It’s fair to say that 2020 hasn’t been great for the “this year is going to be my year” crowd. In an absurd year that’s been ravaged by an ongoing pandemic, simply making it through each day can cause immense fatigue. And if you’re like me, which i’m guessing you are, part of getting through those days and escaping reality consists of getting tangled in the obscure subplots of fictional television characters. The issue with falling into these alternate universes is that there’s only so many quality shows spread out through a ridiculous amount of streaming platforms. I’m straight-up not paying for every service, and the burden of finessing friends into giving up their various account logins is starting to take a toll on my relationships.
The cable TV of my youth presented a whole different issue — fighting through the same JG Wentworth ads every 30 seconds — but there was something special about television in the 2000s. Specifically MTV. Maybe it was just the rush of sneakily watching shows I maybe wasn’t supposed to, but to my teenage self even the idea of something like Wilmer Valderrama’s Yo Momma, where you guessed it, people battled over the best yo momma jokes, was captivating.
MTV’s purpose was to bring music to television. During the 2000s, however, the station went even further beyond that goal and expanded its programming into more unique reality shows, instead of the focus on reality soap operas that dominated the late 90s. We started to see new things like celebrities flexing their wealth, and watching strangers get their cars turned into something barely drivable. It was great. Here’s a few reasons why 2000s MTV was the golden age of television.
Reality TV can be more than over-the-top drama
Don’t get me wrong here. Over-the-top drama was a huge ingredient that fueled some of the best shows MTV produced. When you throw a bunch of random strangers in a house together like on The Real World, or ask record executive Sean Combs (aka Puff Daddy, P. Diddy, Puffy, or Diddy) to put together a music group that’s sure to fail, like on Making The Band, the dysfunction alone makes for great viewing. But reality shows aren’t always about drama. They can be just as over-the-top in different areas and remain successful.
Pimp my Ride was a show that stood by this blueprint. The show’s premise was straightforward: Find someone one with a beat-up car and have rapper Xzibit set up a situation to get the car fixed, or “pimped” in this case. Besides the basics of restoring the car’s brakes and whatever else goes into fixing a car, people would get gaming consoles and monitors set up in their cars. Dope, right? Well as the show progressed, the need to go above and beyond was apparent. Yeah having a Playstation 2 in your whip is cool, but what about putting a fish tank in the backseat? How about adding a chandelier? Or how about we throw a fucking hot tub in your trunk, dawg? Those are just a few instances of the outlandish upgrades that drew viewers in week by week to see what they could possibly do next.
Honorable mention: My Super Sweet 16, Made, True Life
They could turn anything into a dating show
MTV managed to take the challenges of dating and flipped them into some outrageous show concepts. Take a show like Room Raiders, where the concept was that a person would search three contestants’ bedrooms before choosing one to date based on what they found. The contestants didn’t have time to clean or hide anything: they were thrown into the back of a van, where they watched as someone went through all their belongings to find clues to see if that person was datable. After going through multiple apartment searches in New York, and finding things like hot wing bones in someone’s shower, I would imagine the idea of someone searching through your shit without cleaning up is frightening, but, hey it presented the opportunity to shame people’s lifestyle, which is what reality TV is really all about. Or take a show like Next, whose premise is pretty much the same as going on a dating app today. Check out my guy Xavier here.
I don’t know why people want this type of information to be public in their dating bios, but I guess shout out to y’all for being your true self!
Honorable mention: Date My Mom, Parental Control
Hey Look! Celebrities are kinda like us, just rich
Maybe we don’t like to admit it, but we’ve all stanned at least one celebrity in our lifetime. In the 2000s there was no better chance to catch the favorite person you secretly scream to than on MTV. And the most thrilling stuff surprisingly came from them getting caught up in well, potential everyday life situations. So when a series like Ashton Kutcher’s Punk’d, a hidden camera show that toyed with celebrities’ emotions through a variety of pranks aired, it showed that these very rich people can be just like us. The series premiere opened up with a distraught Justin Timberlake nearly in tears because of a prank that involved his home being seized by the government. While that’s honestly a pretty O.D prank, it’s oddly amusing to watch someone with so much, go to nothing so quickly. On the flip side, if seeing celebrities be absurdly rich was your thing, then Cribs was the show for you. The show was just a way for celebrities to show how loaded they are with absurd purchases. Like known large man Shaq, flaunting his custom large man bed.
Honorable Mention: Run’s House, Rob & Big
TV is truly at its finest when it can help you clear your mind, melt into the couch and not worry about lifting a finger. Maybe I’m just trying to escape to a time where things were much simpler, but I know for sure in the 2000s, you really didn’t need to touch the remote as long as MTV was on. I miss that.