Sunday, August 1, 2021

The 40th Anniversary of MTV

It was 40 years ago today that MTV launched. Originally the channel was devoted to showing music videos twenty four hours a day. In the Eighties it proved to be a force in pop culture. Many of the videos featured on the channel seeped into the collective consciousness. And while a bit of a music video fad was bubbling under the surface prior to MTV's debut, the channel effectively spurred that fad into overdrive during the early part of the Eighties. MTV brought success to new groups (such as Duran Duran) and renewed success for older groups (such as ZZ Top).

I have already covered the history of MTV elsewhere (see my old posts "A History of Music Videos Part Five" and "A History of Music Videos Part Six"), so I will keep it brief here. Quite simply, after years of showing nothing but music videos and music-oriented programming, MTV began undergoing channel drift. It was in 1987 that MTV debuted the game show Remote Control, its first non-musical program. It was in 1992 that MTV debuted the reality show The Real World debuted. The success of The Real World would lead to further non-music shows, including Road Rules, Jackass, and Singled Out. By 2000 MTV only showed eight hours worth of music videos a day. By 2008 that number had decreased to only three hours a day. Eventually MTV would cease showing music videos entirely. This has led to jokes about people being old enough to remember when MTV still showed music videos. It ceased being Music Television long ago.

While MTV descended into a mess of reality shows and arguably irrelevance, for a time it was a force to be reckoned with. In memory of what MTV once was, here are the first three videos aired on the channel.

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