Record Ratings as Viewers Go Gaga for MTV’s VMAs

Lady Gaga in male drag at the VMAs (Photo: MTV)

Lady Gaga in male drag at the VMAs (Photo: MTV)

Complain all you want about the coarse language, Lady Gaga’s costume or anything else you may not like about MTV in general or its Video Music Awards in particular, but the joke’s on you.

The 2011 VMA telecast on Sunday night drew the biggest audience in the history of MTV — 12.4 million total persons, according to an announcement from the channel’s gleeful press department on Monday. The telecast set a new record in the channel’s target age group too, the announcement said — 8.5 million people between the ages of 12-34. Yes, that includes persons 12-17 — a group still considered underage — for purchasing alcohol, voting, going to some movies and other stuff. But more on that later.

OK, so the VMAs were a resounding success in the ratings department — which translates to: Profits in the advertising and sponsorship departments, which is the whole point of this or any other TV show.

But how did the VMAs fare creatively? For the most part, critics and journalists praised the show. The New York Times first complained about the telecast’s excessive vulgarity, then turned right around and praised it for the same reason. “This was maybe the most bleeped award show in history, and certainly among the lewdest, from Lady Gaga’s opening monologue, in drag, channeling Andrew Dice Clay and Denis Leary, to Cloris Leachman swapping foul talk with the cast of ‘Jersey Shore,’ to Justin Bieber making phallus jokes with his girlfriend Selena Gomez on the pre-show,” the Times critic wrote, then adding, “But what a surprisingly enjoyable mess this made.”

Others made mention of Lady Gaga’s costume for the evening — as a cigarette-smoking male named Jo Calderone. Leave it to Gaga to make headlines and get all (or most) of the attention on the morning after, but we happen to think this particular outfit was disappointing or, to put it another way, not Gaga-like at all. With her fake, “unshaven” look, we felt she came across like a kid dressed up like a “hobo” for Halloween.

Another highlight cited often on the day after: Beyonce showing her baby bump. We thought the performance she gave just before exhibiting her belly was the bigger highlight.

But back to this profanity issue, if it still is an issue. If millions of kids are watching (and persons under 18 are still considered to be kids), and MTV thinks nothing of airing a profanity-laced awards show (sure, the words are bleeped, but it’s obvious what they are), with the willing participation of some of today’s top music stars, and then no critic comes along to criticize it, then you might say the debate over “dirty words’ (as George Carlin once labeled them) is pretty much over.

The question remains, though: Is this a good thing?

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The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.


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