Ah, the sweaty desperation of VH1 execs staring blankly at a wall calendar, wondering what else they can milk.
M.T.: I think the VH1 executives should relax and be proud of the fact that they were able to milk a wall calendar. That’s really impressive.
D.DiC.: Seriously, this makes me nervous. What will they do when they’ve completely exhausted every piece of nostalgic detritus? They can’t foray into reality television, because MTV’s already got that market cornered.
Maybe they can move into something a little more specific and educational, like I Love Emerging Infectious Diseases. They can do a whole hour on Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy and Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease no problem. And then they could alternate between Hal Sparks holding a stuffed cow and making hilarious mooing noises and Nicole Spelhaug of the Mayo Clinic explaining how prions from infected meat will migrate to the host’s brain and eat away at the cells until the brain tissue is left with a sponge-like consistency. The show practically writes itself.
C.M.: Let’s not knock sweaty desperation. I mean, without it we wouldn’t ever have gotten Catwoman or Ken Jennings.
G.W.: More importantly, what about the sweaty desperation of the talentless men and women they’ve enlisted who depend on these show as their meal ticket? What about these heroes? Huh? Where’s their parade?
D.B.: Desperation? Man those guys are geniuses. They turned VH1 from a culturally bankrupt television station to a behemoth of manufactured cultural marketing. That’s not desperate.
M.S.: My biggest fear, which I am certain will come to fruition, is that VH1 will assemble a collection of “highlights” of all of these shows from all of the decades in question, (effectively missing the irony of this very Y.P.R. piece) and entitle the collection I Love, ‘I Love the X0s’! Worse, at some point, Frank Rich will pen an op-ed piece on the series and lament the decline of invention in the television industry and wonder, in his epic turgidity, “What will future generations of teen-somethings have to look back on if pop continues to eat itself?” Then Viacom will announce its quarterly profits have risen substantially, and credit the repeated broadcasts of the I Love … series, and within months announce the launching of three new, separate networks, each devoted to a particular decade and featuring talking heads from those various years.
Then, at this point, the machines will become self-aware and global thermonuclear annihilation will commence as televisions all across the planet show images of Matthew Broderick from the 80s ….
J.A.: I realize I’m becoming a crotchety old curmudgeon because I can remember the days when I lamented that MTV doesn’t play music anymore and VH1, its unhip cousin, only played music for sissies. Now, I lament that VH1 no longer plays music and MTV, when not hyping its bratty, A.D.H.D.-addled self, only plays music that makes me angry (e.g. that of Ashlee Simpson, who is neither as talented nor as good-looking as her untalented kewpie-doll sister). Good grief. The kids these days, I tell ya.
B: I imagine that there’s actually an eerie sense of calm among VH1 execs, knowing that there are no more decades to bugger with their dildo of manufactured nostalgia.
Yeah, what’s up with manufactured nostalgia anyway?
M.T.: Real nostalgia has way too many dead people in it.
G.W.: I tried manufacturing nostalgia in my bathtub, but all I could gather was an unfocused feeling of remorse and self-loathing.
C.M.: I don’t know, but I’m already looking forward to Mo Rocca’s wacky take on the scabies craze of 2007.
D.DiC.: Dude, I totally fucking remember 1998! That year was so hype!!
N.J.: As long as they don’t fuck with the recipe for the Big Mac, they can do whatever they want.
B: I prefer to think of the show’s producers as Nostalgia Technicians, who soon must unionize to prevent the outsourcing of their bullshit jobs to some wiseass teenagers in Banglaore willing to work for clean water.
D.B.: Manufactured nostalgia is fucking hot. I love that VH1 is on the forefront of this shit, because they used to suck so bad. How they became the manufacturers of the manufactured nostalgia is a subject for some other day, I guess, but it’s hot. They’re bringing back the late 90s before we’ve even had a chance to get away from some of those shitty songs on the radio in current rotation. They are geniuses. Leisure-class shit all the way. It makes us feel we are at least C-list celebrities while we are watching these shows, because we know all about the same stuff they do! And I know almost anyone who watches that show could totally be on the panel in another life.
You just spent 10 consecutive hours on the couch, watching the same decade’s marathon as you did last week. And the week before …
M.T.: Hey, whatever keeps my mind off committing mail fraud.
D.DiC.: January 1st, 2004. Twenty straight hours of I Love the 80s and I Love the 80s Strikes Back. Me, sitting on my couch for hours and hours, slack-jawed, the remote in my hand but unable to muster the strength to use it.
I have never in my life experienced such a gastroenterological reaction to television.
B: I could detect an irony in wasting a week watching a decade I frittered away on the couch covered in crumbs of various Drakes baked goods, but I’m way too high on ant and roach killer and have to devote all of my higher faculties to respirating. Please e-mail poison control for me, O.K.?
D.B.: Better than forking out the money on the DVDs of the episodes. They’re so addictive and memory-inducing. Even if they’re not saying things exactly how I used to remember them happening, I now miraculously have the same memories of the Smurfs as the Donnas and Juliette Lewis. And everybody knows they won’t watch that shit if it comes out on DVD even if they buy the DVDs. If it’s already on TV, it’s easy to watch it and just loaf out, but it’s too hard and dumb to put in a DVD of program you’ve already seen on TV. But VH1 is gonna make some cash on that when they decide to compile them, anyway, ’cause people are gonna buy them to remember when they watched these damn shows for their own manufactured nostalgia on their DVD rack. Pop culture begets pop culture. Goddamn that’s slick as hell; we’re dumb as hell.
J.A.: Sometimes I worry that, in the future, all my memories of the present will be inseparable from the snarky commentary that surrounds it when delivered to me by TV. But the best part about the eventual, inevitable I Love the 00s (sure to début in the early 2010s), is that, to accurately reflect this decade, it would have to reflect upon these series, because that’s all that I watch. And then, in the early days of the 2020s, when I Love the 10s premières, Apple Paltrow-Martin will talk fondly about watching I Love the 00s, which, featuring retrospectives of the 1970s through 90s, is her only real understanding of why Coldplay was ever famous. Now I have a headache.
C.M.: I don’t understand. Your tone suggests there’s something wrong with doing this, as if the last month of my life was, like, an entire waste of time or something… oh god.
G.W.: I have to have something better going on in my life and am too lazy to generate anything to do other than to sit on my ass and watch a bunch of marginally funny has-beens and never-weres weigh in on whether they liked Leif Garrett or David Cassidy better. I guess not. Which one is on this weekend again?