As for Fuse's crop of VJs, they may be a bit edgier than MTV's ever-pleasant hosts, but they're equally teen- (and screen-) friendly: Fuse's Marianela Pereyra was named FHM magazine's "hottest VJ," while all-American Steven Smith was once on VH1. Breaking from the MTV formula, it seems, is easier said than done.
Of course, Fuse does differentiate itself via its bread and butter: that truly eclectic video rotation, which offers equal spins to all and is voted on by visitors to the website (www.Fuse.tv).
Necessity fuels some of the mix. The channel's access to new videos is somewhat restricted by MTV's exclusivity deals with the major labels for a percentage of their video output, so Fuse focuses on up-and-coming acts such as a Simple Plan. The group was all but unknown when it performed live at Fuse headquarters and won the support of the staff. It's now an MTV favorite, and Fuse is sponsoring its coming tour.
"We like to think that if a video is good television, we're open to airing it," says Janice Unterweiser, director of programming and scheduling at Fuse. "And our viewers are the ones who really determine what stays and goes."
But in the end, even Fuse's anti-establishment, pro-video effort is homage to the three-lettered network that gave music videos an outlet and thus essentially invented the genre. Remember the pre-video days, when music was an aural experience, not an image-centered visual one? Thankfully, they might be back, now that the Internet and satellite radio reestablishing music itself as the heart of the music scene.
Fuse, for all its irreverent flash, is conservative to the core. As it sets out -- hand in hand with Sally Struthers -- to "save the music video," it never stops to ask: Why bother?