Why MTV’s ‘BUCKWILD’ Strategy Backfired

Critics are a funny, perverse, cynical breed. Frankly, I wouldn’t have had much interest in “BUCKWILD” — I’ve already got something like 30 shows to review in January — another MTV reality show, this one set in West Virginia, reaching for the “Jersey Shore” mantle. But because the network didn’t make tonight’s premiere available in advance, now I’m curious what was so bad that they felt compelled to hide it.

The explanation is usually the series isn’t ready, but that only arouses skepticism. And since it’s hard to imagine negative reviews hurting the performance of something like this, my guess is the network simply wanted to avoid a potential PR drubbing, in much the way studios opt not to screen certain movies, forcing critics to go catch them the day they open along with the public. (At Variety, these gems earned the nickname “boulevard movies,” since in the old days, it usually meant going to see them near the office on Hollywood Blvd. My personal favorite: Catching a noon showing of the Lambada movie “The Forbidden Dance.”)

Once, that probably would have worked. It took a couple of days for a review to find its way into print, diluting any damage. With the web, though, such attempts are less effective, and can even kind of backfire. After all, I’ve got this blog, and an after-the-fact appraisal of “BUCKWILD” is just the sort of thing to fill it.

In short, the youth-oriented network engaged in some rather stodgy thinking, nicely summed up by USA Today’s Robert Bianco: “MTV has not made its latest booze-bums-and-boobs funfest available for
preview, reasoning no doubt that most of the people who are paid to
review such shows won’t like it, and most of the people who like such
shows won’t care.”

Bingo. But in the digital age, while something like “BUCKWILD” can run, it can hide for only so long.

 

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