Take a trip down memory lane and revisit the glory days of MTV. Before Teen Mom and The Jersey Shore, this is when MTV was at it’s best!
Real World (1992-2013)
Real World is probably one of the most famous MTV shows of all time. The show got its start back in 1992 featuring a cast in New York City. In a pilot episode that was never aired, one of the cast members was Tracy Grandstaff, who later went on to be famous for voicing the character, Daria.
The show was inspired by a documentary called The American Family which was filmed in 1973. One of the most notable memories from the entire series was during the season in San Francisco. Cast member Pedro Zamora was a young AIDS activist who died soon after filming. His feature on the show was one of the first of AIDS in media. The Real World was originally praised for being a platform for social issues such as prejudice, religion, sexuality and others.
Aeon Flux (1991)
Aeon Flux is a bizarre cartoon that originally appeared on MTV in the 1990’s. The show’s premise is set in the dystopian future and the title character is a female secret agent, most memorable for her skintight leather costume and acrobatics. In 2005, a live-action film based on the show was made starring the actress Charlize Theron.
However, the film was only loosely based on the show, with the creator later telling an online community “I was unhappy when I read the script four years ago; seeing it projected larger than life in a crowded theatre made me feel helpless, humiliated, and sad. …[The movie’s creators] claim to love the original version, yet they do not extend that faith to their audience. No, they will soften it for the public, which isn’t hip enough to appreciate the raw, pure, unadulterated source like they do.”
MTV Unplugged (1989-Present)
MTV Unplugged is a show which features musicians performing stripped down versions of their famous songs with acoustic instruments. During the first season, they featured such acts as Aerosmith and the late great blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan.
One of the most famous performance was with Kurt Cobain of Nirvana. His Unplugged episode was filmed about five months before his untimely death. The show was different than previous episodes in that Nirvana covered songs and played some of their lesser-known songs, which contrasted with others who play only their hits. His performance later won a Grammy Award.
Headbangers Ball (1987 – 2012)
Headbangers Ball is an MTV show that features heavy metal music. It has been presented by a variety of hosts over the years including Kevin Seal, Adam Curry, and Ricky Rachtman. While in its heyday the show was one of the most popular to ever appear on MTV. It ultimately was canceled due to the network paying more attention to rap and alternative music.
However, after nearly a decade hiatus it was brought back from 2003 to 2012. One facet you might remember about the show is that artists often appeared to give interviews. Also, sometimes the show followed the artists on road trip episodes, with popular episodes including Alice in Chains’ trip to Action Water Park, skydiving with Megadeth, Oktoberfest in Munich with Danzig, and Van Halen’s adventure at Cabo Wabo.
Yo! MTV Raps (1988-1995)
Yo! MTV Raps is a show that featured rap artists. It was originally hosted by Fab Five Freddy who is best known for rapping in the Blondie song Rapture. The first video ever shown on the program was Eric B and Rakim’s song Follow the Leader. In the show Doogie Howser, Doogie was often seen wearing a Yo! MTV Raps t-shirt.
Some say that the show was critical in the spread of the popularity of hip-hop around the world. Many people claim that this was also their first introduction and education into rap music. As we know, today you can now hear rap on pop and hit stations nationwide, so clearly something changed to bring rap to the forefront of music.
Alternative Nation (1992- 1997)
Alternative Nation was a show that began airing in 1992, dedicated to alternative music. It featured bands liked Soundgarden and Pearl Jam. MTV VJ Kennedy was the host, and she continued to work as a commentator and still appears on a show called The Independents on the Fox Network. Kennedy is also a registered Republican and famously has a pink GOP elephant thigh tattoo. She was also once voted most hated VJ in a Rolling Stone Magazine reader’s poll.
In her book, The Kennedy Chronicles she recounted her experiences of her run-ins with celebrities. One story, in particular, Kennedy recounted the legendary basketball player Michael Jordan. She allegedly bet him over a game of dice. Michael wanted her to go back to his hotel room and Kennedy wanted Knicks tickets. She won. Kennedy also claims she was a virgin until she met her husband. Quite the interesting little-known facts about MTV’s golden age!
The Grind (1992-1997)
The Grind was a dance show featured on MTV in the 90’s. The show featured people dancing to various musical genres in a studio, with host Eric Nies at the helm. Eric Nies was previously known from the first-ever version of The Real World: New York. The show also released a set of workout aerobic tapes featuring Eric Nies teaching people how to dance.
Eric Nies studied with a Chinese medicine master and is now on a path of spirituality. He believes he and his wife share one soul, and he now offers marriage counseling called “Twin Flame Conscious Counseling”. If you check out his Instagram it also seems Eric and his wife are quite fond of various wild animals including tigers and wolves.
Unfiltered was a show on MTV in the ’90s that featured viewer footage. It was created by Steven Rosenbaum, who has since gone on to become an inventor and is the CEO of a company called Waywire Networks. He has also given two TED talks.
The show was described by Fast Company Magazine as, “Every segment of ‘MTV News UNfiltered’ begins with a phone call. About 2,500 a week leave their story pitches on voice mail. Steven Rosenbaum and his BNN colleagues review them, identify the best bets, and send out camcorders to their newest correspondents. It’s grassroots programming for a different kind of news program.” Now we have Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram as a way to quickly disperse news around the world!
House of Style (1989-2014)
House of Style was an MTV show that focused on fashion and capitalized on viewers’ fascination with supermodels. Cindy Crawford, Rebecca Romijn, Molly Sims, and Daisy Fuentes were hosts of the show, among others.
Episodes included a variety of features such as Cindy visiting the Fresh Prince of Bel Air set, hanging out for a day in the life of Gwen Stefani, and going to the mall with the Spice Girls. House of Style was revived in 2014 as a web series for MTV.com and featured rapper and model Iggy Azalea. Recently, one of the original hosts Daisy Fuentes found herself in news headlines around the world. Read on to see why!
Daisy Fuentes & Richard Marx
In 2016, it was reported that 80’s ballad singer Richard Marx and MTV VJ and model Daisy Fuentes had married. If that’s not a match made in ’90s heaven, we don’t know what is! Recently, Daisy recounted on Instagram a crazy story that happened to them on their flight.
She said, “On our flight from Hanoi to Seoul a guy sitting in the next row from us got crazy & started attacking the flight attendants & passengers. When he started pushing the female staff and pulling them by the hair Richard Marx was the first to help subdue him. This went on for FOUR hrs. I feel horrible for the abuse the staff had to endure but no one was prepared for this. They never fully got control of him. They didn’t know how to use the taser & they didn’t know how to secure the rope around him (he got loose from their rope restraints 3 times).” Richard later commented that the airline needed better-trained staff for what clearly could have been a dangerous situation!
Remote Control (1987 -1990)
Remote Control was the first ever non-music TV program on MTV. It was a game show that centered around trivia questions which contestants had to answer on movies, music, and television. The show was hosted by Ken Ober with “sidekick” Colin Quinn. Various other people had walk-on parts, and some of them became major stars like Adam Sandler.
Trivia categories included “Really Bad TV”, “Celebrity Cellblock”, and “Rolling Stoned.” The last category, “Rolling Stoned,” featured comedian and actor Denis Leary. Many celebrities also appeared on the show including LL Cool J, members of The Brady Bunch cast, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. They should bring this one back!
Al TV (1984-2006)
Al TV is a show featuring comedian and musician Weird Al Yankovic. The show is essentially all parody, from the MTV moon landing logo, to fake celebrity interviews and imaginary commercials. Weird Al is, of course, famous for his parodies. He has parodied everyone from Michael Jackson to Justin Bieber.
This is a strangely long-running show, but then again the content for parodies will never run out! Al is also famous for making music videos to go along with his musical parodies. Michael Jackson was apparently a big fan of his work and allowed him to record parodies of his songs. Nirvana was also impressed by him, with Kurt Cobain even referring to him as a musical genius!
The Ben Stiller Show (1989 -1990)
The Ben Stiller Show was a sketch comedy show that aired for a short time on MTV. It also later aired on the FOX network. It starred Ben Stiller, Andy Dick, Janeane Garofalo and Bob Odenkirk. Bob Odenkirk is now seen in the show Better Call Saul, as the titular character in the spin-off of the amazing Breaking Bad.
The show featured a variety of comedy segments which aimed to make a mockery of ’80s and ’90s popular culture. Ben Stiller’s spoof of Tom Cruise was one of his signature characters. This was basically what kick-started his career, and from that point on he catapulted to the top. He soon had his directorial debut with the very ’90s film Reality Bites.
Idiot Box (1990- 1991)
Idiot Box is another sketch comedy program that ran on MTV in the 1990’s. The series was created by Alex Winter, Tom Stern, and Tim Burns. Alex was of course, famous for his portrayal of Bill in the Bill and Ted films. They were largely inspired by Monty Python’s films and the show’s comedy was often rooted in slapstick in the same vein of Monty Python.
Eventually, the show stopped running because the creators decided to take a movie deal instead of continuing to produce content for the show. The resulting film was 1993’s Freaked, which starred Alex Winter and Randy Quaid. The film had a lukewarm reception so perhaps it would have been better if they stuck with the show.
Totally Pauly (1989 -1994)
Pauly Shore’s big break came as an MTV VJ. This led to him having his own show called Totally Pauly, where he most notably hosted Spring Break specials. Previous to this Pauly had hit the comedy club circuit and made up his very own alter ego he called “The Weasel”.
This personal relied heavily on the California dude image, where he spoke like a surfer, saying phrases like “edged,” “dude,” and his own personal catchphrase, “Hey, bu-ddy.” Pauly went on to star in many ’90s films which ended up relying heavily on this surfer dude persona like Encino Man and Biodome. In 2015, Pauly Shore was photographed wearing a Totally Pauly shirt. Clearly, he has fond memories of the past.
Catwalk (1992 -1994)
Catwalk was an MTV show that revolved around six people who had formed a band called Catwalk. The show focused on their struggles to make it as a band, and their musical performances.
The show revolved around the lead singer named Johnny played by actor Keram Malicki-Sánchez. Sanchez continues to act in both TV and film even having roles on shows like True Blood and The Mentalist. The most famous person to come out of the show is actress Neve Campbell, who has achieved cult icon status with her work on the Scream horror films. The show was sued back in the early ’90s by a real-life band who already was named “Catwalk”.
Stevie and Zoya (Late 1980’s)
Stevie and Zoya was an animated show that first aired on MTV in the late ’80s. The episodes were one-minute shorts, shown between other programming and produced by Joe Horne who later worked for Disney.
The show took place in New York City in the not so distant future and the characters worked for a law enforcement agency. The main characters Stevie and Zoya are constantly at work to stop a number of supervillains from engaging in villain-like behavior. The show was narrated by actor Russell Johnson who is most famous for his role as The Professor on Gilligan’s Island.
The Jon Stewart Show (1993-1995)
The Jon Stewart Show was a late-night show that began airing in 1993. Clearly, Jon was already getting ready for his future as a talk show host with his later work on The Daily Show. Jon had a number of celebrities appear on air including David Letterman, Courtney Cox, and Conan O’Brien. The show was produced by Madeleine Smithberg, the creator of The Daily Show.
During one notable episode, Marilyn Manson performed and threw instruments on the stage and later received a piggyback ride from Jon. In true Jon fashion, in the final episode, he offered the audience margaritas and taxicab rides home. This was also the episode in which David Letterman appeared, who gave Jon some advice and told him to “not confuse cancellation with failure.”
Loveline was originally strictly a radio program, that focused on relationship and sex advice. After several changes, the show featured Dr. Drew Pinksy and Adam Carolla. They both continued on to have successful shows: Dr. Drew did more programming for television including Celebrity Rehab, Sex Rehab, and Sober House.
Some have said that Dr. Drew is exploiting those with addiction problems instead of helping them. Loveline eventually went off TV and remained on radio, where Dr. Drew remained until its ultimate end in 2016. Adam Carolla left the show previous to Dr. Drew and also famously was featured on The Man Show and Crank Yankers before having his own program. As of 2016, he has been making consistent guest appearances and doing voice-over work.
MTV News (Late 1980’s- Present)
MTV News first began airing in the late 1980’s and was originally called This Week in Rock with Kurt Loder. Previous to working for MTV, Kurt Loder worked for Rolling Stone as an editor. Loder is famously one of the first people to break the tragic news of Kurt Cobain’s death, to which people across the world were shocked.
He has appeared on many shows guest starring as himself including The Simpsons, Saturday Night Live, and recently Portlandia. In the Portlandia episode, Loder and other former MTV VJ’s including Tabitha Soren and Matt Pinfield attempt to try to “take back” MTV and make it what it once was, programming about music, and not more reality shows.