What Happened to VH1?

The network that was once known for high-quality programming has sold its soul to the devil for ratings.

A scene from VH1's Basketball Wives (VH1)
A scene from VH1's Basketball Wives (VH1)

I really didn’t think the programming could get any worse than Flavor of Love, Real Chance of Love and For the Love of Ray J, but miraculously, the programming is as bad, if not worse, with the escalating levels of violence between the women. Let’s not forget Single Ladies, which has some of the worst writing, storytelling and acting on television. It’s official: VH1 has officially fallen off.

I know that ratings are paramount to a network’s success, but does quality have to go completely out the window?

Viewers of color pined for more people of color on television for decades. We now have more people of color on television than ever before, and most are acting like damned fools. Who needs Jezebel when you’ve got Evelyn Lozada, coons when you have Flavor Flav, tragic mulattos when you have Emily Bustamante and Kimbella, and black bucks when you’ve got Chad Ochocinco? How did a network that launched on New Year’s Day of 1985 with the video of Marvin Gaye’s legendary rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” fall so far from grace?

I know the answer: a shifting demographic, competition from new-media programming, more robust programming on other cable networks and trying to maintain an identity within a major conglomerate (Viacom) that oversees many networks that are doing well (MTV, Comedy Central, BET, Spike and Nick at Nite) — but does the quality of the bulk of the programming have to be so low?

Not all of the programming on VH1 is bad, but a lot of it is really bad, and that’s a problem. Thank goodness for Styled by June, which is refreshingly sane, or VH1’s reality programming would be a complete wash. And that is truly a shame. 

Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., is editor-at-large for The Root. Follow her on Twitter.