I Miss My MTV! – Shows of the ’80s



When I was a teenager, I always looked forward to my weekends.


I didn’t look forward to them for the usual reasons, like parties or that’s when I got to watch the totally awesome programming of the early to mid-1980s on cable. My parents didn’t believe in cable TV, so if I wanted to watch MTV, USA, or TBS, I had to go over to my brother’s house.

My brother got free babysitting and I got to watch cable shows. Looking back, I still think I got the better end of the deal. I got to spend time with my young nephews and watch cool cable shows and MTV.


MTV and music variety shows of the 80s


I loved Night Flight and Up All Night on USA Network

The movies were (sometimes) horrible, but it was the music and variety segments between breaks that made it worthwhile. I loved Night Flight’s segments Video Artist, New Wave Theater, and The Comic. 

upallnight-01Hosts like Gilbert Godfried on Up All Night were the best, even though he was somewhat annoying at times. The movies were almost always B-movies – or should be as B-movies. They were so bad at times, but I couldn’t help but watch!

I remember when they aired a documentary on one of the shows about a group of punks who took a small school bus and traveled the country together. That is when my wanderlust for adventure began for me. It is still my dream to load up and take a cross-country trip. I wish I could find that documentary and watch it again. That is one time I really wish I would have recorded the show!

Night Flight and Up All Night usually aired on Friday and Saturday nights. 

Adam Curry HB
Adam Curry & his big hair

Starting in 1987, Saturday nights also meant Headbangers Ball on MTV – the best in metal and hairband videos, interviews, and news – hosted by Adam Curry, and his big hair. Even though my first love is punk/post-punk and alternative music, I also liked hair bands and metal. It’s sad that some of those guys had better hair than most chicks!

You almost always had to wait until the end of Headbangers Ball to see the newest videos – and I always waited.

Well played, MTV, well played. 

If you miss Headbangers Ball, check out That Metal Show – it’s a million times better than the Ball ever was!


When all is said and done, Sunday was definitely my favorite night of the week.


MTV had the best line-up of music shows on Sunday nights, like Cutting Edge, Liner Notes, and of course my favorite, 120 Minutes. They also featured British favorites like Monty Python’s Flying Circus and The Young Ones in the Sunday line-up.


MTV seriously rocked back in the ’80s. 


By far, 120 Minutes was the best two hours of alternative, post-punk, and underground music TV ever. I don’t think there was a week that would go by without at least one Cure, Depeche Mode, The Smiths, PiL or Siouxsie video in the show.

Hosts like Downtown Julie Brown, Kevin Seal and show creator, Dave Kendall, made the show epic with their interviews and commentary. John Lydon AKA Johnny Rotten from the Sex Pistols was my favorite guest on 120 Minutes.



MTV 120 Minutes
Dave Kendall and John Lydon


As MTV saw the popularity of 120 Minutes grow, they added a weeknight version called PostModern MTV to capitalize on that audience. I was an avid watcher of both shows. 120 Minutes carried over into the mid-’90s, with host Matt Pinfield.

PostModern MTV was replaced later in the mid-’90s with the weeknight show Alternative Nation with host Kennedy. She really got on my nerves, but I still watched to feed my music video addiction. 

If you miss Dave Kendall and all the great music from 120 Minutes, tune into Sirius XM 1st Wave on Friday nights from 9 PM till 3 AM ET for Party 360 with Dave Kendall. It is one of my favorite shows, next to Darkwave on Sunday nights 10 PM till 1 AM ET with Matt Sebastian from Slicing Up Eyeballs, featuring the darker side of new wave, with darkwave, goth, post-punk, industrial and more.

These two radio shows fill the void perfectly that 120 Minutes left.

The following is a list of music and variety shows that aired on MTV, USA, TBS, NBC, and FOX, along with a YouTube video playlist of show clips and more. 

What were your favorite nighttime TV music and variety show from the ’80s? 


RIP – Gone but not forgotten music and variety shows of the 1980s

Night Flight – USA Network – 1988-1996
Up All Night – USA Network – 1989-1998
Friday Night Videos – NBC – 1983-2002
Night Tracks – TBS – 1983-1992
120 Minutes – MTV – 1986-2000
PostModern – MTV – 1989-1991
Headbangers Ball – MTV – 1987-1995
The Cutting Edge – MTV – 1983-1987
Liner Notes – MTV – 1983-1985
Friday Night Video Fights – MTV – 1983-1989(?)
Just Say Julie – MTV – 1989-1992
The Tracey Ullman Show – FOX – 1987-1989
Remote Control – MTV – 1987-1990

The Young Ones – BBC (MTV) – 1985-1988
Monty Python’s Flying Circus – BBC (MTV) – 1987-1988