Lest anyone accuse VH1 of straying too far from its music roots, the network is taking a decisive step to amp up the genre by bringing back its iconic “Pop Up Video” program this fall.
That’s just in time for procrastinating college students – many of whom won’t remember the show’s remarkable ability to suck one in – to kill time by watching one video after another with the info bubbles popping up every 10 seconds or so. The info would be about the artist, the video shoot (so and so delayed it for hours due to repeated bathroom breaks) and other random stuff.
But, that of course -- the show ran from 1996 to 2002 -- was in a gentler time in our media culture, before TMZ and Perez (does he need a last name anymore), so it will be intriguing how snarky and sardonic any in-bubble commentary and factoids get. Comedians will be lining up to land the contract for a 30-minute show with Lagy Gaga videos.
(Even during its first run, some artists reportedly complained about their treatment and were successful, as showrunners yanked their videos and called them some version of “Pop Ups They Stopped.")
“Pop Up Video” at times seemed to dominate the VH1 airwaves – no need for appointment television, it was always on. At the same time, the era was memorable for the network's “Behind the Music,” the drama-infused documentaries about performers' triumphs and tragedies. (“Inspired again, John Mellencamp returns to the studio with full creative control” was the type of narrative.)
But VH1 moved away from them as it launched reality series and had considerable success with them. Now, however, its ratings have plummeted as it has struggled to find a new breakout hit. So, enter the 60-episode order for “Pop Up.”
Naturally, VH1 plans to make use of interactive opportunities, including user-generated content. The prospect of fans of a particular artist and his or her detractors suggesting “bubbles” that VH1 might include is sure to create excitement.
Also notable is "Pop Up" lends itself to viewing on mobile devices. Get a quick video hit while waiting for the boring professor to show up.
During its run, “Pop Up” found its way into popular culture via parodies and some shows ripping off the concept of the info bubbles. That continues throughout cable. It’s good the original is back, hopefully to bring more innovations others will feel the need to follow.