The YouTube Files – Club MTV.

Club MTV (MTV, 1987-1992)

This is another example of a show that I discovered on YouTube, whilst trying to find something else. Club MTV is a show that was made at the rather happening Palladium nightclub in New York. The first thing I noticed about this show was that the host had an English accent. And it seems that Downtown Julie Brown had been a host on British TV for a few years before going off to America.

She was a member of Top Of The Pops dance troupe Zoo, along with being one of the hostesses on some of the later editions of CBBC’s Crackerjack (“CRACKERJACK“). And she also hosted TV-am’s Saturday Morning show for younger viewers Are You Awake Yet? (or AYAY as this became known to the hardcore fans), which along with Data Run was one of the predecessors of The Wide Awake Club, and was co-hosted by a puppet who looked like Ed Sheeran apparently.

Club MTV mostly consisted of what appeared to be the sultriest teenagers around doing a dance to all of the latest hits. The reasons that I enjoyed this are because I liked a lot of the music featured, and this reminded me of how editions of Top Of The Pops in the early-80s would end (and it’s proof that people can still have a good time even if the singer isn’t actually there in person). There were also plenty of flashing lights, along with screens that had the videos shown on them as the crowd went crazy.

There would also be regular dancers at the club, who would tell us what their favourite songs of the moment were. A lot of British acts were featured too (during the second, or was it third British invasion?), including Bananarama, Swing Out Sister, and perhaps more unexpectedly, Siouxsie And The Banshees, and Squeeze. Sometimes acts would perform live at the club, and to have had the opportunity of seeing acts like Salt-N-Pepa or Deee-Lite doing their thing, it must’ve been great.

Suddenly the long-running American Bandstand looked rather old-fashioned by comparison, and couldn’t compete. Other memorable moments (from what I’ve seen so far) include a performance from Nia Peeples, who hosted the short-lived American version of Top Of The Pops, and rather oddly, there were two VJs on MTV called Julie Brown at the time, with one performing her song, and then being interviewed by the other, but the world didn’t fold in on itself.

There was also a special edition with formal dress, so it was bowties time, along with some best-ofs. However, because of changes in musical tastes, after five years and over 1,200 editions, Julie said her catchphrase “wubba wubba wubba” for the final time, and Club MTV was replaced by the similar The Grind. Some editions were later repeated on VH1 Classic though.

More TV Memories – Celebrity Deathmatch.

Celebrity Deathmatch (MTV, 1998-2002)

I never really thought that I would become that type of person, but when I had access to that channel, there was a short while when I used to watch MTV rather late at night, and by that point there would be all these music videos and strange shows coming and going and blending into each other, and I would think that this was rather “cool” as I imagine a viewer probably would’ve said at the time.

This show definitely filled this description, but let’s just forget about The Tom Green Show for now, shall we. Celebrity Deathmatch was a stop-motion animated series, that took various famous people, and placed them into the wrestling ring. They were singers, actors, anyone like that, and they could be known for having a feud, or just from the same area of entertainment.

This was an opportunity to imagine them settling their differences to determine who would come out on top. The matches could be one-on-one, two-on-two, maybe even three-on-three. The referee would get things going, and he would be rather lenient, as things became total chaos. Of course, as this was animated, the moves and injuries could be rather exaggerated.

So maybe someone could poke a rival’s eyes out in the literal sense, they could retaliate by casually ripping out their ribcage, and there would be (pretend) blood everywhere, it really was a fight to the death. And the crowd go mildly excited! Another element to the show were the hosts Johnny Gomez and Nick Diamond, who would breathlessly commentate on the action.

There would usually be two matches per show, and there would also be plenty of analysis, occasionally this would be provided by WWE wrester “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, and there would also be a look behind the scenes to interview what was left of the defeated rivals. Celebrity Deathmatch ran for four series, and episodes seemed to randomly turn up on MTV, but were always worth catching.

This increased in popularity, I remember that there was an advert done in the style of this show, and I think that there was also a repeat run in a late-night slot on Channel 4. And rather inevitably, about five years later, there was a revival, but this wasn’t as successful. As far as MTV’s animated series go, for craziness and creativity, this is regarded to be up there with Beavis And Butt-Head and Daria.

More TV Memories – Hit List UK.

Hit List UK (MTV, 1992-2002ish)

As you should know by now, one of the great things about the early days of digital TV was accessing lots of new channels for the first time, going from having five to suddenly having about 25 really was a big deal. And here’s another one that I enjoyed that was on MTV. Hit List UK was a look at all of the songs that were currently in the Top 40.

I think that MTV also did the equivalents of this for the American and European charts, and I might look back at those soon too. This seemed to fall somewhere between Top Of The Pops and The Chart Show, as there was an in-vision host, but only music videos were shown, there were no live performances, and we we were told many fascinating (probably) facts about the acts featured.

It seems that this had already been going for many years by the time that I first saw this in the late-90s, and some of the earlier hosts (or “VJs” as they were known at the time) included Paul “Love And P-P-P-P-Pride” King, but the first host that I remember was Cat Deeley. A little unusually, she went on to do almost exactly the same thing on ITV’s unrelated music show CD:UK, whilst still hosting this one.

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Cat was in an empty void with some numbers floating around on the screen behind. Some of the songs on the chart would be going up… well they weren’t actually, as by this point the vast majority of singles peaked in their first week on the chart, so mostly only new entries would be chosen to be played in full. Honestly, the marketing in the music business. There would also be specials at the end of the year to look back at the biggest-sellers.

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In 2000, this was given a new look, there was now a proper studio, and there would be two hosts, as Cat was joined by Edith Bowman (or occasionally Zane Lowe). Things started to become a little sillier, and they would do rather daft exchanges between the songs. There was also a rather irritating dog that appeared in the opening sequence and on the studio wall, which was offputting.

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As this was around the time that I really was interested in chart pop music though, I made sure that I did watch this along with all of the other similar shows and magazines. Hit List UK seemed to end not that long after I lost access to MTV though, as they practically gave up on showing music videos, so I didn’t end up missing as many musical moments as I thought.

More TV Memories – MTV Bytesize.

MTV Bytesize (MTV, 1999-2002)

The early days of digital TV really were great weren’t they, and here is some more proof. Because I have just about run out of TV shows to review now, and I while I put a few pieces about other things together, I might as well do this one. In the late-90s, MTV showed music videos in various strands. These included MTV Select (that I reviewed recently), where viewers could phone in and request videos.

There was also HitList UK (where the songs at the top end of the singles chart were featured), and Mad 4 Hits, where videos where shown back-to-back with no host or anything else (and I am reminded of the rather bizarre moment when Oasis had a strop about the size of the captions that appeared at the start and end of videos on MTV), and there was always that “I wonder what would be played next” element.

And there was also this one, which was usually shown in the afternoon for around an hour. Bytesize featured a robot character (who I don’t recall having a name), and every video was proceeded by a clip usually ranging from ten seconds to two minutes. This was introduced by a five-second countdown with lots of beeping noises, and a robot voice saying something odd like “bytesize fun” or “oooh… yummy”.

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This clip was usually something from the MTV archive featuring the act whose video was about to be shown, and sometimes it was an outtake from an interview where they were asked a rather bizarre question, while the duration ticked down. We then saw the video. Oh no, not All Saints again! While all of this happened, the MTV symbol in the corner of the screen kept turning into the robot and back again, which could be rather distracting.

And sometimes a ten-second MTV “sting” (as I think they’re called) would be shown instead, and these were rather unusual too. When going into an advert break, sometimes the show was credited as Bytepop, and I’m not sure why, you’d think someone would know what this was called. It was around this point that I usually turned over to check what was on UK Play.

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A relaunch of Bytesize in 2000 saw the departure of the robot, to be replaced by some rather surreal clips where people ate rather unusual things introduced the videos instead, although this never seemed to be as good for me really. This carried on until about 2002 when MTV seemed to give up on all of their music shows in any timeslot or genre.

More TV Memories – MTV Select.

MTV Select (MTV, 1996-2001)

This month is the 40th anniversary of the launch of MTV in America. When MTV joined the OnDigital channels line-up in the summer of 1999, I was rather pleased. Along with UK Play, I now had a chance to see the latest music videos. I did watch these channels rather frequently and they were among my favourites, possibly even ahead of BBC Choice and ITV2 that I also enjoyed, and the archive channels Granada Plus and UK Gold.

I really did spend a lot of time watching these channels when I probably should’ve been doing something else. There were lots of shows on MTV that featured music videos, including Bytesize and Hitlist UK. Also among their main shows was MTV Select. This was usually shown live in the afternoon for an hour or two, and most of the hosts were fairly well-known, and went on to have more success. vlcsnap-01132

These included Donna Air, Richard Blackwood (doing his whole “who da man” thing), Russell Brand, Kelly Brook (shortly after her departure from The Big Breakfast), Natalie Casey, Zane Lowe, and Lisa Snowdon. There was a playlist of 75 videos or thereabouts listed in a barely legible font. Most of them were the latest hits, along with a few oldies (The Phone Zone was the UK Play equivalent of this). These appeared on the screen three at a time, and a full list was available to view on the teletext page. vlcsnap-00452

There were several ways that viewers could get in touch, including the phone, fax, and email. And there were often pop stars in the studio who wanted to tell us about their fancy new single. And guess what, if you phoned in to request a video, there was also a chance that you could talk to your idol, how exciting! They would sometimes guest host too. There were also competitions, and this really was a show where anything could happen. There were various versions on MTV stations across Europe. vlcsnap-01159

MTV Select came to an end after about five years in 2001, which was a disappointment, as I did still enjoy watching. For some reason, the theme music by this point was “The Facts Of Life” by Black Box Recorder (a hit single in 2000), and this was the final video to be played on the show. And it was around this time that MTV began to give up on showing music videos at any time of the day.

More TV Memories – Beavis And Butt-Head.

Beavis And Butt-Head (MTV, 1993-1997, 2011)

This is yet another animated sitcom that was aimed at older viewers, but it is just about the last one that I have to review for now. MTV is a channel that is known for playing music videos and boosting several pop careers (well they used to show music videos in the 90s), but there were also some other shows including cartoons, and this one was a big hit.

Beavis And Butt-Head was created by Mike Judge, who also voiced both of the main characters. They were a pair of teenagers who found everything that people said to be rather rude, which made them constantly giggle, and they were also prone to bouts of violence or just generally causing mayhem. We see them in various situations, such as at home, at school, or at work. bb1

They attended Highland High School, where in classes they often sat at the back and made jokes about everything, much to the annoyance of various teachers. One of the other pupils who tried to put up with them was Daria, who went on to get her own spin-off series that I reviewed a while ago. We also see them in other situations such as working at Burger World where they often treat the customers badly.

But the thing the show became most famous for was when Beavis and Butt-Head sat together on their rather tatty sofa and reviewed various music videos. Because this was the mid-90s there were rather a lot of videos featured from the grunge and heavy metal genres that were big at the time, but they often thought that everything “sucks”, it was really rather tough to find something that they thought “rocks”.

When they weren’t doing that at home, they were watching various TV shows whilst eating a lot of popcorn. They seemed to find the content of every show amusing, whatever the situation. There were a few other regular characters including Coach Buzzcut, Stewart and Mr Anderson. Many people feel that they captured that era of music and TV better than most.

In 1994, Beavis And Butt-Head started to be shown on Channel 4 in a late-night weekend slot, where it became the very definition of a cult hit with viewers. Around the same time there was also a monthly comic released that ran for a short while that featured various stories. After a few years they became popular enough to appear on several other MTV shows, and in 1996 there was also a full-length (ha-ha, “full-length”) film version called Beavis And Butt-Head Do America that was well received.

The show ended in 1997 after seven series and almost 250 episodes that were all about ten minutes along (along with a few specials), at which point Judge went off to create King Of The Hill that was a big success too. In the late-90s, various episodes were released on VHS, and I do remember having some of these and thinking that their antics were rather outrageous. There were also some books and computer games.

In 2011, after King Of The Hill had ended, our twosome returned for an eighth and final series. The world might have moved on by about 15 years since we last met them, but of course they were still exactly the same, carrying on as they always did, having not aged or learned at all. There have also been plenty of episodes released on DVD in a boxset that also contains plenty of extras, and the film was thrown in as a bonus on a tenth disc. That was pretty cool.

More TV Memories – Daria.

Daria (MTV, 1997-2002)

Beavis and Butt-Head was an animated sitcom that became very popular in the mid-90s when it was shown on MTV and later Channel 4, and one of the characters on that show went on to get their own spin-off series which was also great. Daria launched in 1997 and it would always began with the distinctive opening theme music “You’re Standing On My Neck”.

Daria Morgendorffer is a girl who isn’t necessarily unhappy in herself, but she is someone who is very cynical about the world and she doesn’t really seem to get on with anyone else, having what would now be called an “it’s not me, it’s you” outlook on life, and she does struggle to get through her teenage years, but it helps that she also has a deadpan retort in her monotone voice for everyone who tries to deal with her. One thing that Daria does like though is her favourite TV programme Sick, Sad Worldvlcsnap-00032

We also meet Daria’s family. Her parents are Helen and Jake, they seem to be a pair of workaholics who don’t have much time to listen to Daria, and her younger sister Quinn comes across as much more confident and she is be able to express herself well and make friends instantly. In the first episode we see the family move to their new place called Lawndale. vlcsnap-00033

When Daria starts school there the only person she can get on with is a girl called Jane Lane, an artist who is also thought to have low self-esteem, and she becomes Daria’s closest and possibly only friend for the entire run of the series, and in later episodes we also meet some of Jane’s family including her brother Trent who is in a rock band. We also meet fellow students in Daria’s classes including the rather dim Brittany who aspires to be a cheerleader and not much else, and her friend Kevin. vlcsnap-00026

Daria also has to deal with the teachers at her school. When I was watching some old episodes recently, I had one of those “oh wow, I haven’t thought about that for years, I used to really like that” moment when I saw Daria’s history teacher Mr DeMartino again. It is a safe bet to say that he is the perfect example of the old sitcom idea of “wrong person, wrong job”. He is a permanently stressed individual who shouts and places the emphasis in the wrong place on words, and one of his eyes looks like it’s one the verge of popping out of his head. Needless to say, he became popular with viewers including myself and he really is a terrific character. vlcsnap-00027

By contrast, Daria’s English teacher Mr O’Neill was also memorable because he was a stark contrast and the exact opposite to Mr DeMartino. He was very softly spoken, he also wasn’t strict, was prone to random outbursts of crying, and he had great difficulty remembering the pupil’s names and faces. When I realised that these two characters were voiced by the same actor I was very impressed. And as the episodes go by we meet several more outlandish people who interfere in Daria’s world. vlcsnap-00038

Another unusual thing that I used to like about Daria was the end credits sequence, which featured various characters from the show but dressed as famous figures, maybe in film or TV or in history, and a lot of these were rather far away from the actual personality of the character, for example Daria appearing as a character from Baywatch or Jane as an ancient Egyptian. There were lots of these used over the series and they were all very creative and made the show stand out. vlcsnap-00034

Daria eventually ran to five series and two specials, and the first series was recently released on DVD in this country, and I hope that the rest will follow really soon. I remember watching Daria regularly on Channel 5 on Saturday afternoons when I was a teen in the late-90s/early-2000s. They really did have a terrific schedule then, with other shows including The Tribe and Harry and Cosh also being among my favourites from that time, along with a few others including Popular and The Pepsi Chart. It’s a shame that Daria isn’t as well known in this country as other animated sitcoms including Family Guy and South Park which launched around the same time because it’s definitely up there with them.