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Kill Your TV: The Shannara Chronicles 

Wednesday, Jan 27 2016

Picking on MTV is a little easy. It's the Rodney Dangerfield of television: no respect. Those who remember when it actually included music gave up on the thing years ago. But just as the Golden Globes trot out some previously-beloved-but-now-dusty superstar to bestow with a trophy each year — Burt Reynolds, Sylvester Stallone — former MTV fans await some sort of magical redemption from the channel. Something. Anything. The Jersey Shore was the closest we've come. (Tell me that's not a sad commentary.)

The short version is this: MTV became a follower, not a leader. It jumps on bandwagons and never produces any Next Big Things. Even the Disney Channel gets this concept right — and it sucks. Teen Wolf isn't half bad, but it's still riding the coattails of Buffy, Goosebumps, and a lot of other decades-old material.

How surprising, then, that MTV's newest show is an amalgamation of The Lord of the Rings, The Hunger Games, and Game of Thrones. Throw in Twilight-level hotness to that mix and you've got the network's latest, The Shannara Chronicles, a series based on eponymous books for sci-fi dorks about a magical land with Druids, elves, demons, and gnomes. (If a book requires a glossary of characters at the beginning, or — God forbid — a map of the fucking world, it's a good sign that it should be avoided at all costs.) I haven't read Shannara, but it has a character named Allanon, like Al-Anon, the 12-step program. Come on now.

Obviously, my snark-cannon was locked and loaded the first time I sat down for MTV's latest, and my inner infantry was not disappointed. Though filmed in New Zealand — not even the setting is particularly original — it's still filled with enough low-budget CGI to make the kingdom appear ever more fantastical. A girl who's trained for a race so she can become one of the chosen shows up — and she's, like, the only girl amid all these hunky elves, and they're like, "Whoa, you're a girl and this is gonna be dangerous, I don't think you are up to it," and she's like, "Dude, just give me a shot," and they, like, laugh at her, and she, like, falls immediately and lags behind, and you know how the rest goes.

The acting is terrible, the story is hackneyed and borrowed, and I was rooting for the protagonist to fall to her death into a chasm of spikes. Die, die, die, my darling.

(A moment, if I might, about sexually attractive elves. I don't get it. An elf needs to be in a tree making chocolate chip cookies, or perhaps cobbling shoes. He should not be tall, muscular, or in any way resemble Taylor Lautner.)

But here's the most frustrating part: Although the only thing "millennial" about me is the hangover I had when the year 2000 was ushered in, you can't tell me that there aren't good young writers out there that could create something incredible for MTV.

Appealing to the tween market is fine, but get it right, goddammit. How hard it is to find the best and the brightest and put them in charge of programming? Chris Rock recently published an amazing polemic in The Hollywood Reporter about the lack of black voices in the film industry. In essence, he argued that there isn't anyone hired behind-the-scenes who hasn't been to an Ivy League school. The same seems true for MTV, which appears to be years behind everyone else. How hard is it to find even a 20-year-old who can intuit what kids want to watch before the execs do? I thought there were entire panels of people whose job it is to do just that.

Television-by-committee automatically excludes talented people with a vision. I want ye olde days, when there was always something new and unexpected on that channel.

I want my MTV.

About The Author

Katy St. Clair


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