At the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards, Justin Timberlake got on the mic and pleaded with MTV to "play more videos!"
Timberlake's sentiment was hardly a new one. The station switched from heavily playing music videos to being a reality TV-based network in the early 2000s -- shortly after the old format had helped turn Timberlake into a star, interestingly enough.
Sure, lots of folks have railed against the station about this, but let's face it: MTV pioneered reality television with The Real World years before the rest of the world caught on, so maybe they had the right to make the switch. Plus, these days, if you want music videos, you can find them easily enough on YouTube.
Still, there's one thing that YouTube can't do, and that's curate videos. They're just out there on the Internet, without anyone to group them, pick the best ones and display them for everyone to see. Although we see MTV's point when it comes to reality programming, we definitely miss the heavy-handed video programming. Over the years, MTV had some really great video shows that curated music videos according to genre, or, in some cases, according to the musical taste of veejays (remember them?) and programmers.
The good news is that some of these shows are on the way back: A Matt Pinfield-hosted 120 Minutes returned to MTV2 this past Saturday, and, this coming fall, the station plans to air new Beavis & Butt-head episodes that will hopefully include videos, too.
Although B&B were most famous for their cartoon diatribes, the show played some really great videos from independent and up-and-coming artists that would have gone under the radar in their more mainstream shows. We want to see this happen again.
In fact, we'd love to see MTV bring back some more of the great video shows that they've had in the past. We've collected a list of six more shows that we wish MTV would bring back. Who knows? If they're bringing back Beavis, perhaps Club MTV isn't as dead as we once thought!
5. Club MTV. This show was modeled after American Bandstand, showing live performances by dance music artists, with a lot of crowd shots. The scantily clad dancing teens caused some controversy, but we liked this show because it focused on dance music -- house, EDM, hip-hop and freestyle. As Electric Daisy Carnival has shown us, dance music is having its moment again, and it deserves some mainstream coverage. Sure, the American Bandstand format was charming and quaint, and we're not sure how audiences would respond to watching a bunch of people dancing around these days. But MTV still needs to start paying attention to the dance, rave, and EDM stuff again. The rest of the pop music world is...
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4. Yo! MTV Raps. MTV got some flack in the early '80s for being too rock-based, and they responded in 1988 with this program, hosted by the other Doctor Dre. They had some really awesome guests, including Run-DMC (who hosted the pilot episode) and Tupac Shakur. Shakur was even jailed in 1993 because he admitted on camera that he assaulted Menace II Society directors the Hughes Brothers, and prosecutors presented his Yo! MTV Raps interview as evidence in his trial. The show also contributed to the popularity of Naughty by Nature, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince and plenty of others. It finally got pulled in 1995 after its popularity waned due to MTV's rigorous censorship practices. Hip-hop has evolved tremendously since then, and we think that many underground artists could benefit from some mainstream exposure on MTV. Shows like Direct Effect and Sucker Free Countdown just never had the same vibe.
3. Headbangers Ball. This show formed out of the ashes of Dee Snider's Heavy Metal Mania, which ran in the mid-'80s; Headbangers took over that spot in 1987 and ran until 1995, when MTV decided that metal was over and grunge was king. Well, hate to break ya, MTV, but metal is still around. In fact, it's seeing a bit of a renaissance as bands like Mastodon and Children of Bodom add modern sensibilities to old-school technique. Headbangers host Riki Rachtman was awesome because he was a total scene guy -- he had worked in the industry for years, and he knew his stuff. Although Rachtman himself has faded into obscurity, we think the combination of knowledgeable scene-guy host and devil's horns is a winning formula that would work now. There's a web-only version of the show these days, but we want it back on the main channel.
2. 120 Minutes. Yes, we know they brought it back to MTV2 this weekend. But that's not good enough for us. There's some seriously fantastic underground alt-rock happening nowadays, and it deserves main channel exposure. Surely, they can make room amidst the "Teen Mom" reruns, right?
1. AL TV. We're unabashed nerds up here at DC9, and, as such, we love "Weird Al" Yankovic. In the mid-'80s, MTV gave Yankovic a series of four-hour blocks of airtime, during which he was given free reign to play whatever weird videos he liked, with his irascible solo comedy sketches interspersed among them. We've got some old AL TV episodes on VHS (taped off TV, of course), and the show holds up surprisingly well a quarter century later. Al himself is funny and charming, and the videos he chooses are underground treasures. Only Al would think of putting Mike Nesmith's pioneering video work next to a Suicidal Tendencies scream-fest. With all the indie videos out on YouTube these days, we think a show like this would be able to mine some of the oddball treasures that are lost in the glut of the Internet. Right?