Canadian TV’s newest Chosen One is goofy, sweet, hyper, strange and kind of unkempt. Last fall, 1,400 teens and twentysomethings took part in a search by MuchMusic—“the nations music station”—for a new VJ. The winner was Winnipeg’s Bradford How, 22. Any kid will tell you How just got the coolest job in the country. Its particular perk: instant celebrity. And while How is natural in front of the camera, he may lack a key ingredient for success—the desire to be a star. “I’m a squirrel trying to get a nut,” jokes How. “I made a home video and ended up sending it in. I didn’t follow any of MuchMusic’s recommendations.”
How was studying communications in college when picked. He was the least traditionally attractive of three finalists and the most out there. He’s smart and makes kids work at understanding his humour. When a male teen viewer calls to request heavy metal band LIT, How engages the guy in rhyming, and tells him they’re making performance art, “simple, concise, yet dare I say, a bit provocative.” The caller is stunned silent.
How often wraps himself in an unflattering package of oversize T-shirts and old cords. He shows no interest in the “character” schtick his colleagues adopt (Rick The Temp is the jock, Master T the homeboy, Rachel Perry the ditzy blond). Basically, he dresses like the crew. But the forces at Much will likely do something about that. Since working there, Rick The Temp, Bill Welychka and most other male VJs have mysteriously become better looking.
With How, they have an advantage— his unruly, brownish-blond, curly hair wins immediate converts. “I love his hair,” says 17-year-old Caterina. Nick, a 20-year-old skater punk, can’t decide why he likes How, but “it must have something to do with the hair.” Great hair is
key for what Much knows teens want: heartthrobs to swoon at through the windows of its ground-floor Toronto studio.
Anyone over 18 can recall the first VJs of the ’80s—knowledgeable, cool, but old by today’s standards. Chris Ward, Mike Williams, Denise Donion and J.D. Roberts asked hard questions and commented on pop culture without trying to be part of it. In the early ’90s, VJs played low-key: it wasn’t cool to be a celebrity when angst-ridden grunge bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam were mocking their own star status.
The rise of VJs as celebrities came as teens began dominating entertainment through sheer numbers. With no substance in the music of Britney Spears, Limp Bizkit or ’N Sync, VJs keep kids from realizing their pop icons are boring. They shun probing exchanges with musicians: instead, they hand the mike to the kids, resulting in countless “do you have a girlfriend?”-type questions. Much used to instmct viewers; now, it placates them, as MTV has from the start. It brings to mind the remark by Johnny Rotten of the ’70s punk band the Sex Pistols: “VJs have turned this into a nation of halfwits.”
For Much’s original audience, now in their 30s, How’s antics will be refreshing. “Much thinks I’ll appeal to kids that want to laugh, the wacky ones,” says How. “But I think I have the ability to relate to a wide range of people of different backgrounds.” The fact he was chosen—in a process decided by viewers and Donlon, now vice-president—may suggest a willingness to make Much’s audience stretch a bit more. Will How change Much— and if so, How Much?
Shanda Deziel is a Macleans assistant editor. Guest submissions may be sent to email@example.com or faxed to (416) 5967730. We cannot respond to all queries.
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