No, I’m not going soft, and I’m certainly not endorsing CMT or any of its programs or online properties. I can list dozens of other better alternatives to CMT for your country music and lifestyle needs, and the Viacom-owned entity would probably come near the bottom of the list of recommend media sources. There’s still ample bad blood to be had with CMT for those who hope for the preservation of country music’s roots, the uplifting of rural-dwelling people, and fair representation of what it’s truly like to be “country.” CMT’s various “redneck” shows spread stereotypes and misrepresentations, and last year they laid off the vast majority of their journalistic media staff which at one point constituted one of the best country music newsrooms in the business. If boiled down to one word, the way to describe CMT would be “filth.”
But just like with country radio, and with country music’s major labels, all you ask for is just a little bit of effort, one or two healthy alternatives, and at least an acknowledgement of the people who believe that country music should actually sound like country music, and that the legacies of the legends of the genre should be preserved on television, especially by a channel whose initials are CMT.
I understand, it’s hard out there in the television world. With Netflix and other streaming alternatives, cable networks are getting eaten alive, and everyone is dealing with a ratings crunch. But that doesn’t give you the right to alienate entire segments of the country music public just so you can score big with the Millennial crowd.
Shortly after the launch of CMT’s Jersey Shore-style reality TV show Party Down South, Saving Country Music began to observe an open boycott and information moratorium against CMT and all its various satellite properties, meaning I wouldn’t link to any of their articles, display or embed any of their videos, mention them unless it was in a critical manner, and I even ceased covering their CMT Awards with live blogs, even though that coverage was crass in nature. The idea of inadvertently drawing any more attention to CMT made me sick after watching the filth and negative stereotyping displayed on Party Down South and other programs.
What did my stupid little personal CMT boycott accomplish? Jack nothing probably, but it was the principle of it all. How about the biggest country music media entity show a little bit more respect to Southern culture and country music?
In the new program lineup CMT announced recently, there’s not much that looks interesting, enriching, fulfilling, or wholesomely entertaining. Billy Ray Cyrus in a scripted show about being a washed up Elvis impersonator? Please. The second season of Kellie Pickler’s reality show? Love Kellie, but come on. Their upcoming Crossroads schedule is terrible. Luke Bryan with Jason Derulo? Thomas Rhett with Nick Jonas? What happened to the series’ iconic collaborations of the past?
Yet CMT has announced that after the current season, Party Down South is ending for good. Even with the show being one of the network’s highest rated ever, it still never came close to pulling in Jersey Shore numbers, or making major celebrities of the cast members. CMT bet big on the series, willing to take its lumps from sites like Saving Country Music and from celebrities like Ben “Cooter” Jones of Dukes of Hazzard fame for the big payday. But Party Down South never materialized into a major show, and meanwhile it ran off some of CMT’s core viewers.
Also, CMT has a new 8-episode miniseries in the pipeline called “Million Dollar Quartet” based off the famous Sun Studios moment, and multiple documentary projects on country legends upcoming. Last year the cable channel ran a well-received documentary on Johnny Cash, and on the Urban Cowboy venue Gilley’s. I didn’t watch either of them because I was dutifully observing my boycott (and don’t have cable anyway), but the reviews were decent.
CMT was putting out effort, and lo and behold, they found out the public was receptive. The documentaries did well because there is still tremendous love and interest in legends like Johnny Cash, and as long as you promote the programs and give them the right opportunity, they will succeed.
Whenever classic country is given an opportunity, it tends to surprise folks at the reception. And that’s all we’ve ever asked, is just a little attention, and a place at the table. Huge corporate media entities like CMT and country radio are never going to be the ideal to what traditional or independent country fans want. But they can at least try a little, and that’s what CMT has done lately, at least to an extent. There’s still much more to do, but it’s a start.
So as soon as Party Down South ticks off the air, I will hereby suspend my CMT open boycott that few if any were paying attention to, and even less cared about, which in the end means I can resume my full-throated criticism of their crappy programs and poor decisions like before, and maybe pay attention to the few decent shows they put the effort towards each season.
So there’s that.