7 Wonders: MTV is 35!

MTV is 35 today! To celebrate, we’re taking a look back at the best – and wickedly worst – “reality” shows made by the cultural powerhouse.

MTV may have started out in 1981 as a platform for music videos only (fun fact: “Video Killed The Radio Star” by The Bugles was the first video ever shown on MTV), but fast forward 35 years and the channel (along with myriad sister channels) is one of the biggest influencers on the planet thanks to the original programming they produce.

No one does reality TV like MTV. Terms like “Pimp My Ride“, “Cribs” and “Catfish” have become part of the public vernacular and there are more “celebrities” who have emerged from MTV than we care to remember. The influence that MTV has had over pop culture is felt everywhere. After all, who didn’t spend their teenage years glued to MTV? If you were unlucky enough to have a mere five channels at home, then going round to a friend’s where you could watch episode after episode of (usually) awful people doing (usually) awful things was, let’s be honest, just about almost everyone’s idea of a good time.

We might be all grown up now, and okay sure, they don’t tend to make the most high brow or meaningful of programmes, but who doesn’t want to stare mindlessly at the TV on a hangover day? We’ve been reminiscing about all the very best in ”reality” –  we’re using that term loosely, obvs – TV that MTV had to offer, and it’s made us all nostalgic.

Real World

First aired in 1992, Real World is the longest running show in MTV’s history. It’s now on season 30, which makes us feel rather old, and is widely credited as being the show that launched the modern reality TV genre. One thing’s for sure, the whole ‘let’s put a load of young adults prone to behaving badly in a house together whilst being filmed non-stop’ thing has certainly become a winning formula.

Laguna Beach/ The Hills

Ok so strictly speaking these are two programmes, as The Hills was a spin off of Laguna Beach, but both allowed us to keep up with Lauren Conrad and her crew from 2004 – 2010 (although, admittedly, the latter years of The Hills were sans L.C., but it was never the same without her). Seeing how the California brat-pack spent their days made for seriously enticing TV, especially as the cast’s celebrity increased. If you ever still find yourself wondering which bits were staged, then good news! There’s going to be a The Hills 10 year Anniversary Special that promises to put all speculation to rest this August.


The idea for MTV’s hit prank and stunt fest Jackass was actually conceived after failing actor-turned-writer Johnny Knoxville pitched a story idea that would see him test self-defense devices on himself to Big Brother Magazine. The show made stars of Knoxville and his fellow cast members and inspired a generation of teenage boys to try the most dangerous, absurd feats imaginable. The show itself may have only run for two years, but there’s been four Jackass films since, as well as a whole host of spin off or copy cat style shows such as Viva La Bam, Wildboyz and Homewrecker.

MTV Cribs

Us mere mortals have been peeking inside the spectacular homes of the rich and famous since 2000, thanks to the envy inducing programme that is Cribs. In the days before social media, when no one really knew what anyone famous was getting up to in their ‘real’ lives, it was especially exciting to have the luxurious existence of our favourite celebs rubbed in our faces via television. The most popular episode of all time featured the Queen that is Mariah Carey who, if you remember, conducted part of the tour of New York penthouse from her bathtub, in a towel. Mimi = #goals.

Catfish: The TV Show

Catfish: The TV Show wasn’t actually conceived by the geniuses *ahem* at MTV, as it’s based on the 2010 film of the same name by brothers Nev and Ariel Shulman. However, the MTV series which followed has proven to be immensely popular and has encouraged a cultural awareness in young people about some of the pitfalls of the internet. The show may only have been around for a comparatively short amount of time, but it’s exposure of individuals masquerading as someone they are most definitely not online has got viewers hooked.


MTV seem to just love a good old practical joke, and Punk’d took this one step further by making celebrities the butt of those jokes. On one particularly memorable occasion, Justin Timberlake was led to believe that his home and belongings were being seized by government officials due to unpaid taxes. Oh and don’t even get us started on the time that Beyoncé “ruined Christmas”. Although the show ended in 2007, there was a 2012 revival series hosted by celebrities including Tyler, The Creator, Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus. Say what you like, but we felt it just wasn’t quite the same without our old crush Ashton doing the punking.

My Super Sweet Sixteen

Much to the irritation of parents everywhere, MTV’s documenting of the most lavish sixteenth birthday parties around proved to be a serious hit with the teenagers of the 2000’s . There were always tears (sometimes from the mums and dads too), tantrums and an over-worked party planner. Every spoiled fifteen year old on the show insisted that a party was just not a real party without a celebrity guest, and a flash car paraded out as the big bday gift at the end was practically mandatory. It was truly terrible TV, but my goodness, we loved it.

Kathleen Johnston
7 Wonders: MTV is 35!

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