMusic schedules theirs when most people are sleeping. MTV Live is run by smart and entertaining hosts who sincerely seem to enjoy their job, while Much On Demand VJs clamber through interviews with the latest pop-punk bands in order to secure a future gig at CityTV. MuchMusic’s edgiest show, Video On Trial, features local comedians making obvious jokes about music videos, while MTV’s The Hills Afterparty is a delightfully tongue-in-cheek lampoonery of reality television that has been greatly successful both north and south of the border. Both stations are competing with entertainment blogs and YouTube, and only one is making any effort to stay ahead of the game.
MuchMusic used to be the mouthpiece for Canadian youth culture, and it was something that Canadians could genuinely take pride in. Now, “instead of using their platform to inform, educate, inspire and challenge, they’re Dorito’ing Canada’s youth to death,” writes Bidini, “pinning them to their couches and area rugs so they’re more easily fed into the narrowing black hole of adult network television.” Like Bidini, we don’t want to believe that Canada’s youth are as stupid as MuchMusic seems to think they are. Enough with the OC reruns already, Much, and get with the times.
Via CanCult. Photo by steveisaac.

Comments

  • Doggiez

    MuchMusic has been on a slippery slope for years now, and no longer presents any videos or material that are new, innovative, or unique (think back to the ’80s, with bands like Tears for Fears, Depeche Mode, and Front 242, who were featured on MM when they were still in their infancy in Europe, and long before they received significant radio play on CFNY in Toronto).
    I find that a lot of Citytv shows have lost their lustre recently, especially Breakfast Television, which I used to love. I still like the show, but find myself bored by insipid segments from MILF of the Week Jennifer Valentyne, or the endless banter (time-filler, anyone?) between Kevin Frankish and Dina Pugliese. Don’t get me wrong: the chemistry amongest Frankish, Pugliese, and Frank Ferragine is terrific, but there is waayyyy to much talk lately, and not enough content. The pacing on BT lately reminds me of Skits on Saturday Night Live — funny if they were three minutes’ long, crappy at six minutes.

  • Ling

    Great article. I love this line: “especially since there are barely any vee’s to jay.” Bring back the music videos! And the good VJs. Devon always annoyed me (though one of my favourites was that Amanda chick, who everyone but me seemed to hate.)

  • Marc Lostracco

    What, showing nineteen hours of the same Girlicious episode every week isn’t helpful to the careers of Canadian artists?!
    I’m not exaggerating, by the way—it really is nineteen hours.
    Master T may not be at Much any more, sadly, but he was getting thai food at Jarvis and Carlton last night.

  • rek

    Much has lost its way, and unfortunately for those of us old enough to remember the time before Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys ruined everything, it will never recover. Our generations just don’t have the numbers or clout to sway them back on track, not when hordes of empty-headed teenagers clamour to see the latest softcore emo pop whinefest video or celebrity interview.
    MTV Canada may excel at what it is (whatever it is; I’ve never seen more than a few minutes of it) but Much isn’t even supposed to be in the same content category. That they can be compared at all (imagine comparing YTV to Global, or Space to Showcase) means Much is dead.

  • paigesix

    Bring back RSVP!!!
    Force kids to do more than predictive-text a request for their fave song; I don’t know how many hours I spent decorating elaborate and amazing poster-sized requests in the hopes of seeing Bill Welychka play the newest Smashing Pumpkin’s video.
    And seriously.. does anyone actually watch “The Totally Untrue History of ___”?? Eugh.

  • Karen Whaley

    That they can be compared at all (imagine comparing YTV to Global, or Space to Showcase) means Much is dead.
    I am with you, Rek. When MTV arrived, MuchMusic became nothing more than a sub-par version, adopting (as Marc points out) 19 hours of the same Girlicious episode per week instead of music videos. If MTV can’t play videos, wouldn’t it make sense for Much to use that to their advantage? It just goes to show that nobody with a brain is at the helm of the operation.
    R.I.P. Much.

  • The Explosively Talented Christopher Bird

    What’s all this “Much went downhill after Master T left” nonsense? By thunder and tarnation, there was nothing respectable left about that musical television programming channel after the great Michael Williams took his leave, sirrah!
    Mr. Williams, were it not for his untimely death facing down a rabid elephant in Kenya six year back, armed only with an sharpened coconut husk – by Jove, he would rightly thrash these uppity young bucks, aglow in the delusion that their chattery-chatter is adequate for the purveyance of musical video entertainment!

  • Mark Ostler

    The only shows I would still watch (if I had cable) are The New Music, The Wedge and The Punk Show because they always show good, new stuff that I often haven’t heard of before. The Wedge was how I found out about Sigur Ros, now one of my favourite bands.

  • The Explosively Talented Christopher Bird

    Also, this is a fine time to comment that Erica Ehm is still stunningly hot.

  • rek

    The Wedge now airs at 3AM on the first Saturday of the month, or something just as ridiculous.

  • ked

    Totally agree about the MTV presenters. They actually seem to enjoy working together unlike the Much crew and have fun with the job.

  • lunarworks

    Much has been dead for a few years, but CTV’s current ownership of it is only going to make things worse.
    Perhaps now Citytv, being stripped of relation to Much, can re-spawn a back-to-basics competitor under Rogers. Just go to the CRTC and say “Hey, I have a great idea for a new cable channel: One that plays MUSIC!”. (Nah, not with the internet around…)

  • sheleftyouasong

    i feel the need to point out that Much and MTV have been under the same management since last summer when CTV bought out CHUM, this also means that being in Much will not aide any VJ in getting a future gig on City TV, as it was sold off to Rogers.
    Though, it makes it possibly more sad that some how MTV is still better than Much, even with the same people calling shots.

  • Marc Lostracco

    Tony Young (Master T) played a large role behind-the-scenes, and he truly did seem to care about supporting domestic talent and giving audiences something different. Over the years I’ve worked in the industry, I’ve heard nothing but good things about him from people who have worked with him or who have benefited from his promotion and support. He was one of the first to give national exposure and credibility to hip hop artists for Canadians, was widely respected by artists internationally, and he was one of the very few brown-skinned Canadians in a powerful executive position within the domestic entertainment industry.

  • Patrick Metzger

    I say bring back John “JD” Roberts from CNN. I’m not sure how that would help but it would bring back fond memories.

  • Karen Whaley

    i feel the need to point out that Much and MTV have been under the same management since last summer when CTV bought out CHUM, this also means that being in Much will not aide any VJ in getting a future gig on City TV, as it was sold off to Rogers.
    My bad, sheleftyouasong.
    I guess it should read, “Much On Demand VJs clamber through interviews with the latest pop-punk bands in order to secure a future gig with BellGlobemedia.”

  • Doggiez

    There’s a great little piece JD did with Canadian rocker Nash the Slash before JD got all into Bush (George W., that is). Check out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YMnklUF43lI&feature=related

  • Dipp

    Remember when the The Wedge and The NewMusic were part of the norm, and not the exception to the rule?
    I never thought I would have said this but… I miss the days of Rick the Temp… OK, wait, maybe not.

  • warmflash

    Much is just awful. It’s like watching a train wreck. If this was America, they would have yanked it off the air years ago.

  • WannaBinToranna

    Oh I don’t know, America has more than its share of train wrecks.
    Someone out there is watching these shows.

  • Damon Kemp

    “Much is just awful. It’s like watching a train wreck. If this was America, they would have yanked it off the air years ago.”
    Obviously, you haven’t seen the American version of MTV. It truly was sad when they started playing less music video’s and more empty-headed programming. Hell, I remember staying up late to sneak in some episodes of Yo! MTV Raps. I think someone should start a lawsuit about these channels. LOL

  • mattism

    First of all, I don’t think it’s fair to judge one’s ability to be a good VJ based on one’s musical tastes. Everyone has a different appreciation for music.
    Nevertheless, Muchmusic does suck, and I blogged about it as well:
    http://mattism.hyperdot.net/archives/08-03-the-reality-of-muchmusic.php

  • rek

    A good VJ would know his ‘album of the year’ came out the year before, though.

  • Ninjabot

    the best music video station on the planet is YouTube. Srsly. WTF are people still doing looking at cable stations for their music?

  • darkstar416

    Canada needs a new video channel as Much Music clearly doesn’t want to air music and MTV isn’t allowed to (and I wouldn’t think they’d particularly want to either). I think CBC Radio 3 needs to start a cable channel. Seriously.
    Progressive shows like The Wedge used to air daily at 4:30pm. There’d also be a full hour of The New Music weekly, plus City Limits on Saturday nights. Now there’s only a 1/2 hour Wedge on Saturday nights at 03:30 or something.
    There also used to be some incredibly intelligent VJs like Kim Clarke Chapniss, Avi Lewis, George Strombo, etc. Not so anymore.
    I purposefully haven’t subscribed to Much Music in a few years now and I’m comforted in the fact that I’m missing absolutely nothing and that my satellite bill is that much cheaper.

  • Karen Whaley

    I think CBC Radio 3 needs to start a cable channel. Seriously.
    I was thinking the exact same thing, darkstar416. Who else has a such a strong finger on the pulse and such a commitment to seeing Canadian acts succeed?
    I’d like to know the logistics of why the CBC hasn’t started a Canadian youth culture television station. You know, legally and financially speaking. Marc, I am looking in your direction.

  • mattalexto

    Wow, you guys kept watching all the way until 2005?
    I place the death of MM at about two years after Rick the Temp showed up. It took maybe that long for them to decide that he should be the host to replicate. Of course everyone knows that you lose integrity when you make a copy of a copy, of a copy, of a copy, etc.

  • rek

    I stopped sometime in 2002-2003 I think. I was on my own and cable-free, so the only time I saw Much was at my parents’ on holidays and the odd weekend. What I saw didn’t impress me then, but at least they showed videos now and then.

  • spacejack

    Ha, I could write a book on CBC’s laughable attempts to get into youth programming – I saw it from the inside for 4 years.
    I actually agree that Radio 3 would probably make for a decent music TV show. Which is why CBC will likely never do it.
    The short answer is that incompetence, fear, bad taste and bureaucracy rules. You don’t need to read Kafka once you’ve worked there – you’ve lived it. And there’s a reason everyone else in the industry looks at that place as a big money-wasting joke on taxpayers.

  • antiboy

    BRING BACK ELECTRIC CIRCUS!!!

  • Karen Whaley

    BRING BACK ELECTRIC CIRCUS!!!
    iawtc!

  • iamnotdynamite

    am i the only one who simply doesn’t care how bad muchmusic is? why, you ask? because music television is absolutely unimportant, especially these days, to discovering good music, and i don’t require a ‘visual interpretation’ of something that isn’t meant to be visual to begin with. hell, most of my favorite bands couldn’t even afford a music video that wasn’t shot on super-8 anyways. the only music videos i am interested in are live concert footage, especially of bands i’ve never seen/ will never have the chance to see, and as someone already pointed out, youtube is the haven for that sort of thing. so yeah, music television, dead, buried, not sad.

  • chicken_wing

    I grew up with Much in the ’80s so I too can join in the longing for “the good ol’ days.” However, I recognize that Much is a youth station, and I am no longer in that demographic. I’m pretty out of touch with “youth culture” and shit like Souljah Boy makes me scratch my head but you know what? The kids LOVE it. So who am I to dismiss Much when it gives kids what they want?
    I’ve been privy to Much’s ratings in the past and it’s sad to say, but reality series like Pussycat Dolls often pull in 2 to 8 times the ratings of a Live@Much special. So I can’t blame Much for playing those shows to death, when even the reruns do extremely well for them. As much as people say they want more videos and live performances, they don’t actually watch them.
    And I have many friends my own age (early 30s) who admit to watching OC reruns and other crap. They’re my own age and I don’t understand them either!
    I will agree though that the latest batch of VJs are probably the most annoying and least charismatic they’ve had in ages. The interviews are just painful and empty. And the in-house programming like “Totally Untrue History Of” is horribly unfunny…I think it’s trying to capture the wackiness of the early Much days but fails miserably.
    The best thing I can do is ignore Much…that way its lameness can’t get to me.

  • spacejack

    I agree with iamnotdynamite. Video did kill the radio star. Instead of musicians focusing on their song-writing and performance skills, we’ve now got fashion models singing pitch-corrected pop fluff that’s been tweaked and re-engineered a million times over by some knob-twiddling computer nerd. Launching a new “music” act today is more like launching a shiny corporate product. There’s so much packaging that the content becomes an afterthought.
    The sad thing is it’s been that way ever since I’ve been interested in popular music. While some musicians do an okay job teaming up with creative video directors and graphic designers, people that really just want to make good music have gotten the shaft. I suspect a lot of them end up working anonymously in “the industry”.
    As soon as TV touches music, it turns it more into what a band looks like as opposed to what they sound like. If the music video dies, it’ll only be for the betterment of music.
    (Yes, this makes me sound like an old fart, and despite all this I think there are some quite good musicians out there today – which I discover mostly through Songbird & music blogs these days – but I have to believe that the net effect of an environment where a musician not only has to be able to write & perform music, but also look good, be very savvy about video and the television industry is very bad for the overall quality of music itself.)
    chicken wing – I actually like the OC. It’s surprisingly witty. Seth can be intolerable though.

  • AdamSchwabe

    Ok so you’ll hear no disagreement from me that MM sucks. I haven’t watched it in years for the programming. I happen to find Video on Trial kind of funny, but beyond that it’s a bit of a void.
    But what’s with all the hate for other media on TOist? Ok, so we’ve established that Rosy DiManno can’t write worth shit, and TOist run-ins with the local music/event rags are well documented, and now a big stab at MuchMusic.
    Give me optimism :) There’s a lot of shit in the media. But what’s good about the city?

  • Karen Whaley

    What’s with all the hate for other media on TOist?
    Adam, you seem to have missed my major love-on for MTV Canada. Did that not come through clearly enough in the article? I actually elaborated on it a bit more on my blog because I didn’t feel that gushing about Dan Levy would really be appropriate in this forum. At least, not today.
    It’s easy for someone to look like a hater when you’re only paying attention to the negative things they’re saying.

  • acer

    I used to work at Citytv years ago when Much started to really suck. I was so disappointed since I grew up watching smart witty VJ’s. Now I wonder if the new VJ’s are morons (likely) or the VJ’s of my youth were just as stupid but I was too young too notice?
    MTV’s VJ’s seem like pretty hip cats compared to the vapid droning idiots that Much has hired over the last couple of years.
    I enjoy the TOist media analysis since Antonia Z. only writes about getting her period now-a-days :P

  • acer

    wow, I really should preview for spelling and grammer before posting… Or not post so late with little sleep…

  • Doggiez

    Acer:
    Antonia Zerbicias still gets her period?! Ew. I thought all she wrote about nowadays was her battle with her weight. Does anybody else out there get creeped out by her horrid “Broadsides” photo on The Star’s website, the one with her hands in the ear like she’s casting a friggin’ spell, and the shit-eating grin/Satan is my master expression on her face?

  • David Topping

    Pitchfork today announced a 24-hour music video channel very clearly meant to provide a contrast to MTV both in form and content. Not really sure how and if it’ll all work, but hell, it doesn’t hurt to have a few more hats in the ring.

  • Dipp

    Interested to see how Pitchfork’s inconsistent and hipper than thou love translates into the video realm.
    I hope they do an eight hour documentary on Neutral Milk Hotel… And by hope, I mean fully expect.

  • Solex

    The only shows I would still watch (if I had cable) are The New Music, The Wedge and The Punk Show because they always show good, new stuff that I often haven’t heard of before. The Wedge was how I found out about Sigur Ros, now one of my favourite bands.
    The Wedge now airs at 3AM on the first Saturday of the month, or something just as ridiculous.
    Newsflash for the two of you: all three shows are still showing on Much and Much Loud! The Wedge shows weekly Friday nights at 12:00 AM with a repeat at 4:00 AM for those nite owls coming back fron clubland or whatever place you’ve been on Friday night; it’s also on Much Loud at a decent time. The New Music is still on Much Music Monday nights at 9:00, and is probably also on Much Loud as well, as are The Punk Show and Loud. Of course, you have to get a digital cable/satellite account to get Much Loud, and this does not excuse Much Music from not playing videos, but the shows are still on.
    I think that somebody should create a low-power UHF TV station that would show music videos by local artists; that would break the back of Much Music/MTV Canada and make them dance. Better yet, a ton of these stations should open across Canada in most major cities and towns, and drive Much?MTV into the sea-both have had their time, and both need to die now.

  • catalyst

    citylimits ruled and the rest bit, rap city was good for a while.

  • http://undefined Emmanuel

    I don’t think the problem lies in the fact that they don’t play music anymore. It was the stuff between music videos that made Much special. The commentary, the bubbly renegade style, the bizzareness made Much something Canadians could be proud of. It was much more intelligent than MTV. Ed the Sock, Ziggy Lawrence, Simon Evans, Bill Welychka, Master-T, Erica Ehm, Weird Al Yankovic (although he wasn’t Canadian). The edgiest show on Much now is Video On Trial. Which is just and exercise in smartmouthery, lacking in commentary. Much and City are dead. It’s not that I don’t like change. It’s just that this type of change, a corporate takeover of an indie label, is a BAD change. Citytv was only worth watching for their news and Breakfast Television. But now i don’t even watch them because they laid off Laura DiBattista and Anne Mroczkowski (who has been there since the 80s). City is now owned by Rogers (an even worse corporation than CTVGlobeMedia) and I’m sure that their programming will only go downhill because as an evil corporation they will only air shows that garner ratings that make the most money. They will not be satified with making profit. They will only be satisfied with making the absolute most they can make. And this means airing stupid crap.

  • Cvxnbc

    totally agree. Much is dead to me

  • Getbent

    They are now showing a&e shows like storage crap or flip this house what do those shows have to do with music please fire your new programmer he sucks big time