Production company MadVision Entertainment, which includes as one of its owners the publisher of Ebony, has purchased the Soul Train franchise from Don Cornelius, who had owned the program and its related assorted side projects since the show’s 1970 premiere. Cornelius hasn’t shown much interest in the program since production on new episodes ended in 2006, so new ownership seems like a great idea on the surface. But is it?
The new owners are certainly more ambitious, having announced their intent to distribute classic episodes of the show through DVD, video on demand, and the Internet. (Although one can only imagine what a hassle licensing the show’s performances would be.) While being able to access the show in another medium other than the “Best of Soul Train” episodes that run in some markets would be a definite plus, the idea of new episodes is frightening at best, in part because Soul Train lost a little of its weirdness in the post-Cornelius as host era. While episode 977′s 112/Jaheim double bill has its charms, earlier episodes featured Mandrill and Elton John back to back, or one-on-one basketball games between Marvin Gaye and Cornelius that happened to be officiated by Smokey Robinson.
It’s not so much that R&B is less interesting (although it might be!). It’s just that modern television doesn’t really tolerate much in the way of eccentricity, and instead of watchig Captain and Tennille take on a cover of a B.B. King song, we’ll be treated to Omarion lip-synching his newest single and looking bored. I think I’d just prefer the reruns.