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meltdowns

The Reality Slate at MTV Networks Suffers Another Critical Blow to Its Already Damaged Reputation

While most of the entertainment world has been busy sipping piña coladas on exotic beaches for the last two weeks of August, things have been considerably more harried for the executives who operate underneath the umbrella of MTV Networks. First, VH1 saw two of their "Celebreality" offshoots, Megan Wants a Millionaire and I Love Money 3, torpedoed by the shocking murder committed by contestant Ryan Jenkins. And then on Friday, MTV found itself stunned by the death by apparent drug overdose of Adam "DJ AM" Goldstein, who had just wrapped filming on a new Intervention-style reality show called Gone Too Far. While MTV has yet to make a decision as to what they'll do with the DJ AM show, VH1 was forced to abruptly cancel both of the programs that Jenkins was involved with, leaving a hole in their current slate and costing them an untold number of production dollars. So now, as you might expect, the suits over at 1515 Broadway are pretty pissed that they're getting raked over the coals in the media for scraping the very bottom of the reality-show barrel. In short, they're mad as hell, and they're not gonna take it anymore.

In a phone interview with the Los Angeles Times last week, VH1 president Tom Calderone admitted that "This is not what I signed up for" and pledged to "fix this problem and never ever let this happen again." He even alluded to lessening the influence that storied production company 51 Minds — the group that is largely responsible for developing the slate of shows that made VH1 what it is today, for better and for worse — has at the network. "We always want 51 Minds to be part of our arsenal and stable of creativity, but the only way VH1 will survive and be healthy is to have several different voices and production partners," he explained.

Calderone calmed down considerably when he spoke to Brian Stelter of the New York Times. The network's 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." However, he neglected to mention how the network would shift its programming strategy in the wake of this controversy, instead citing other celebrity-driven shows from the likes of Buffalo Bills wide receiver Terrell Owens as the type of show that the network would prefer to produce. We're not sure what you think, but to us, that comment reminds us of the old saying about what it means when you put lipstick on a pig: Calderone can try to dress up his programming slate anyway he wants, but at the end of the day, there's still a bunch of unabashedly lowbrow shows on the network that seem perfectly content to wallow around in their own icky filth.

So, what do you think, VultureWatchers? Has reality television gone too far? Would you still watch VH1 if they got rid of all their trashy dating shows? What should MTV do now that they're in the unfortunately ironic position of having a show in the can about the horrors of drug addiction that was hosted by someone who, if initial reports are to believed, died of a drug overdose? You know where to leave your thoughts!

With ‘Celebreality,’ VH1 Attracts Ratings and Chagrin [NYT]
VH1 wants less love, more redemption [Company Town/LAT]

Photo: Courtesy of Buena Park Police Dept, Patrick McMullan