These last few years haven’t been great in terms of quality for VH1’s programming. The once-proud station used to be in direct competition with MTV as the premier purveyor of music television. A whole generation of adults remember growing up in a time where a six-hour block of music videos was the norm. Slowly but surely though, both channels have become punchlines for all children of the ’90s who remember a time when Jersey Shore and My Super Sweet Sixteen didn’t exist.
But as audiences started shifting toward guilty-pleasure reality TV, both VH1 and MTV completely facelifted their lineups. Shows that featured a cast of misfits tailored for schadenfreude more than quality dominated the primetime hours, and soon enough music television became a thing of the distant past. The balance that existed between music and entertainment programming has since shifted in a direction less concerned with art and more with profits.
Go through their lineup and you’ll see that VH1’s offerings consist of shows like Mob Wives, Sorority Sisters, The Gossip Table, and Tiny Shekinah’s Weave Trip more than their cleverer counterparts of the past like Best Week Ever and Storytellers. Now though, at least one of those will be making a triumphant return as announced by VH1, with Storytellers airing a new episode for the first time in almost three years, this time returning with a format focused on locations significant to the featured artist (more on that later).
For the uninitiated, VH1 Storytellers is quite possibly the network’s greatest contribution to television, featuring artists performing to an intimate live audience, while espousing on their lives making the music we love. In the past, legends like Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Nicks, and even Elton John have been guests of the show, demonstrating a true devotion to actually getting at the heart of why these artists do what they do. It sought to contextualize the art form with a human face, making the story behind the music just as important as the music itself.
Returning to the spirit of the original Storytellers, Ed Sheeran will be the inaugural guest on the rebooted series, featuring a whole slate of new episodes in 2015 to be announced soon. Sheeran’s debut performance will be in line with the show’s brand new format, where an artist is told to pick a venue with personal meaning to them, and then play a show that will be broadcast live to audiences everywhere on VH1.
For his episode, Ed will be taking us to Whelan’s in Dublin, Ireland, where he first saw a Damien Rice performance that changed his life forever. Following the main hour-long portion of the show, VH1 will be streaming a 30-minute after-show hosted on their main site as well as their mobile app. Giving more details to Rolling Stone, Sheeran espouses further on just why we’re heading to Dublin.
I was only about 11 or 12 years old when I saw Damien [Rice] play at Whelan’s, and that night literally changed my life. The time he spent talking with me after the show made all the difference. It inspired me in a way that I only hope to do for someone else.
That sort of deep connection embodies the message of the new Storytellers, in what feels like a welcome detour back to what made VH1 so eminently watchable all those years ago. Obviously the reality show offerings won’t be going away as its most watched properties, but the hope is that maybe, just maybe, this will bring a little bit of legitimacy back to the once-great network. When Ed Sheeran’s live performance for Storytellers airs at 7 p.m. on January 24, we’ll be getting a welcomed step in a decidedly more artistic direction.