Your MTV Classic Refresher Course

Remembering the Greatness of TRL, Beavis and Butt-Head, Pimp My Ride and More...

By Najib Benouar ·
The Pokémon craze. Jeff Goldblum in a summer blockbuster. A Clinton presidential campaign. Yes, it’s the ’90s all over again. That may explain why MTV has decided to launch MTV Classic today. It’s a new channel dedicated to re-airing all that was great and holy about the MTV of yore. And, hopefully, Room Raiders.

To get you (back) up to speed, we’ve put together this primer on some of the shows they’ll be airing and what made them so great. It’s also just a chance to remind you that Jesse Camp existed.

Total Request Live
What exactly was it: A live video countdown show filmed in a glass-walled corner of MTV’s Times Square studio, much to the excitement of tweens who’d huddle below for the chance to catch a glimpse of a visiting celeb’s back.
Who was on it: Carson Daly, who was thought of at the time as the Dick Clark of the ’90s but is now remembered as a Ryan Seacrest of the ’90s. Also, Jesse Camp, who won the inaugural Wanna Be a VJ competition, which secured him a brief but shining moment hosting alongside Carson. Luckily, Dave Holmes made a solid career out of coming in second.
Why you loved it: By the end of the ’90s, it was the only block of time you’d get to watch music videos on MTV.
Its high point: “Oops!... I Did It Again.”
Its nadir: Hanson hosts.
It’s probably responsible for: American Idol. Therefore, Sanjaya.

Beavis and Butt-Head
What was it: A cartoon starring a couple of suburban slackers going about their lives and watching music videos (yes, very meta).
Who was on it: Beavis, Butt-Head.
Why you loved it: It was dumb, but actually kind of funny. In a dumb way. You might have even gone to theaters to watch the movie, Beavis and Butt-Head Do America.
Its high point: “I am the great Cornholio and I need TP for my bunghole.”
Its nadir: When MTV resurrected it in 2011 but with Jersey Shore instead of classic music vids.
It’s probably responsible for: Mike Judge, who went on to create Office Space, King of the Hill and Silicon Valley.

MTV Unplugged
What was it: A live taping of an intimate concert by a musician, or band, playing all acoustic instruments.
Who was on it: Just about everyone except Liam Gallagher, who ditched Oasis’s gig at the last minute and sat in the VIP balcony drinking and heckling his own.
Why you loved it: You found out if artists were up to the task of performing without a net. Or because you’re just a fan of oriental rugs.
Its high point: Nirvana.
Its nadir: Korn.
It’s probably responsible for: The lo-fi folk from the likes of Bon Iver and Fleet Foxes.

MTV Cribs
What was it: Tours of celebrity homes, led by the celebrities themselves.
Who was on it: 50 Cent. Sisqó. Richard Branson. Hugh Hefner. Devon Sawa. Jewel. The list goes on.
Why you loved it: It was a peek behind the curtain—usually punctuated by a look into a highly curated, champagne-filled fridge and the utterance “This is where the magic happens” when the camera panned into the bedroom.
Its high point: A tie: Redman’s shanty and Mariah Carey’s bubble bath.
Its nadir: Any teen star who still lived at home.
It’s probably responsible for: The housing market crisis.

Pimp My Ride
What was it: People with terrible cars would let the powers that be at MTV get their rides “pimped.”
Who was on it: A fun-loving gangster rapper by the name of Xzibit was the host. This made sense at the time.
Why you loved it: You always dreamed of having your hooptie magically turned into the envy of the neighborhood.
Its high point: Turning a backseat into a fish tank.
Its nadir: Turning a backseat into a fish tank.
It’s probably responsible for: All those fish tanks you see in backseats today.

What was it: Lovable celebrity scamp Ashton Kutcher would devise elaborate ways to make other celebrities very uncomfortable on television for our viewing pleasure.
Who was on it: While Kutcher masterminded the pranks, everyone from Justin Timberlake to Frankie Muniz were his marks. You can’t say the show didn’t have range.
Why you loved it: It’s fun to see celebrities getting taken down a peg. Possibly crying.
Its high point: Timberlake thinks he’s lost everything to government seizure and one of the biggest pop stars of the era was reduced to tears. Ha, ha.
Its nadir: The Kutch dusted off the trusty old trucker hat for a 2012 MTV Awards promo, and his attempt to prank Kim Kardashian fell flat—it appeared that the whole thing went over her head.
It’s probably responsible for: The trucker hat epidemic of the early aughts.
Najib Benouar

Najib Benouar has been known on occasion to write about menswear, ice cream scoops and all other manner of gentlemanly pursuit.

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