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VH1 wants less love, more redemption

MEGAN Can you have too much love?

That's what VH1 is starting to wonder. The Viacom-owned cable network, whose top five shows this year all have the word "love" in the title, is reassessing its heavy reliance on dating and relationship shows. Although the network says it was already in the process of plotting a new direction, the shift has taken on greater urgency since one of its reality show participants, Ryan Jenkins, apparently killed himself after becoming the lead suspect in the murder of his ex-wife.

VH1 has canceled both "Megan Wants a Millionaire" and "I Love Money 3," which Jenkins had appeared on. It is also reevaluating its reliance on 51 Minds Entertainment, the production company behind the two programs, as well as several other reality hits on the network over the last several years.

CALDERONE"This is not what I signed up for," said VH1 President Tom Calderone in his first interview since Jenkins' body was discovered Sunday in a British Columbia motel room. Calderone added that VH1 was "trying to get together" with 51 Minds to figure out where the vetting system went wrong and "fix this problem and never ever let this happen again."

Calderone also wants to bring some new producers into the mix. "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 said.  

Many of VH1's reality shows were sired from "The Surreal Life," a program in which B-list and C-list celebrities (think Tawny Kitaen and Verne Troyer) shared living quarters. Out of that came "Flavor of Love," "Rock of Love" and "I Love Money" and then those shows spawned "Charm School," "I Love New York" and "Daisy of Love." Brian Graden, who recently left VH1 parent MTV Networks, was the architect of much of the content on the network during this time.

Although Calderone wants to tweak the tone of VH1's reality shows, the risk is that he'll alienate VH1's audience if the shows lose some of their, uh, tawdry appeal. "I Love Money 2," for example, averaged 2.3 million viewers while "Real Chance of Love" has been averaging 2.7 million viewers, according to Nielsen. Overall, VH1's prime-time average audience this year is 760,000, up 26% from five years ago.

At the same time, a change in tone might make the shows easier to swallow on Madison Avenue. Many blue-chip advertisers are wary of some of the shows on VH1 because they often feature drunken antics, fighting and lots of sexual innuendo. According to industry consulting firm SNL Kagan, VH1 will have advertising revenue of $424.4 million in 2009, down 12% from two years ago. Although some of that can be attributed to the troubled economy, people close to VH1 say several of the network's programs are a hard sell.

Calderone points to "The T.O. Show," its new program with NFL star Terrell Owens, as indicative of the direction he'd like to take the network. The show follows Owens as he transitions from being a star on America's team (The Dallas Cowboys) to trying to rehabilitate his image and career on the Buffalo Bills. Calderone said he wants to bring a more "redemptive" feel to the network's reality programming.

"We don't want our viewers tuning in and feeling like it's the same network all the time, that is not something we want to be famous for," Calderone said.

Of course, that's not the only thing he doesn't want to be famous for.

-- Joe Flint

Photos: Top Left: "Megan Wants a Millionaire" star Megan Hauserman. Credit: VH1/51 Minds. Bottom Right: VH1 President Tom Calderone. Credit: VH1

Comments () | Archives (44)

I can't even watch that train-wreck of a network anymore. What was once a reasonably intelligent and funny pop-culture channel has become the worst of the worst of reality-vision.

Between that and the recent murder, I can't stomach even paying for it with my basic cable. I just wish they would go away now.

It is bemusing to me to watch the television industry continue to cut its nose to spite its face. The whole reason you all went with the reality bit is that you figured out you could make money without those pesky writers contracts and actors contracts. Well, you get what you pay for. Does anyone believe that Jenkins was at all vetted, other than to check he was rich? And the funniest of all is yet to come. Just how much money can you make off of reality series in residuals? Do you honestly think people will still want to watch this dreck five years down the road? I am still watching Seinfeld reruns, and there are many who still watch I Love Lucy, The Twilight Zone, and Cheers after all of these years. Think of all of the money you will lose, just to save a few bucks. VH1, just go back to playing music videos with an occasional Behind the Music...

We want Megan back on TV, we all enjoyed her and want her back on. I hope something can be worked out for her and her fans.

Apparently they don't teach loyalty at weasel school.

I understand that the president does not want the bad publicity, however it is important that he remembers his audience, if he tries to turn VH1 in a totally new direction there is a very strong possibility that his audience will leave him and tune into a different station that feeds their guilty pleasure, although some of the shows does not have the best morals it is what the people want and he has to respect that. My word of advice is that if you want to change the network it is going to take little doses and a lot of understanding!

What about music. Does VH-1 or MTV care about music anymore?

Thank god!!!!!! VH1 was starting to sound like a disease you get when you rub in against a dlist celeb.

I think VH1 is making a big mistake in taking a new direction with its shows. VH1 was my favorite channel because of those shows. I never missed an episode of the "of love" shows including "I Love Money" and I'm sad to see a change. I'm not interested in any of these new show ideas so I'll be watching a different station. Are the shows tawdry? Yeah, but they're entertaining and that's what people want. Stick with what works.

I am embarressed to say that I thought Ryan was charming, till all this came out about him. I enjoyed watching "Megan Wants A Millionaire." Those other guys seemed sincere to me; esp. the one with the Trust Fund. I wish there was some way the show could edit out all the scenes with Ryan and be shown again.. Poor Megan..

I have to agree with GDG. By the way, what happened to the music? I guess the VH in VH1 now stands for Vapid Hobags. Shows like "I Love the " and "Best Week Ever" are fun, but most of the VH1 reality shows are painfully awful. Guilty pleasure? Perhaps, but Ipersonally couldn't get past more than one episode of any of them as the people featured were so unlikeable. After watching a few minutes of Daisy of Love I felt like I needed a long hot shower to wash off the residual stink. Unfortunately this type of carwreck entertainment pulls in the viewers, so they aren't going to drop them any time soon.

If VH1 actually condoned what's claimed in this story as their way of explaining away the Jenkins situation, they're truly clueless:


The "Megan" show wrapped up production a few months ago. So which "millionaire" did she choose?

The timeline is entirely wrong. "I Love New York" came before "I Love Money." Bret Michaels was never on "The Surreal Life" like Flavor Flav was, so I can't see how "The Surreal Life" spawned "Rock of Love." "I Love Money," was originally a show featuring rejected suitors on both "I Love Money" and "Rock of Love" competing to win money. In "I Love Money 2" it included rejected suitors from other 51 Minds shows, too. In that regard "I Love Money" was spawned by "Rock of Love" and "I Love New York," not the other way around. "Daisy of Love" was not spawned directly from "I Love Money" since Daisy De La Hoya was never a contestant of the show. She WAS on "Rock of Love" as a potential mate for Michaels so "Daisy of Love" was spawned by "Rock of Love."

Oh thank goodness. They have finally come to their sense.

I agree with Vincent, whatever happened to the music stations playing music. Reality shows, whether involving venereal-disease ridden z-list celebrities or recovering junkies, already have their place on the Fox Reality channel. MTV has for some reason started showing movies like The Crow and MTV2 barely even plays music at this point. I end up watching VH1 Classic and MTV U if I have any hope of seeing something that resembles a music video that doesn't feature Lady Ga Ga or The Black Eyed Peas. So now I pay $160 a month for over 1,000 channels, of which only about five ever seem to be playing music outside of the radio channels. And what happened to Pop-Up video? Now that was the one and ONLY thing that VH1 had going for it. Wake up Calderone! Bring some music and a minimal amount of class back to your network. Emphasis on minimal, I don't expect much from network executives at this point.

I agree with Vincent. What happened to playing music videos? I dont mind reality shows but bring back the music!! What's happened to MTV and VH1 is unbelievable.

Uh...didn't they used to have MUSIC on? For Adults? Maybe they could come back to that. Guess I'm showing my age. I remember when MTV came on with The Buggles as the first song, "Video Killed the Radio Star". The Buggles should come out with "Reality Killed the Video Channels".

Here's an idea. Replace the stupid reality shows with....music programs!

OMG!! NO!!!!!
VH1 had a good thing going with its programming. People enjoy - no LOVE - watching the reality that VH1 was putting out. Don't stop!!!
The previous shows with random comedians remembering pop icon situations of 5 years earlier was LAME!!! Pop-up video was LAME!! All of VH1 programming used to be LAME!! and people/commenters like GDG are LAME!!

VH1 - don't let a fluke oddity with one poorly casted person ruin your future decision making. The ratings should show you what people really want.

VH1 is a disgrace to the music industry.
Programs like Behind The Music, Legends, Shocking Moments in Rock & Roll and constant concerts including Divas Live gave me an 8 year-old me an education in music, and propelled me to desire to enter the music industry, which I am currently working towards a college degree in.

If an 8-year old turned on VH1 today, their education would not be in The Beatles, Aretha Franklin and Michael Jackson, but rather in scripted, false reality shows showcasing and glorifying (and paying) whores and uneducated, belligerently drunken idiots.

They need to remove their president, and get it together. Video Hits One shows barely 2 hours of videos when most of the world is awake.

Even Divas Live is a disgrace, an empty shell of it's former self. It is attempting to stuff the shoes once filled by Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, Beyonce, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Patti LaBelle and Tina Turner with the vocally talentless, stripper-pole gripping Miley Cyrus, talent show winner Leona Lewis, talent show winner Kelly Clarkson, talent show winner Jordin Sparks, and the sole self- made success, Grammy winner Adele.

Thankfully for me, while VH1 rapes and murders the Divas name at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, live on the air, I'll be sitting orchestra at Radio City Music Hall (where they once held the show), watching Aretha Franklin out-sing every one within a 10-block radius of the 2009 Divas show, all while barely exhaling.

Is this a cruel joke? Is VH1 going to jump out one day with Ashton Kutcher and a bunch of cameras and scream 'gotcha! you're been Punk'd!"?
I sure hope so, because I have no idea who still watches this now God-awful network. But whoever it is, they're only getting dumber with every second Flavor Flav's ex-whore (New York)'s ex-men (Chance and Real) attempt to sift through 20 more whores (for a second time!), one of which will most likely end up with her own show in the coming years.


I am quite sad to see VH1 move from the gleefully tawdry to redemptive lifetime channel mush. Since I discovered Rock of Love, I have watched each permutation of these shows, and been charmed, titillated, and sometimes moved to tears.

Certainly, it's not "quality television" But it's trash tv at it's finest, the sleaziest and most ridiculous. It's compulsively watchable and really, really funny.

VH1, you have a loyal audience, don't let us down.

"This is not what I signed up for"?! Give me a break! This is EXACTLY what you signed up for, you little weasel! I can't believe the L.A. Times is writing this as though he may actually be sincere... shame on you!

They've come a long way from shows like FT-Fashion Television in the 1990s. And that's NOT a good thing.

Anyone remember when VH-1 actually showed music videos instead of trash? For that matter, MTV? These channels show nothing but pathetic nonsense nowadays.

To all the people complaining about VH1 going against its audience and changing formats: The VH1 of today is far different than the VH1 I grew up with and has gone through many changes during it's history. It used to be MTV was for the teens and early twenties and VH1 was for the thirty and over crowd. MTV gave up on music videos and VH1 held on to them for a while, starting to show content once saved for MTV. Then as MTV started having hits with shows they began switching to a show format: Behind the Music was a great show (and I don't know why it went away), the first couple I love the 70's shows were great as well. Heck, I even liked the Surreal Life (the one with Ron Jeremy and Vanilla Ice was great)...but VH1's biggest problem is that whenever it got a hit show it copied it and reproduced the same thing so many times it wore it out. The fact that people still watch is amazing to me. Don't get me wrong, I liked the first Flavor of Love and even sat through Rock of Love, but they all lost any creative originality and by the third season of Flavor of Love and all the spin offs of the other "Love" shows things were so dumbed down and childish (it became the opposite of the station it once was) I began to ask myself how many times can people be subjected to the same stuff over and over again and still tune it? And that's true for most of cable. I had to ask myself: I pay $100 bucks a month for this garbage? So, thanks VH1, you served as the main reason behind me getting rid of my cable. Now having lived cable free for 6 months, I don't miss it at all...I'm glad to hear that VH1 is going to try and interject some new things and change it up...I'm sure it's mainly because they featured a murderer on their show...but rest assured they will just recycle the next series of hits the same way: Do yourself a favor and learn to live away from your televisions: There's got to be more to life than being suckered every week.

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