MTV is getting back into the business of creating TV programs based around music. News broke this morning that MTV will be producing a whopping new 14 television shows for the 2016-2017 TV season. Among these is the return of MTV Unplugged and a brand new series called Wonderland that will feature live performances. Plus, there will be an additional music-based reality competition series from Mark Burnett, among others.
Let’s talk about Unplugged, first, because it’s the format that former generations of MTV watchers are probably most familiar with. MTV Unplugged originally hit the schedule back in 1989. The specials ran on MTV through the late nineties, although they didn’t entirely die out at that point. MTV has brought Unplugged back for several performances; most recently, Miley Cyrus filmed an Unplugged set in Los Angeles that aired as a special on the cable channel. Several Unplugged specials have later spawned albums that sold a slew of copies. Examples of these would be Nirvana’s Unplugged in New York, which was filmed shortly before Kurt Cobain’s death. An Unplugged with Jay-Z featuring the Roots also sold a slew of copies.
We don’t know a ton about the other new upcoming projects. MTV’s release says that Wonderland will be set in Los Angeles and will feature live performances from at least three different acts. Mark Burnett—who is also the guy behind Shark Tank--has a new competition series coming to the network that currently seems to be in the early stages of development. Right now, it doesn’t even have a title, but just having Burnett’s name attached is likely propelling the project forward at MTV. We do know that program will have people competing in a recording studio rather than on a stage like Mark Burnett’s other show The Voice.
Among the other new shows that will be hitting the schedule, two more will feature at least a tinge of music. Studio 24 will follow two individuals, including a famous person and “a mystery talent,” who will be matched up to create a song. The 24 portion of the title comes in because the two talents will have only 24 hours to create something beautiful. It sounds like a task, but some of the greatest songs ever written didn’t take all that long to write. Finally, Year One will be a documentary series looking at the talented careers of some of the starts who have appeared on MTV programs in the past. If they would sprinkle in a little Carson Daly somewhere on this new schedule, they'd probably have me sold.
Other new shows sound like more recent MTV programs. There’s a “coming-of-age” drama and a comedy, also from Mark Burnett. Those should fit nice and snugly between stuff like The Shannara Chronicles and Teen Wolf.
The news is coming just a few weeks after Viacom executive Philippe Dauman made some bold statements, noting that the next year will be “a landmark” for MTV. The channel has had ratings problems in recent years, after switching out a slew of music-based programming in favor of reality fodder like Teen Mom. Scripted programming like Teen Wolf and Scream has also been a big part of the lineup in recent years. However, MTV has been losing ad revenue, despite the fact it does have some popular programming that people do connect with the brand.
It has obviously been a long time since music was really at the core of MTV's programming, but the network could probably do worse than bring back some of the channel's original magic. We'll let you know how the new programming initiative works out.