MTV's lauding Rolling Stone magazine is a little bit like the rustlers inviting the hangman to dinner. No love's ever been lost between rock's premiere magazine and the genre's first TV network.
"Video blah-blah" may have been Rolling Stone's kindest characterization of Music Television.
But a quarter-century has passed at RS, as if readers (of three self-indulgent anniversary editions) have to be told. And MTV's citation, titled "Rolling Stone 25: The MTV Special" (tonight at 10), is more than a roast, more than a bit of turnabout's fair play.
It's a tight little retrospective full of bouquets, brickbats and the doctor of gonzo journalism, Hunter S. Thompson.
Some of what you won't see tonight are music videos, unless you want to count live footage from Altamont.
And you won't find out how to succeed in the music-magazine business -- beyond the need for considerable chutzpah and talent. A youthful entrepreneur named Jann Wenner and esteemed music critic Ralph Gleason, the magazine's co-founders, brought both to this project though not necessarily in equal measure.
This special is packed with famous faces and opinions.
In the opening two minutes alone, Mick Jagger, Jay Leno, Peter Buck, Chris Isaak, Iggy Pop, Paul McCartney, Yoko Ono, Peter Jennings, Luke Perry and Keith Richards fire off one-liners, pro and con. Mr. Richards' remark is classic: "Apart from stealing the name, they've been pretty good. Ya know what I mean?"
Kurt Loder, a Rolling Stone expatriate now behind the desk at MTV News, hosts with his usual stony detachment.
We don't want to give away the juicy bits, but here are a few goodies to anticipate:
"The Naked Truth," or what readers didn't see on the infamous Red Hot Chili Peppers-in-the-buff cover.
Bono takes Mr. Loder to task,face to face, for the latter's less-than-flattering review of U2's "Unforgettable Fire."
Annie Liebovitz talks about painting the Blues Brothers blue, about touring with the Rolling Stones and about her famed John and Yoko cover photo taken just hours before Lennon was murdered.
Long-ago contributors make the drug connection. (Did you know -- or remember -- that the first RS subscription offer was a roach clip?)
Twenty years after the fact, David Cassidy and Ms. Liebovitz still try to figure out how Mr. Cassidy's decision to pose nude for a 1972 cover story backfired. The move essentially ended his career.
There is something to be said, though, for Rolling Stone's brand of journalism. It produced such prose as "The Right Stuff," "Bonfire of the Vanities," incisive Karen Silkwood and Patty Hearst series, the Manson murders in gruesome detail and perhaps the first in-depth story on acquired immune deficiency syndrome.
If you miss tonight's premiere, you can catch encores Nov. 28 at 11 a.m. or Nov. 29 at 3 p.m.