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MTV Turns 40 — How to Watch the Most Iconic Shows Online

Ben Bowman

If you grew up in the heyday of MTV, the 40th anniversary of its launch may suddenly make your joints ache. And the fact that the AARP website is covering it may make you consider your own funeral arrangements. Over the last few decades, the channel has collapsed from a cultural titan to become just another station jammed with reruns.

But if you’re part of the MTV Generation, or if you’d like to dig back through its most potent pop culture moments, you do have a lot of options available to stream. Here are some of the biggest hits in MTV history.

The Best of MTV

  • The Real World

    May 21, 1992

    Each year, seven strangers in their twenties, from different backgrounds and countries, are chosen to come live together in a major city.

  • MTV Unplugged

    November 26, 1989

    MTV’s acclaimed music series showcases today’s top artists and rising stars in the industry performing acoustic versions of their songs.

  • Beavis and Butt-head

    March 8, 1993

    Beavis and Butt-head are high school students whose lifestyles revolve around TV, junk food (usually nachos), shopping malls, heavy metal music, and trying to “score with chicks”. Each show contains short cartoons centering on the duo who live in the fictitious town of Highland, Texas. The episodes are broken up by short breaks in which Beavis and Butt-head watch and make fun of music videos.

  • Daria

    March 3, 1997

    After moving to a new town with her stressed-out parents and relentlessly popular little sister, Daria uses her acerbic wit and keen powers of observation to contend with the mind-numbingly ridiculous world of Lawndale High.

  • The State

    January 21, 1994

    The State is a sketch-comedy television show combing bizarre characters and scenarios to present sketches that won the hearts of its target teenaged audience.

  • Celebrity Deathmatch

    May 14, 1998

    Celebrity Deathmatch is a claymation television show that depicts celebrities against each other in a wrestling ring, almost always ending in the loser’s gruesome death. It was known for its excessive amount of blood used in every match and exaggerated physical injuries.

    The series was created by Eric Fogel; with the pilots airing on MTV on January 1 & 25 1998. The initial series ran from May 14, 1998 to October 20, 2002, and lasted for a 75-episode run. There was one special that did not contribute to the final episode total, entitled “Celebrity Deathmatch Hits Germany”, which aired on June 21, 2001. Professional wrestler Stone Cold Steve Austin gave voice to his animated form as the guest commentator. Early in 2003, a film based on the series was announced by MTV to be in the making, but the project was canceled by the end of that year.

    In 2005, MTV2 announced the revival of the show as part of their “Sic ‘Em Friday” programming block. Originally set to return in November 2005, the premiere was pushed back to June 10, 2006 as part of a new “Sic’emation” block with two other animated shows, Where My Dogs At and The Adventures of Chico and Guapo. The show’s fifth season was produced by Cuppa Coffee Studios and the premiere drew over 2.5 million viewers, becoming MTV2’s highest rated season premiere ever.

  • Jackass

    April 12, 2000

    Join sadomasochistic superheroes Johnny Knoxville, Bam Margera, and the rest of the Jackass crew as they terrorize your TV screens and everyone that gets in their way (especially themselves) with their own sick and twisted interpretation of physical entertainment. Their brand of pranks, goofball antics, and unabashed brutal comedy are sure to bring new meaning to the phrase “Don’t Try This At Home!”

  • Punk’d

    March 17, 2003

    Ashton Kutcher punks his unsuspecting A-list celebrity friends with over-the-top pranks.

  • Laguna Beach

    September 28, 2004

    Like other teens in California, the lives of the Laguna Beach teenagers are filled with sandy beaches, beautiful friends and love triangles. But unlike other teens, they had cameras following them around. It may look like fantasyland, but they’re not acting: they really are this rich and beautiful. For them, life really is a day at the beach.

  • My Super Sweet 16

    January 18, 2005

    My Super Sweet 16 is a MTV reality series documenting the lives of teenagers, usually in the United States, Canada and UK, who usually have wealthy parents who throw huge coming of age celebrations. Parties include the quinceañera, the sweet 16, and other birthdays including a My Super Sweet 21 and My Super Swag 18.

  • The Andy Milonakis Show

    June 26, 2005

    The Andy Milonakis Show is an American sketch comedy television show starring Andy Milonakis, which aired on MTV2, the first season having aired on MTV. The program premiered on June 26, 2005 and ended with its three-season run when it was cancelled on May 1, 2007.

  • The Hills

    May 31, 2006

    After high school graduation, “Laguna Beach” alumna Lauren sets out to live on her own in Los Angeles and work as an intern at Teen Vogue.

  • 16 and Pregnant

    June 11, 2009

    16 and Pregnant is an American reality television series that debuted June 11, 2009, on MTV. It follows the stories of pregnant teenage girls in high school dealing with the hardships of teenage pregnancy. Each episode features a different teenage girl, with the episode typically beginning when she is 4 ¹⁄2 – 8 months into her pregnancy. The episode typically ends when the baby is a few months old. The series is produced in a documentary format, with an animation on notebook paper showing highlights during each episode preceding the commercial breaks. 16 and Pregnant has spawned several spin-off series: Teen Mom, Teen Mom 2 and Teen Mom 3. Each series follows the lives of four girls from their respective season of 16 and Pregnant as they navigate their first years of motherhood.

    As of July 2013, casting for the fifth season of the series is taking place.

  • Jersey Shore

    December 3, 2009

    Jersey Shore is an American reality television series which ran on MTV from December 3, 2009 to December 20, 2012 in the United States. The series follows the lives of eight housemates spending their summer at the Jersey Shore in the U.S. state of New Jersey. Season 2 followed the cast escaping the cold northeast winter to Miami Beach, with Season 3 returning to the Jersey Shore. The fourth season, filmed in Italy, premiered on August 4, 2011. The show returned for a fifth season, at Seaside Heights on January 5, 2012. The fifth season finale aired on March 15, 2012. On March 19, 2012, MTV confirmed that the series would return for their sixth season. On August 30, 2012, MTV announced that the Jersey Shore would end after the sixth season, which premiered on October 4. The series finale aired on December 20, 2012.

    The show debuted amid large amounts of controversy regarding the use of the words “Guido/Guidette,” portrayals of Italian-American stereotypes, and scrutiny from locals because the cast members were not residents of the area.

    The series garnered record ratings for MTV, making it the network’s most viewed series telecast ever. The series’ cast have also been credited with introducing unique lexicon and phrases into American popular culture.

It would be great if MTV allowed its old VMA or Movie Awards shows to be streamed, if only for cultural archeologists to dissect our questionable fashion choices over the years.

You also won’t be able to stream old episodes of “TRL,” “Yo! MTV Raps,” “Headbangers Ball,” or any other iconic music program.

If you need an old MTV fix, check out MTV Classic with a free trial of Philo.

DTV STREAM fuboTV Hulu Philo Sling TV YouTube
Sign Up Free Trial Free Trial Free Trial Get $25 OFF Sign Up
$69.99 $64.99 $64.99 $25 $35 $35 $64.99
MTV Classic ≥ $94.99 ^ $8 ^ $8 - - -

Strangely, some important MTV shows are not available to stream. You won’t find “The Osbournes” or “The Tom Green Show” on any service. One of MTV’s best shows, “Fear,” was a reality show that essentially dared teenagers to spend the night in a “haunted” location while doing crazy stunts like putting nooses around their necks or burying one another alive (temporarily). Contestants regularly broke down in tears and fled the show. It was amazing.

MTV may live today as a zombie shell of its former self, but it dominated popular culture for the better part of two decades. In today’s fractured media environment, that kind of run seems unlikely to happen again. But just as video killed the radio star, the internet killed the video music channel. It’s the circle of life.

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