MTV Shows That Didn't Suck

Celebrity Deathmatch — If you grew up watching Gumby & Friends, Celebrity Deathmatch was the perfect blend of childhood nostalgia and homicide. The show pitted two claymation celebrities against one another in an arena; the opponents chosen based on obvious common ground (Marilyn Manson vs. Charles Manson; David Letterman vs. Jay Leno; Mick Jagger vs. Steven Tyler, for example). Pop stars, pundits, and politicos alike were subject to gory dismemberment in a time when many of them were in need of a good ass kicking (Jesse Camp comes to mind.)

UndressedUndressed chronicled the sexual and romantic relationships of LA-based teens and twentysomethings in the late ‘90s and early 2000s. Using elements of soft-core porn, the controversy surrounding the show was exacerbated by prominently featuring teenage promiscuity and gay/ lesbian relationships in a candid and frank way. The progressive and undeniably campy nature of the show is irresistible. Plus, Christina Hendricks!

Beavis and Butt-headB&B were idiot savants when it came to rock, offering up scathing commentary during their MTV binges (save for the few times they were either so appalled that they changed the channel or so astounded that they watched the video in appreciative silence). Even AC/DC and Metallica, whose names were famously splayed across the duo’s chests for the entirety of the series, weren’t spared from piss poor reviews. The exposure Beavis and Butt-head gave to ‘80s and ‘90s heavy metal, hip-hop, and hard rock played a crucial role in reigning in a new era of music. Resurrected in 2011, Beavis and Butt-head has proved itself timeless, inasmuch as anything spawned by MTV could be.

Daria — Every unathletic teenage girl in America wanted to be the acerbic Daria Morgendorffer. Daria was the story of a sharp suburban teen surrounded by a bunch of well-to-do idiots (aside from her best friend Jane and Jane’s dreamboat brother Trent, whose inclusion on the show helped boost the collective IQ of the primary characters). Daria perfected deadpan, giving girls coming of age in the ‘90s a protagonist who didn’t wear crop tops or talk like a Barbie doll on Vicodin.

Engaged and Underage — Before Teen Mom, before My Super Sweet 16, there was Engaged and Underage: the perfect program to watch with your parents when you needed to convince them that cutting school and sneaking cigarettes wasn’t the worst thing you could do at 15. So maybe you had to wake them up at 3 AM last Friday because you needed a ride home from the police station — at least you have no plans to elope, amiright?

Say What? KaraokeSay What? was like Speak & Spell for stoned pre-teens. I watched it religiously; the fact that the contestants sang the same 15 songs over and over again for the duration of the season was of no consequence. I was able to recite the lyrics to “Gettin’ Jiggy With It,” “Nice Guys Finish Last,” and “Baby Got Back” with my eyes closed in no time, thanks to Dave Holmes.

Rich Girls Unlike Paris and Nicole, Ally Hilfiger and Jaime Gleicher didn’t need to sweat it out on a dude ranch and ironically wear overalls to win America over. All they had to do was have spontaneous breakdowns, complain about prom, smoke cigs in a limo, and tap their third eye and I was like, SWOON.

Singled Out Between Jenny McCarthy’s grody self and the schadenfreude derived from watching a bunch of post-grads meander around a soundstage in Hawaiian print t-shirts and khakis, was there anything not loveable about Singled Out? That show deserves to be immortalized by a Gen X case study.

Wonder Showzen Wonder Showzen used black comedy and children to lampoon sex, politics, religion, and culture at large. If you combined Sesame Street, Robot Chicken, The Electric Company, Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job, and a bottle of Robitussin, you’d have what amounts to the best show on this list, or ever.

2ge+her — Even an earnest boy band fanatic had to love the satirical mockumentary movie-turned-series, 2ge+her, which gave us hits like “Say It, Don’t Spray It,” “The Hardest Part Of Breaking Up (Is Getting Back Your Stuff),” and “U + Me = Us.” The show unfortunately ended in tragedy when Michael “Jason ‘QT’ McKnight’ Cuccione lost his battle with cancer eight days after his 16th birthday. RIP, QT.

BuzzkillPunk’d, Boiling Points, Jackass, and The Tom Green Show can all find roots in the OG prank show Buzzkill. The show’s three “pranksters” traveled around the US in a white van and were likened to The Jerky Boys and human manifestations of Beavis and Butt-head. While Buzzkill’s pranks were tame in comparison to its protégés, the show was cancelled after one season due to legal concerns.

TC mark

image – Buzzkill

More From Thought Catalog

  • http://twitter.com/tannnyaya Tanya Salyers

    Again, LOVE LOVE LOVE Rich Girls.

  • Anj

    I LOVE Allie and Jamie :-( They’re the ones that started it all!

  • Adamcrittenden

    Haiku #9

    I told you I couldn’t
    be more than a loser.
    Here, have some Robitussin.

    • Jesus

      What the fuck, bro?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363230138 Michael Koh

    in short, MTV is currently producing shit – look out for MTV4 where they only air stuff from 90s and early 00s

  • http://twitter.com/timdonnelly Tim Donnelly

    I am an old person so I am required to say this: THE STATE! STEPH OH GOD YOU LEFT OUT THE STATE AS IT WAS THE BEST THING EVERRRRRRRRR. Porcupine porcupine porcupine porcupine porcupine …. That’s it, I’m outta heeeeere.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=506498512 Leah Cox

    Celebrity Death Match was amazing. *TO YOUTUBE!*

  • Rando

    Buzzkill is still the realness and The Head > Daria. Moral of the story, MTV has really gone down the shitter.

  • lindsaycollette

    What about Oddville, MTV Unplugged, the first few seasons of Road Rules, Sorority Life, From Gs to Gents? All good. But boy did I personally love Daria and Rich Girls too.

  • http://twitter.com/KathHazTrophy Kathy U.

    Damn, that Hansons vs Spice Girls Celebrity Death Match Episode was my favorite! (aside from the other episode where Alanis Morissette took off all her clothes) LOL I wish they’d put this back!

  • Kevin

    What, No Liquid TV?

  • Guestropod

    these are all great – but what about Sisqo’s Shakedown?  

  • MP9090909

    How could you forget The Paper? #LorberLove

  • http://www.facebook.com/TheDaveJuliano David Andrew Juliano

    The engaged and underage video @ 29:30… what the actual fuck

  • Kate

    Holy crap how could you leave out My So Called Life??

    • jessica

       Because “My So-Called Life” was originally on ABC – it was just in syndication on MTV.

  • mike

    who remember how terrifying FEAR was?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_VYDVROKY4PUBOKUHB3QF42FH2Y Paul S

    Jon Stewart (pre-Daily Show) used to have a show on MTV – mostly interviews and comedy, and not as good as DS, but again, way better than the lobotomies MTV broadcasts now adays.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/engleprunt engleprunt

    List is sorely missing The Maxx, The Head and Liquid Television.

  • Laine

    Daria is my queen.

  • http://www.twitter.com/mexifrida Frida

    This lead to me to watching the related videos that kept going up for Daria and Rich Girls for a long, long time.

  • Emily

    No Clone High?!

  • steph

    what about I Bet You Will? loved that show.

  • Guest

    Spyder Games!

  • http://theplaceswellgo.com/ Shannon


    the controversy surrounding the show was exasperated by prominently featuring teenage promiscuity ” — I think you mean “exacerbated” 

  • http://thefirstchurchofmutterhals.blogspot.com/ mutterhals

    Wondershowzen changed my life, no shit.

  • http://www.nicholeexplainsitall.com EarthToNichole

    It was always so embarrassing when my parents caught 12 year old me watching Undressed.

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