Video: MTV Faces a Mid-Life Crisis

The first music-video channel is trying to recapture the heat

New art forms do not usually emerge with such neat birth dates, but consider Aug. 1, 1981. On that day a cable channel called MTV made its debut, offering a round-the-clock barrage of music videos -- short films set to rock songs and produced by record companies to promote their performers. These imaginative, visually arresting clips soon caught on; rock music was suddenly something to look at, not just listen to. Such performers as Duran Duran and Cyndi Lauper rode to success on them; top Hollywood directors, including John Landis and Brian De Palma, tried their hand at making them. The...

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