MTV brings back 120 Minutes

Matt Pinfield

MTV announced it will resurrect the legendary alternative music video series, 120 Minutes, and bring back its most recognizable host, Matt Pinfield, for another run. The series that originally ran on MTV from 1986 to 2000 and on MTV2 from 2001 to 2003 will return later this year to MTV2 as a special monthly program hosted by Matt Pinfield. It will be joined by a new weekly web feature, 120 Seconds.


When this site launched 8 years ago, 120 Minutes on MTV2 was about to come to an end; the program would soon evolve into Subterranean, an hour-long indie music video series in the spirit of the original. Subterranean lasted for 4 years before MTV2 dropped its production staff in 2007, moving to an automated format. Music videos were an afterthought, and VJs on MTV and MTV2 were no more. No one would have thought 120 Minutes would ever see the light of day again.

The long, at times painful legacy of 120 Minutes makes it even more remarkable that the series would be brought back now. The end of the ’90s also represented the end of the “alternative” movement, as faceless clones and unrecognizable nü metal garbage took over the rock scene. The dream of the ’90s was dead.

120 Minutes was then subject to a graceless and prolonged cancellation from MTV in 2000, at which time it was left for dead, only to be resurrected by sister channel MTV2 in 2001. Jim Shearer led the series through a return to its roots, focusing his eye on a new generation of indie and underground talent for the new decade. Despite the renewed effort, it didn’t last long. The show was cancelled again by 2003.

When it was time to say goodbye to 120 Minutes, MTV2 invited back Matt Pinfield along with Dave Kendall, the series’ creator and first solid host in the late ’80s and early ’90s, for an incredible but quickly forgotten series finale that celebrated the history of 120 Minutes and its evolution into Subterranean.

Now we have come full circle, with MTV rebooting 120 Minutes and placing Matt Pinfield himself at the helm. The series will be linked closely with a brand new web project, MTV Hive, focused on indie music and the people who care about it. We hope if there are actually some legit, passionate music fans in charge of the project, the new 120 Minutes will have a chance of living up to its name.

The news

Whatever the outcome, the story instantly gathered a massive amount of attention across the Internet and news media when MTV announced it early in the morning of Thursday, March 17, just one day after launching its MTV Hive website.

Let’s begin by looking at the original story as MTV News first published it:

“120 Minutes,” two of the most beloved hours in alternative-rock history, is returning to the airwaves. MTV2 will air a brand-new monthly version of the trailblazing music program with a weekly online counterpart dubbed “120 Seconds” on MTV Hive. Both will be hosted by Matt Pinfield, the walking musical encyclopedia and industry veteran whose original “120 Minutes” run made his name synonymous with the best of college rock, indie rock and everything else under the umbrella of “alternative.”

“I’m so excited that ‘120’ is coming back,” Pinfield told MTV News. “It’s been so influential in so many people’s lives. Musicians, music fans, actors — so many people have told me the show was pivotal and life-changing for them.”

“120 Seconds” will debut this Friday on MTV Hive, a new standalone online destination for indie music fans. “120 Minutes” is set to make its official return on MTV2 later this year.

MTV’s brand new indie music website, MTV Hive, also chimed in early:

Watching MTV’s Sunday night alternative staple 120 Minutes while parents had long been asleep was mild suburban rebellion at best, but for a generation of music lovers, it was the essential place to discover left-of-center bands and artists that you couldn’t find anywhere else. PJ Harvey. The Violent Femmes. Morphine, the Sundays and Lou Barlow. All were there, delightfully weird, decidedly ours. Our own private rebellion, musically speaking. On Thursday (Mar. 17), MTV announced that it will bring 120 Minutes back to the air, along with a web version, titled 120 Seconds, each hosted by one of the original 120 VJs Matt Pinfield.

The media were next, with Los Angeles Times taking on ’90s nostalgia:

If this is “classic MTV,” we’re totally old: on Thursday, MTV announced that “120 Minutes,” the alternative music showcase that premiered back in 1986 and ran through 2000, with a brief revival from 2001-2003, will return to MTV2 as a monthly show beginning later this year and as a weekly online show, “120 Seconds,” beginning Friday morning on MTV Hive. Matt Pinfield will also be back to show his favorite videos. Yes, it’s official: the ’90s are back, so get that Violent Femmes concert tee ready.

Soon after, the New York Times was kind enough to link back to us:

Mr. Pinfield said that before he became the show’s permanent host, he appeared in a single episode in 1993 in which he interviewed Depeche Mode, and had less difficulty with that mope-rock band’s lead singer, Dave Gahan, than with its songwriter and guitarist, Martin Gore.

“Dave was the one who was being very nice,” Mr. Pinfield said. “Martin was out of it.” (He added that he still gives the band grief about this interview.)

In 1995, Mr. Pinfield said, “I get the call and they say to me, you’ve got three weeks to do this and if it works out, great. If not, you’re just going to do the next three weeks. Three weeks turned into years.”

Pop Candy at USA Today also covered the story and gave us props:

According to an announcement from MTV, the beloved showcase of alternative and underground music is being resurrected on the online MTV Hive and later this year on MTV2 as the revamped 120 Seconds. Network vet Matt Pinfield will host.

“I am elated and proud to be part of bringing back one of the most influential and longest running music shows in the network’s history,” Pinfield said in a statement.

“Everywhere I go, people from all over the world talk about how much 120 Minutes shaped their musical tastes and how much they missed it. The show helped expose, and ultimately, break new artists.”

Google News listed dozens of other articles at press time, from influential outlets such as the A.V. Club, New York Magazine, and NPR. There was somewhat of a press blitz for the story. The return of 120 Minutes quickly became big news, not just to the music video nostalgists, but to the mainstream audience.

What’s next

You’re at the home of The 120 Minutes Archive, so it goes without saying that we’re very cautiously looking forward to the grand return of 120 Minutes, as well as its new Internet-friendly counterpart, 120 Seconds. Time will tell if the new program lives up to the legacy of the series that brought this site into the world, but for everyone’s sake, we hope it does. There’s always room for a worthy curator.

Looking ahead, we’ll keep a close eye on these new projects, both the TV and web series, and report back with our thoughts once everything has settled in and we can formulate some authoritative thoughts for you. Until then, it’s your turn. Tell us what you think about the new project and the what you’d want to see from it.

What do you think? Let us know. Follow us @tylercco on Twitter and make use of that “Tweet” button below to share your thoughts.

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