Ken Tucker says Forget media-hungry VJ Jesse Camp -- the real hero of MTV (and Jennifer Love Hewitt's heart) is Carson Daly

By Chris Willman
February 15, 1999 at 05:00 AM EST
New Line Cinema

Love Struck

On MTV these days, the Backstreet Boys and ‘N Sync are busy trying to prove they’re hip by aping hip-hop mannerisms; a new game show — “The Blame Game” — makes the nexus of dating and sex look like, as Pat Benatar used to say, a battlefield; and a new comedy effort — “The Tom Green Show” — attempts to prove that there apparently is no Canadian who cannot be funny, but at least one who can also behave stupidly at the same time. Among the channel’s veejays, Jesse Camp — the unholy love child of a Black Crowes session with Courtney Love — has gotten a lot of ink for his faux obnoxiousness, but who’s the guy with the most fans?

A nice guy. A nice, clean-cut guy. A nice, clean-cut, articulate guy. A nice, clean-cut, articulate guy who’s hooked up with Jennifer Love Hewitt. Carson Daly.

MTV notoriety is an elusive, often transient thing. (Recently arrested accused girlfriend batterer and “Real World” pain-in-rear Puck proved that fame does not confer grace.) But Daly is, impossibly, a graceful presence, introducing videos with a minimum of aren’t-I-cool vibration — which only, of course, leads his fans to find him all the more cool.

The key to Daly’s appeal is a quality increasingly absent in all of popular culture: modesty. Like his MTV elder Kurt Loder, Daly gives the impression of wanting to come in, do his job well, and then leave — to go home, read a book, ponder the universe, and, in Daly’s case, Jennifer Love Hewitt. (Well, maybe Loder does that last one, too, but presumably not with the object of contemplation present in the flesh.)

Modesty is what gives Daly telegenic juice; he comes across as a non-nerd, non-goody-goody who doesn’t worry about whether or not it’ll contribute to his hip quotient if he discusses his religious beliefs with Teen People, as he did recently.

MTV veejaydom doesn’t often lead to further career opportunities, but I could see Daly hosting a network talk show down the not-so-distant line. As an unironic contrast to Letterman/Conan/Jon Stewart, who knows? He could be the Next Big Thing.

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