As millennials, we like to think we know the 90s. If playing Pokémon on a Gameboy Color, taking trips to Blockbuster to rent VHS tapes and listening to the Spice Girls are among your fondest childhood memories, chances are you grew up to call yourself a “90s kid.”
We’re nostalgic for this time—and not just because it was our childhood. As it turns out, the 90s was a fly time to be alive, no matter how old you were.
The New York Times columnist Kurt Andersen (who is not a millennial) posits that this is due to political, technological and socio-economical advances during the last ten years of the 20th century in an op-ed called “The Best Decade Ever? The 1990s, Obviously.”
Our awareness of current events as adults makes this 90s nostalgia even more acute. Now we know that the world back then truly was, by our standards, pretty chill.
If given the chance to go back in time and experience this glorious epoch of tattoo chokers and Legos with the knowledge we have as adults, how would we fare? If a millennial lives in the ultimate 90s fantasy world but can’t share the experience via Snapchat, did it even happen? Ugh, as if!
MTV’s new reality-competition show 90’s House lets us witness what our lives would be like in the 90s, without time travel.
Since 1984, some of pop culture’s most revered moments, quotes and gestures originated at the MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs). Britney Spears’ sweeping, serpentine performance of I’m a Slave for You. Lady Gaga’s meat dress. Kanye West’s presidential bid. Miley Cyrus and the twerk heard ‘round the world. Michael Jackson’s moon-walking medleys. Hammer Time. Lil’ Kim, Diana Ross and one purple jumpsuit…these are images embedded in our collective social conscious, through memories and endless GIFs on our Twitter feeds.
Courtesy of GIPHY.
The 2017 VMAs, held at The Forum in Los Angeles in August, certainly spawned plenty of extraordinary moments.
Here were a few of my favorites:
Lorde’s silent, avant-garde performance of Homemade Dynamite
The pop star flounced around stage like a ballerina from Mars, which isn’t too unusual for the VMAs. Not singing (or even lip-synching) is, however, a bit unusual.
Courtesy of GIPHY.
Lorde tweeted a response to confused fans and reporters who covered the event, explaining how she had the flu and was on an IV drip just days before the ceremony.
When Paramount Television (Viacom’s independent production studio) launched in 2013, the studio opted to produce an ambitious first project for Fox: Grease: Live. The live televised special was a remake of the classic 1978 film Grease, and incorporated songs from the original movie, as well as a live studio audience to simulate the effects of a Broadway performance.
The show was nominated for 10 Emmy Awards, and won five—more than any other televised musical in history. It was also the no. 1 most social live musical event ever. It was the most-watched program when it aired on Jan. 31, 2016, with over 12 million viewers tuning in to watch the impressive performance, which critics called “skillfully directed” and “true to the original.”
The most vital part of this production, according to reviews, was the production itself.
Grease Live wins at the 2016 Creative Arts Emmy Awards. (Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images)
“Buoyed by tremendous camera work, fleet-footed choreography…and a sound mix that was fuller (or less tinny) than any comparable production that’s come before it, Grease built on the live (but not in front of a live audience) musicals championed by rival NBC over the last three years,” wrote Michael Slezak for TVLine.com.
How did a new production studio achieve such tremendous results from their first endeavor?
President of Paramount TV Amy Powell explains her strategy. “As content creators, we look for new and exciting opportunities that will appeal to audiences and find the right platform for our series,” said Powell. “We partner with top-notch talent and distributors that share in our vision and give creators the freedom to bring the content to life.”
By tapping Paramount’s rich content library and opening itself to collaborations with rival entertainment platforms, Paramount TV is a shining example of media industry synergy. The studio believes that partnerships are key—creating top-tier entertainment is a result of having the best ideas, and if those ideas come from external individuals or companies, it’s imperative to find a way to bring them together. Paramount TV is making this happen.
The studio’s original goal was to create one drama and two on-air comedies in three years. It easily surpassed that, creating a constellation of content that includes the Emmy Award-winning television musical special Grease: Live, Nickelodeon’s Emmy-nominated musical comedy School of Rock, EPIX’s critically acclaimed espionage drama series Berlin Station, USA Network’s hit series Shooter, Netflix’s teen drama 13 Reasons Why and the upcoming Amazon action drama Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan.
In 2012, the Obama administration passed a new policy called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). DACA, sometimes called the “Dreamers” program, protects eligible young immigrants from being deported. The “Dreamers” are kids who emigrated to the U.S. with their parents. Many moved here as young children or infants, and some did not even know they were not Americans until later in life.
DACA opened the door for these kids to legally apply for their first job, to get their driver’s license, attend college and ultimately join the workforce as adults, contributing to the American economy.
Now, there is a movement in Washington to end this policy. If this happens, the lives of nearly 800,000 young Americans will be irrevocably altered. By March, they’ll be at risk of being forced to leave everything behind and move back to their native country—which many of these kids have no memory of.
On August 31, Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish joined President Barack Obama, dozens of university presidents, and a multitude of CEOs from major American tech and media companies in signing an open letter to the government leaders expressing their concerns about the devastating effects changing the immigration policy would have on the Dreamers living productive and happy lives in America, as well as the severe consequences it would have for the economy.
After Hurricane Harvey left Texas residents reeling from one of the most devastating storms in U.S. history, CMT teamed up with other broadcast networks to air a benefit telethon on Sept. 12.
Since then, Hurricane Irma decimated entire islands in the Caribbean and left millions of Florida residents without power. The affected areas are still in “rescue mode” according to The New York Times, meaning we don’t yet know the full extent of damage caused by this colossal storm, but experts agree it will be extensive.
The hour-long special aims to do just that—use music as a way to bring peace of mind to those affected by the hurricane. And with BET, MTV and other broadcast networks now airing the event, Hand in Hand can reach as many homes as possible. This means more opportunity for people to make personal donations to assist hurricane victims. The telethon is predicted to be one of the largest benefit concerts in history.
Viacom employee Georgiana Bell got the chance to attend BET’s Black Girls Rock! 2017 live special, along with her 12-year old granddaughter Nasir. Her thrilling experience came courtesy of Viacom’s Employee Events & Programs department, which offers an employee sweepstakes for our tentpole award shows.
Congratulations! Can you tell us a bit about your role at Viacom?
I’m a Viacom receptionist as well as a freelance talent escort for many productions, award shows and other red carpet events. I’ve worked at Viacom for 24 years.
Were you familiar with Black Girls Rock!?
Yes. In past years I’ve watched the special and worked the event as an usher, but to enjoy it as an audience member is a totally different experience, one that was well-appreciated. The atmosphere was great from where we sat. It seemed as though everyone was engaged, attentive and enjoying what they were seeing!
Michael Jackson earned his title as King of Pop for his mosaic of entertainment talent and ingenuity—especially when it came to creating iconic music videos. With Thriller, Jackson introduced cinematography into music videos, turning what used to be simple live recordings into fully-fledged short films. The 13-minute video (which I performed in a summer camp talent show as a teenager, and still remember most of the moves) was MTV’s first world premiere.
The award celebrates “forerunners in the music video sphere,” according to Slate.
“MTV is legitimately the definitive arbiter on such matters. And their track record with the Vanguard has reinforced their authority: The first recipients of the award, in 1984, were the Beatles and Richard Lester, for the trailblazing A Hard Day’s Night, and David Bowie, for his groundbreaking films from the late ’60s and ’70s.”
The fourth season of the business improvement mockumentary series is expected to be wonkier than ever, and this is coming after episodes focused on an authentic exorcism, a shopping mall Santa Claus with a criminal record, and an electronics store that sells TV sets for a dollar—providing customers can walk past a live alligator to retrieve them.
For my 11th birthday, my parents bought me a 13-inch, white Panasonic TV/VCR set. I was most excited about the fact that it was white, and therefore girly, but also the fact that it gave me access to the exclusive club of sixth grade girls at my school who could invite their friends over to watch MTV.
My neighbor Lauren had been the first of my friends to enter this coterie when her older brother moved out and gave her his TV. I skip my bus stop and get off at her house, raid the fridge for Pepperoni lunch-ables, Dunkaroos and Cherry Coke, and head to her basement playroom, where we’d turn the TV straight to TRL and watch Carson Daly countdown the day’s 10 hottest music videos.
On a typical spring afternoon in 2002, we’d watch the same *NSYNC video for the fourth time that week, along with hits from Blink 182, Christina Aguilara, Britney Spears, Shakira, Michelle Branch, Brandy and Kylie Minogue. Sometimes we’d call in our request, but usually we’d just try to guess which one was coming next. Most of the time, we were right.
By the time my new TV allowed me to form my own girls club to watch TRL, Carson Daly had stepped down as host, and we were introduced to a downright dreamy group of regular “VJs” (video deejays, something I learned much later in life). My friends and I crushed hard on Damien Fahey, and wanted to look just like the trendy, chic Vanessa Minnillo.
Now, MTV is bringing back this iconic video countdown show, which ran for 10 years between 1998 and 2008. TRL’s revival is set for October 2, to be broadcast from a renovated version of its iconic Times Square studio.
TRL will be different than the one I remember— the video countdown model and audience request integration will stay, but the new show yanks the format into the post-2008 world of social and interactive media, with a mélange of linear, social and digital dimensions (expect some TRL Snapchat filters and daily updates on Instagram and Twitter).
A new generation of VJs will rotate through the studio, including, as of now, D.C. Young Fly, Erik Zachary, Amy Pham, Tamara Dhia and Lawrence Jackson. Learn more about the hosts here.
The revival of this flagship show is a logical move for the network as it shepherds in a new era of MTV that is remarkably similar to the one my friends and I would watch on that 13-inch TV in my bedroom.
With revivals of My Super Sweet 16 (a reality show I watched religiously as a teen, which I wrote about here) and Fear Factor (NBC’s gruesome game show, re-invented with a millennial twist), as well as a new show called Siesta Key (created by the same producers responsible for MTV’s original, laid back teen-paradise reality show, Laguna Beach), MTV seems ready for a millennial renaissance.
Watch the teaser for Siesta Key:
And why not? All of us who grew up watching these shows as kids are now in our 20s, able to buy our own TVs (albeit without VHS players attached), subscribe for VOD streaming services or cable packages and browse the internet without parental controls. Above all else, we’re nostalgic for the carefree shows of our childhood.
When I used to watch Kristin Cavallari flirt with Stephen Colletti back in middle school, I desperately wanted to be in her $300 Tory Burch kitten heels. Now, I’m in my mid-20s and have slightly different summer aspirations than spending it prancing around a beach with my high school crush, but that doesn’t mean I can’t relive the fun.
MTV President Chris McCarthy is largely responsible for this mining of the network’s history to inform its current programming. “MTV’s reinvention,” he told recently toldThe New York Times, “is coming by harnessing its heritage.”
As a business strategy, this has been remarkably successful. In June and July, ratings for MTV’s target demographic – millennials, aka 18 to 34-year-olds—soared. It was the first time the network experienced two consecutive months of ratings growth in four years.
As Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish toldThe New York Times, “[McCarthy] reset the brand filter, cleaned out the pipeline and began building a new MTV that’s much more based on reality, unscripted and music content.”
A 29-year-old drag queen from Brooklyn, New York known as Sasha Velour is lip syncing to Whitney Houston’s So Emotional. She’s gliding across the stage; a graceful avant-garde, bald ballerina.
Arms clad in opera-length bronze gloves, Velour vogues alongside fellow queen Shea Couleé, sauntering her hips and moving her lips soundlessly. Then, she craned her neck and began tugging at her wig. Pantomiming a seizure, she grabbed each scarlet lock to unleash a cascade of rose petals—just as Houston’s ballad reached its dénouement.
Watch the performance:
It was the season 9 finale of VH1’s RuPaul’s Drag Race. Nearly 9 million people watched as Velour won the coveted title of America’s Next Drag Superstar, making Drag Race history for the most-watched finale. It was, in the eternal words of Whitney Houston, “So emotional.”