I didn’t know you had it in you, but I’m sure glad you did. Thank you for digging deep and emerging with a glimmer of uprightness. Thank you for resisting the urge to wring an already chaotic situation for every dollar it’s worth and choosing not to capitalize on crazy for a change. Thank you for making a conscientious decision to cancel “Ev & Ocho” and spare us, the viewing public, from another mind-numbingly ridiculous bout of relationship dysfunction.
It was 11 episodes in the making, scheduled to drop during Labor Day weekend and fall right in step with the lineup of other beleaguered storylines that have sprung up like cultural pariahs from your network. “Flavor of Love.” “Strange Love.” “I Love New York.” All that love, but really, no love at all. You just don’t know how often I’ve wanted to kick over a flat screen watching the parade of social misfits that have wrangled their 15 minutes of fame with Video Hits One footing the tab. Every single time I was visually accosted by Flavor Flav, who never missed a chance to showboat his own special brand of nuttiness and clearly luxuriated in his newfound relevance, I sent up a silent apology to our ancestors, who were probably too busy turning over in their graves to hear me.
More than any other channel, VH1 has quite possibly perfected the ability to recruit that tiny segment folks willing to offer themselves up for judgment, humiliation, and good ol’ fashioned stereotyping, so long as the checks are getting cut on a regular basis. It’s a wonder that televisions across the country haven’t spontaneously combusted already from being forced to channel so much tomfoolery in hour-long segments. For the train wreck that is reality TV — let’s be honest, crafted in large part by your programming team, which seems to have a special gifting for making stars out of hotmessness — I get the feeling this one in particular was going to be a doozy and work double time to spark oodles of conversations starting off, like, “Girlllll, did you see….?”
Putting “Ev & Ocho” into the rotation would’ve been more than another bout of the shuck and jive to which your executives (namely Cris Abrego and Mark Cronin) routinely seem to gravitate. It would’ve sent the message that domestic violence is a personal issue between the couple, not the entire community, and dressed it up in a subliminally entertaining package, since all of the factors leading up to the beat down would’ve been catalyzed and amped to make for good TV. It would’ve implied that when a couple’s tumultuous fights disintegrate into physical violence, it’s fine to turn a blind eye, so long as it happens when the VH1 brand is not directly affiliated.
Even though she’s a celebrity mostly in her own mind, Evelyn Lozada would still be mired in obscurity if it weren’t for “Basketball Wives.” The popularity of that show has been a win-win for her, her castmates, and you, the network. In the second quarter of this year, your prime-time ratings jumped 33 percent, thanks to the drama mongering that goes on on that show and “Love & Hip Hop, Atlanta.” Those chicks are your cash cows. Still, there is a level of responsibility on your part for the behavior of those stars since the show is designed as reality, even when TV crews aren’t all up in their space.
What’s interesting, however, is that violence among the wives on “Basketball Wives” runs rampant and unchecked, although weapons have been involved and the potential for real injury has loomed over every brawl. Yet the show has literally gone on, with much of that anarchy laid out by Lozada herself. But you can’t pick and choose when to wield good social conscience. Violence is violence is violence, whether it’s at the hands of a pinheaded football player who changed his name to a number or the woman who thought highly enough of him and his money to commit to a lifetime of fluffing his and her matching egos. Her behavior toward her castmates and other women in general is just as sickening, just as outrageous, just as dangerous as her husband-turned-assailant’s.
They’re not cute catfights, not that cute catfights even exist outside of goofy male daydreams and bad porn scripts. They’re instances of brutality, just like the one Lozada got served with in what some (not necessarily me) argue is the bulldog bite of karma.
You are reeling in that 18 to 49 market of women, dear VH1, which is a broad, cross-generational sampling of ladies all tuning in to get courtside seats to the inevitable kerfuffles and dust-ups that make your shows so popular. It’s sad, really, that we get so much enjoyment from playing voyeur to other folks’ meltdowns. It teaches girls they can’t trust other women, they can’t resolve their interpersonal issues without a fist and a four-letter word, and self-hatred doesn’t get called on the carpet so long as it’s dressed in a pair of fly stilettos and an Armor All coat of MAC. And that’s all wrong.
I hear that Lozada has filed for divorce from Chad Johnson (or Ochocinco or whatever he’s calling himself these days), and that’s a wise move. A man who a) head butts you, b) leaves a three-inch gash on your forehead, and c) does all of the above in just past six weeks of marriage is probably not going to be shy about handing out regular beatdowns in the thereafter. Although I ballyhoo your move to scrap all of the invested money in production and applaud you for recognizing that airing “Ev & Ocho” would’ve been negligent, opportunistic, and over the top, I hope you recognize the two-sided message you’re sending to your viewers. Look, I remember when VH1 was all about pumping out the newest videos from Phil Collins and the Pet Shop Boys. And it’s always amazed me how much you’ve changed your brand since those days. But change for better, not for worse.
Yours ever so truly,