Unless you have reason to keep track of focus group-speak, you may not know that those born after 1980 are no longer members of Gen Y: They're Millennials, and unlike the brash, acquisitive, me-me-me Gen Y brats with their bling and labels and rainbow parties, Millennials are apparently leading the zeitgeist's new mood of worthy earnestness. Needless to say, this a huge pain for MTV, which is now obliged to supplement its usual rotation of spoiled vapidity displays like My Super Sweet 16 with shows that—God help us—are more community-spirited and "inspirational."
At first glance, the most altruistic thing about MTV's new direction is the careers it's resuscitating, from Fonzworth Bentley, whose From G's to Gents shows thugs getting polished up at finishing school, to Nick Lachey, who's producing Taking the Stage, about a performing arts school in Cincinnati. Even T.I.'s new show, T.I.'s Road to Redemption, in which he helps troubled teens avoid the mistakes he's made (the getting charged with gun possession ones, not the making millions as a rapper ones), is ensuring maximum exposure before he serves that unfortunate prison sentence.
But don't worry, it's not going to be all "believe in yourself and you can achieve anything." As MTV president Van Toffler sagely points out: "It's not like you flip a light switch from one type of programming to another. The notion of escapism will still live next to inspiration." In other words, any moral improvement wrought upon our nation's youth will continue to be instantly neutralized by the Speidi monster.