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The Great Media: VH1's "The List"

I don't have a picture for this one, but about 10 years ago VH1 produced a talk show, hosted variously by Joe Rogan, Henry Rollins, and other chatty celebrity types, moderating a panel of 4 musicians or minor celebrities.  

The idea is that the host would present a question and the panelists would give a "Top 3".  All of the celebrity selections would then be listed and the celebrities would vote on how they would be ranked after each celebrity got the unfettered right to kick one selection off the list unilaterally.  The questions might be something like, "What is the best album of the '90s?" or "Who was the best hair metal band?" or "Who is the best female rock star of all time?"  It was always about music of some sort, and it always generated great discussion

As simple as it sounds, for people who really cared about pop music, it provided endless opportunity for chatter.  Poseur and I came up with the appropriate "system" for answering the questions.  You get to pick three items to make the final list.  Each celebrity names one and then they go around the circle again until everyone has named 3.  Three and only 3, so you have to make them count.  

Our system for making picks considered lots of different factors.  Let's say the question was right in your wheelhouse?  In my case, that would be something like, "Best rock album of the '90s".  I could go nuts and make every pick as personal as possible, naming bands and albums that most people on the panel or in the audience had never heard (and probably have every one of them expelled from the list in the elimination round), or I could go conventional and pick popular picks.

Here's our method:


  1. With your first item for the list, it is important to establish your credibility.  You have to give a legitimate answer to the question that will make people understand that YOU are a force to be reckoned with.  You cannot be ignored, because you know your shit.  The mistake here would be to go obscure.  Avoid that mistake.  Pick something that people know and respect.  You can still give yourself some indie cred without coming off like a pretentious jerk.  If the question is "What is the best rock album of the '90s?" you should pick an album that you like but that is also almost universally admired.  A good pick for this question would be something like Liz Phair's "Exile in Guyville", which routinely makes "Best of the '90s" lists, or something like "OK Comptuer".  If the question is, "Best Female Artist", pick someone like Janis Joplin, Chrissy Hynde, or Joan Jett.  Even if people aren't necessarily fans of those albums or artists, only the biggest tools in the world are going to think less of you for suggesting them.  With your credibility established, you can move on to your second pick.
  2. With your second pick, show your personality.  Make it just as personal as you want.  If you're going to go far afield into areas that no one has ever dared go, this is the pick to do it.  If you're a big fan of Icelandic synth pop, break it out here.  If you're a big fan of death metal, here's where it goes.  You've established your credibility with your first pick, so there's a chance people will actually listen to you.  If your first choice has convinced people you know what you're talking about, here's where you persuade them to branch out their own tastes.
  3. With your third pick, avoid making the show a travesty.  If the category is "Best political protest song", don't you dare let the show end without someone mentioning Bob Marley's "Get Up, Stand Up".  If the category is "Best Female Rock Vocalist", the ultimate winner had better be Aretha Franklin or your episode and celebrity panel has lost all credibility.  OK, you can't let your freak flag fly with this pick, and some people are just too vain to let such a short list end without giving all the obscure answers they can think of, but it's best to avoid that tendency.  This is your chance to save the show from ignoring the best in its category.  
Now, I'm sure your question is, what's the big deal about this show?  Well, you see, this "Great Media" series is inspired by "The List".  That show gave rise to this series, in its way.