Good Idea, but Spike the Name


I don't know if anyone actually ever had an achy breaky heart two years ago, when Viacom Inc. repositioned its newest cable-network acquisition, The Nashville Network. It was to become a more mainstream network — TNN: The National Network.

But that idea just got the heave-ho. Come June 16, that channel's viewers — if they haven't totally abandoned the tube to ride cross country in 18-wheelers while listening to Johnny Cash — won't even recognize their old channel when it relaunches again, as "Spike TV."

The goal is to create the first cable network aimed at young males, emulating the so-called "laddy" magazines — like Maxim
and Stuff— which have been the publishing industry's biggest success stories.

It worked big time in print and likely will work even better on television. But what a stinker of a name is Spike TV.

Although Spike's dubious new moniker speaks nothing to me, I'm not a young male viewer. But the average clueless television viewer is just as likely to initially be baffled about this ambiguous sounding Spike TV moniker.

It is about volleyball? Do we "spike" that sucker over the net?

Or is it about Joan Rivers' dearly departed tiny, yapping dog, also named Spike? Dumber ideas have certainly made it to the small screen, all in the name of reality TV. And Spike did often appear on his mistress's lap when she had her own short-lived talk show in broadcast syndication.

Might this new network have something to do with another canine named Spike? Let's not forget about Snoopy's less-famous Beagle sibling who lives in Needles, Calif. — a funky, mustachioed dog who preferred to sleep on a cactus plant rather than the top of a doghouse like his littermate, with whom he corresponded in the pages of that classic comic strip. Not a bad premise for a new network, and there sure is plenty of material there.

Or maybe Elvis Costello fans will finally get their day in the sun. They're probably hoping that this new channel is dedicated to his 1989 album Spike, which spawned the hit single "Veronica." Leave to those clever MTV'ers to try something as innovative as creating yet another niche network.

More likely, viewers will think it has something to do with Spike Lee. After all, he's been involved in a lot of stuff — Nike commercials, for sure — but also major-motion picture successes like Do the Right Thing. Or perhaps they'll think of Spike Jonze, the music-video director who later helmed Being John Malkovich.
The possibilities with this vague new network name are just endless. UPN viewers who are upset that Buffy the Vampire Slayer
— with its own character named Spike — is on its way off the air have got to be hoping this is all about the evil-turned-good vampire. And there is some buzz out there that this particular Spike is destined to pop up in another new TV series.

Then there's the older crowd, who television executives have totally abandoned, who might be hoping that Spike TV will be a revival channel for The Little Rascals. After all, the bully on that theatrical and TV staple was named Spike, too.

But none of those things are in the works for Spike TV. TNN president Albie Hecht, well, I guess he now as the envious sounding title of president of Spike TV calls it "unapologetically male."

That means — belching in public without embarrassment.