September 29th, 2011
12:35 PM ET
Following a decade-long hiatus, the iconic series "Pop Up Video" is returning to VH1.
Sixty all-new episodes will begin airing weekdays at noon starting Monday, October 3. The familiar format remains, and the only major updates are a new graphics package, a peppier version of the familiar theme song, and (of course) a new crop of music videos. The program's new incarnation will also allow viewers to DIY their own "pop up" videos and share them on Facebook and Twitter.
Just like the 1996-2002 version, four to five videos will air in each half-hour episode. Bubbles called "info nuggets" will pop up throughout each clip, containing trivial tidbits, snarky comments (often of the PG-13 variety) and other factoids.
I saw a screening of one of the new episodes, and without giving too much away, I will say that the Beliebers will not be disappointed.
When I was in high school, "Pop Up Video" essentially held me hostage, rendering me useless until the episode was over and the last bubble had popped. It was my crack rock. Those info nuggets mesmerized me.
Where else but "Pop Up Video" would audiences have learned that the band a-ha selected the name because the phrase "a-ha" means the same thing in both the English and Norwegian languages?
If not for "Pop Up Video's" version of Madonna's "Express Yourself" video, how else would one know that there were three different cats in it, Madonna helped cast them herself and the cats each made $100 a day?
CNN spoke to original "Pop Up Video" co-creator Woody Thompson, who serves as an executive producer on the returning series.
CNN: How did you come up with the idea for "Pop Up Video?"
Woody Thompson: My partner and I had just been fired from a late night talk show, and we decided that instead of joining another disastrous show and come up with ideas for other people, we were going to go pitch our own. So we spent the next two years on both coasts – New York and Los Angeles – pitching every cable network what we thought were fabulous ideas.
And finally we went to VH1. They had just hired a consultant to take the hyphen out of VH-1 and they were now “Music First.” So, of course, we went in and announced music is dead and no one wants to watch music videos, especially their music videos because they weren’t playing the cool ones. MTV was playing all of the new releases and they were stuck playing Gloria Estefan.
We went in and pitched all of these fabulous ideas, which were news shows and game shows and gossip shows, and they seemed to like them. After the meeting, this guy ran up to us and said, “Those were all great ideas, and I think they really liked them, but that thing you said about music being dead was a disaster because we’re all about music videos now. And if you can’t think of a way to put music videos inside your shows, they’re not going to buy any.”
So, as two 28-year-olds do, we went out and got hammered and decided that either we can forget VH1, or just figure out a way to try and put music videos inside of our shows. That's kind of the brainchild: Instead of fighting it, [we thought], why don’t we put all of those shows on top of it? If we could find out when Madonna lost her virginity and put it over “Like A Virgin,” it would be kind of dangerous. And then we could tell you how long they shot in Venice, and find out when other people lost their virginity. We could make a news show and a behind-the-scenes show and a music video show all in one.
A week later we met with them again and said, “How about this?” and they said “How much?” and we said, “Very little money,” and we made a pilot and we were off.
CNN: What is it about “Pop Up Video” that makes it so addicting?
WT: You really can’t stop watching. And you sit through videos you never thought you’d sit through. That’s the point. We can mine the history of music videos and tell stories about videos that are long past and, even better, tell stories about the bad videos.
CNN: Do you have to get an artist's permission to give a video the "Pop Up" treatment?
WT: We don’t have to get permission. We’re using the VH1 library and they have the deals with the record labels. In the beginning, the labels were a little apprehensive about what we were doing with their videos; they felt we were maybe defacing them. But now we have every label and every independent label on the planet asking us to “pop” their videos because people know there aren't a lot of platforms for music videos. The ones we “popped” 15 years ago are still playing in heavy rotation on television.
CNN: What's your favorite "Pop Up" video?
WT: Videos from the '80s have a special spot in my heart, and really lend themselves to my reservoir of useless knowledge. Those first ones we did really stand out for me. The Lionel Richie “Hello” video will always be the greatest “popped” video to me because of the stories that we were able to find. The blind girl wasn’t really blind, and the God-awful clay bust of Lionel Richie at the end looked more like Patrick Ewing. It not only told a story - which they did a lot of in videos in the '80s – but it was such a slow song, so it worked well with what we were doing.
CNN: Is there still a place for these videos in the world of Wikipedia and Google?
WT: I think there is. We’re not just putting OMG-type Twitter and Facebook messages out. This is a sitcom on top of a music video. Just as you would watch “Modern Family” or “The Simpsons,” I like to think this is a cartoon on top of a music video. It’s facts you may already know, combined with artists you may or may not know, placed by a team of writers. Lately there’s been a proliferation of text popping up on screens but I think people will come back to our voice and our storytelling, and no one else is doing it over music videos.
CNN: What is the research and fact-checking process like?
WT: We get firsthand information from people who were at the shooting of the music videos; everything on the show is true. We originally produced the show to give people information they could use to go out and get laid because they knew some obscure fact about Rod Stewart.
We screen the video in a room of writers and researchers, and then we go out and try to talk to people involved in the making of that video. If it was an elaborate costume video like a Lady Gaga video, we’ll go after the art director or the costume designer. If it’s more of a concept video we’ll try to talk to the cinematographer or the director.
There are a lot of hip-hop videos we’re doing now, and we try to go after the dancers or the choreographers. Sometimes the directors who do two or three of these a week cannot remember the videos they shot last week, let alone 10 years ago, so they’re not the greatest sources.
Sometimes the person who was the least important one on the set remembers it the best, because it was the one video they did and they’ve got that story about Kanye they’ve never told. It may not be the best story at a dinner party but it’s great for us because we can work with the little information they do have.
CNN: Is it strange to you that “Pop Up Video” is one of the only places you can see music videos now?
WT: Part of the reason why they called me after more than a decade is because VH1 is trying to get back into music. All the music channels kind of go through these phases where they have a couple of hit shows and they build their programming around those shows. For VH1 they had “The Surreal Life” and Flava Flav and spent 10 years doing reality shows, and I think they’re trying to get back to their roots.
CNN: You have a new version of the original theme song – what else is new about “Pop Up Video” this time around?
WT: When they decided to bring the show back, I immediately called the guy who wrote the original song, and who had said, “Make it a soap commercial jingle that you can’t get out of your head!” If you listen to the old theme it was pretty slow so we tried to add some layers to it and speed it up a bit for the kids and that’s what he came up with. I think it’s great.
This time they opened up the hip hop and rap vault, which was forbidden the first go around, and we are mining that just like we mined the '80s back in the day. So you’re going to see some great Tupac and Biggie stuff, and some Will Smith [videos].
What about you? What are your favorite "Pop Up Video" memories?
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