Cutting Hair, but the Real Business Is Cutting Each Other Up

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Into this noble tradition, then, comes “The Shop” on MTV. It’s irresistible. Set in Mr. Rooney’s Barbershop in Jamaica, Queens, the show gleefully loads the dice for MTV’s audience. For one, the shop’s owner is the rotund maestro Cory Rooney, a songwriter and record producer who has generated hits for Jennifer Lopez, Jessica Simpson and Mary J. Blige. His clients are not jobless no-hopers; they’re stars. On the premiere last week, in walked Tony Yayo, the rapper and jailbird, and Chris Brown, the demure teenage rhythm-and-blues singer.

The other way the show is manipulated for maximum MTV-ness is that Mr. Rooney’s has been outfitted with a giant plasma television that regularly plays new videos. When one comes up — and the image transfers suspiciously well from the shop’s screen to our screen — the barbers all turn to watch it, comment on how well it works (“They got a lot of fine women in this video”) and repeat the musician’s name. There — a plug for MTV’s poor old music videos, which can use all the attention they can get.