Picks and Pans Review: On the Edge

UPDATED 09/01/1986 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 09/01/1986 at 01:00 AM EDT

Amazing but true: The new season starts next week with its first series "preview." So this week we take the last chance in TV's sleepy summertime to see what's new under the sun and the rabbit ears.

MTV

So MTV is five years old. So the time has come to reexamine the babe of networks. There's been much hubbub lately over MTV's ratings, with the lords of Nielsen saying the numbers are down while MTV insinuates that Nielsen can't count. The number of homes receiving MTV has risen to 30.7 million, while the percentage of those homes actually watching has dropped—from .8 percent last year to .7 percent in the start of this year, Nielsen says. Still, MTV is tied for No. 1 on cable with CNN and USA. Call it a wash.

But MTV will deserve to decline if it doesn't stay fresh. Its latest attempt at innovation is Amuck in America, in which veejay Alan Hunter travels the country pulling obnoxious freshman stunts like threatening people with toy machine guns. Cute. Amuck is another exercise in MTV's worst sin: self-promotion. Nobody on TV, save perhaps Robin Leach, says as often as MTV does: "We're wonderful. Aren't we? Huh?" MTV is just as enthusiastic about all its videos. But too many videos these days look stale—more egotistical, more predictable, less fanciful. MTV doesn't make the videos, but it could push the stars to make better ones. It's time for MTV to acquire perspective, to criticize the bad videos and praise only the good ones. It's time for the veejays to stop fawning over the stars and for male stars to stop hiring women to fawn over them. It's time for MTV to try new things like comedy videos or a revolutionary concept: videos that never shows their stars.

The point of MTV's fifth birthday, you see, is that—to MTV's credit—music videos are here to stay. They don't need incessant hype anymore. They need improvement.

Oops. Almost forgot to rate the veejays. The best this summer were China Slick Kantner (Grace Slick's daughter) and Dweezil Zappa (Frank's son). But China has to leave for school soon. High school. She's only 15 and Dweezil's 16. So the next generation is taking over music video. Just in time.

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