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“Ladies and gentlemen… Rock ‘N Roll.”

On August 1, 1981, MTV (Music Television) made its grand entrance into the world.

In the four decades since, the network has gone through several growing pains, from Michael Jackson and Prince breaking the color barrier to the rise of reality TV (to the fact that the network is now basically home to non-stop episodes of Ridiculousness, but that’s a different story for a different day).

Alas, back when there was actually music in Music Television, MTV brought us content that helped shape a generation and pushed forth the culture in ways that are still unbelievable.

Music shows like Yo! MTV Raps and MTV Unplugged helped bring Hip-Hop to the mainstream, while reality juggernauts like The Real World and Jersey Shore made us think about the way we see each other. And let’s not forget the recently-departed MTV News, breaking major stories way before TMZ was even a twinkle in Harvey Levin’s eye.

To commemorate the way MTV was in its glory, let us take a trip down memory lane to check out the shows that shook the table before we even knew what that meant.

View Our Gallery Below!

I Want My MTV: Shows That Helped Shaped The Culture  was originally published on

1. Yo! MTV Raps

We gotta start it off with the first show dedicated entirely to Hip-Hop! With hosts Fab 5 Freddy, Ed Lover and Doctor Dre (not the producer, y’all), Yo! MTV Raps played a major role in the expansion of the culture to the world. 

2. The Real World

“This is the true story of seven strangers, picked to live in a house and have their lives taped…”

Before Jersey Shore, Big Brother and the like, this pioneering reality series changed the way we looked at ourselves and the world around us. No topic was taboo, as they discussed racism, women’s reproductive rights, and HIV/AIDS at a time when no one else would.

Was it risqué at the time? Very, but that’s what happens “when people stopped being polite and start getting real.”

3. Rock-N-Jock

Rock-N-Jock was basically what the major sports leagues’ Celebrity All-Star Games are today. Some of the greats would team up with the latest stars in pop culture for one raucous game. And I’m pretty sure that all the rules were not followed.  

4. The Rock ‘N’ Wrestling Connection

Here’s a REAL throwback for you! MTV played a key role in the big wrestling boom of the 1980s, colliding with the WWE (formerly WWF) to create the Rock & Wrestling Connection. Future Hall of Famers like Captain Lou Albano, Hulk Hogan, and Rowdy Roddy Piper would become popular with the MTV crowd, while pop stars like Cindi Lauper would become involved with the wrestling side of things. This would pave the way for celebrity appearances throughout the 90s and beyond, including Three 6 Mafia, Dennis Rodman, Mike Tyson, and Snoop Dogg. 

5. MTV Unplugged

When all you need is a mic and a live band, playing mostly acoustic, you know you were a force in music. What better way to prove that than with this iconic series? From LL Cool J and Mariah Carey to Alicia Keys and Ms. Lauryn Hill, a plethora of great musical moments came from this show. 

6. Making The Band

Okay, okay… technically this was an ABC show at first, all about the creation of a boy band. (S/O to O-Town.) But, really, did anybody really pay attention BEFORE Diddy remixed it?….Didn’t think so. 

If there was anyone that knew how to make a band, it was the Bad Boy himself. This crazy show spawned several breakout moments (hello, cheesecake) as it chronicled the creation of a group. Some were successful (Danity Kane, Day 26), and some were not (Da Band). This Real World/American Idol hybrid was a crash course in the do’s and don’ts of making it in the crazy music business.

7. Total Request Live (TRL)

Come on, you KNOW we had to add TRL to this list. Resting smack-dab in the middle of the teen pop boom of the late 90s/early 2000s, this countdown show was THE SHOW to get on to jump start your career. Whether you were a new artist or a seasoned vet: if you weren’t on TRL… were you doing anything for real?

8. MTV News

When mainstream news barely covered pop culture, MTV News had it first. If you were an 80s/90s baby, you knew where you were when Snoop Dogg was arrested for murder, when Woodstock 99 ended in debauchery, and when you heard about the still-unsolved murders of 2Pac and Biggie. Chances are, you heard it from Kurt Loder, John Norris, and the rest of the MTV news crew. 

Damn you, Paramount. 

RELATED: End Of An Era: 10 MTV News Moments Cemented In Black Pop Culture

9. Jersey Shore

Last but not least, we definitely cannot mention MTV without Snooki, Mike The Situation, and the rest of this rowdy crew in Jersey. These guidos and guidettes shook the pop culture world from the moment they stepped foot into the Shore House. Armed with their hair gel, fist bumps, and GTL (Gym, Tan, Laundry) philosophy, reality TV did not stand a chance. 

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