How To Save Fuse, Part I: Look Across The Street

Despite its tendencies toward overusing the phrase “guilty pleasures” in its show descriptions and booking anyone who will show up on its evening talk show The Sauce, I have a soft spot in my heart for the music-television also-ran Fuse; sure, it’s due in part to the channel’s roots as MuchMusic USA, but it is awful nice to see at least one entity out there fighting Viacom’s bleep-happy monopoly on televised music, and I want the channel to thrive without resorting to reruns of its sister network’s shows. Which is why I got kind of excited when I clicked over from The Daily Show to see the channel performing a neat bit of programming magic: It was broadcasting the Foo Fighters’ show at New York’s Madison Square Garden, allegedly live and definitely commercial-free, as part of its new series Fuse Rocks The Garden. While the video quality of the show was somewhat cameraphone-level at times, I thought that the idea behind it–giving viewers a chance to see a sold-out concert from the comfort of their own homes–was finally a way for the channel to use its corporate backer’s resources wisely.

In case you didn’t know, Fuse is owned by the historically bumbling cable company Cablevision, which also owns MSG, where tons of concerts are held over the course of the year; the Fuse studios, which are sort of like a mini-MTV setup with a blinking marquee outside, are located across 7th Avenue from the Knicks’ home. If Cablevision finally gets its act together (those of you who have ever had its “services” in your home know that this is somewhat unlikely) and lets Fuse get involved in the booking of a few of those shows–and if it comes up with a few ideas for bigger, more “event”-like concerts, similar to the Jay-Z “retirement concert” chronicled in the movie Fade To Black or, hell, a Jingle Ball-like festival featuring bands that hew toward its more rock-leaning tastes–I think Garden could really help people want to tune into Fuse, instead of just flipping past the channel on their way to G4 and HGTV.

And beyond that: with savvy picks as far as artists go and promotion that goes beyond “hey, let’s stream this on the Internet too!” Fuse could bring live music back to being a little bit more of a communal event, and its lowered ratings expectations thanks to the channel being on cable could serve as a hedge against the idea that ratings for music-related programming are generally declining. (Hey, at the very least, it’s better than the infomercials Fuse runs every morning, right?) And just think of the synergistic opportunity: The fact that good booking for this show will allow Madison Square Garden to showcase itself as something besides a place where people can watch “professional” basketball players implode night after night should be incentive enough for Cablevision’s suits to make this work.

Fuse Rocks The Garden []