It seems MTV has come quite a long way from its days as a hip television station defined by music video premieres and Video Jockeys. Starting off as cable's answer to top 40 radio, MTV has had many identities throughout its almost 40 years on the air. Over its lifetime, the station has existed trailblazer of reality television with The Real World, a purveyor of parentally-scorned animation (who didn't watch Beavis and Butthead with the sole purpose of pissing off their mom?), an after school staple, with the Carson Daly's TRL, before finally accepting its fate as a station for trashy -- and occasionally binge-worthy -- reality television. However, it seems the ever-evolving network has entered into yet a new era in its latest attempt to cater to America's youth -- playing Rob Dyrdek's Ridiculousness on a seemingly endless loop.
While this programming oddity first came to light last week, when Twitter user @nahalidabarbie posted a picture roasting the network's highly-cursed schedule, garnering more than 300,000 likes and 13,000 quote tweets, MTV's obsession with airing Ridiculousness at all hours of the day has apparently been occurring for some time, likely stemming from around the start of the pandemic.
"We went from people coming one to two times a week to nearly six times a week to watch 'Ridiculousness' ... Particularly when COVID hit, now there's a lot of people at home," Tanya Giles, an exec at MTV's parent company, CBSViacom, explained to Variety. This time at home, she maintains, has allegedly sparked an increased demand for the program. "We knew that this was a show that many generations could watch. It cut across different genders; it's laugh out loud; it's escapist," Giles noted.
While MTV seemingly plays the show around the clock, breaking only to air various films or new episodes of Catfish, Ridiculousness's network domination has reached likely unprecedented extremes. In June, the clip comedy show dominated television sets across the nation "for 113 hours out of the network's entire 168-hour lineup," Variety reported, adding that several people interpreted this bold choice as an indicator that the once "pioneering" station "had just given up."
In September, The Ringer's John Gonzalez also noted this, erm, ridiculous trend, running a small-scale experiment on how intensely the network relies on a 46-year-old former professional skateboarder to fill their daily slate. "The night before I started hammering away at this story, I turned on MTV around 8 o'clock in the evening. Ridiculousness was on. And it stayed on. It wasn't until 11 a.m. the next morning that MTV took a break from the show to broadcast Men in Black," Gonzalez recalled. "But unlike the protagonists of the sci-fi buddy-cop comedy, MTV and its parent company, ViacomCBS, have no need for a memory-wiping device. Apparently, consumers are willing to watch repeat programming with their memories fully intact."
Now, reader, I know what you may be thinking -- who are these people that are sitting in front of their television, enjoying Dyrdek and co-hosts Steelo Brim and Chanel West Coast laugh at people doing dumb things on the internet for days on end? While it is possible that Giles' earlier assertions of universal appeal are true, prior reports have illustrated the show's popularity amid a pretty niche audience. In 2016, the New York Times analyzed data from Facebook 'likes,' discovering that MTV's 22-minute staple is most popular in rural areas of New Mexico, Alaska, and Montana, with the show maintaining the lowest popularity in San Francisco, Washington D.C., and Atlanta.
Don't get me wrong -- everyone deserves to have television programs that resonate with them, making them smile and laugh in these particularly trying times. However, MTV aspires to be "the world's premier youth entertainment brand, the cultural home of the millennial generation and a pioneer in creating innovative content for young people," according to their page on ViacomCBS's website, and airing a show that primarily appeals to individuals living in rural areas, without broader engagement, may not be the smartest way to achieve that.
Hell, rebooting 16 and Pregnant, or relying on Catfish may not be the way forward, but let's face it, at this point, almost any of those options sound significantly more enticing than watching Dyrdek enact his best Daniel Tosh impression on a seemingly endless loop. So ViacomCBS execs, if you're reading this, the people have spoken. We want our MTV -- or, well some semblance of our MTV -- not four days of nonstop Ridiculousness.