The Golden Era of VH1
Written by Tanisha Thomas on February 7, 2020
VH1, you had a great thing going.
Before the network bombarded us with weekly episodes of our favorite washed-up musicians duking it out, VH1 was a pop culture encyclopedia. It was able to stand out from MTV and carve its own path of television pleasure. It showcased music, reality, and stories.
Although I fell out of my Love & Hip Hop phase, I still yearn for the original love and hip-hop that helped birth an iconic era of ratchet love: Flavor of Love. I watched old episodes not too long ago and whew, was that reality show a whirlwind, but it gave my Nana and I something to talk about on the phone every week. I could never stop watching the trainwreck to commence when girls were competing for a date with Flav. The shows that followed—Rock of Love, I Love New York, For the Love of Ray J, I Love Money, etc—created an era of celebrity reality love shows we will never get to have as fun of an experience like with other networks’ shows.
Back when networks still played music in the morning, I remember excitedly waking up on Saturdays to watch VH1’s Top 20 Video Countdown to see if my favorite song’s music video made it to #1. I was able to discover new music during the show while jamming out to my usual favorites. The hosts were entertaining as well, shoutout to Alison Becker who was my absolute favorite!
In addition to their music video countdown show, they had a “Greatest” series showcasing many moments of pop culture, such as their 100 Greatest Songs of decades (‘80s, ‘90s, ‘00s), their countdowns of the hotties of decades or if they were feeling like Ashton Kutcher, they would highlight the greatest pranks that happened over the years. That was the time VH1 was setting itself apart from MTV and making its own identity. It also allowed many comedians, writers, journalists and more become “VH1 Talking Heads” and have a platform to express themselves. Hal Sparks, Rob Sheffield, Jenny Slate, amd Mike Epps were a few who made regular appearances on various shows.
I gained a lot of my knowledge from the I Love series, which showcased the hottest music, trendiest fashion and political movements that happened during each decade. My ultimate favorite was the “I Love the New Millenium” series because it highlighted the 2000s, and it brought back so many memories.
During Black History Month in 2009, VH1 gave us Black to the Future, a play-off the classic movie “Back to the Future.” It showcased everything Black and how much of a cultural imprint Black culture had (and still does) in society over the decades. I learned about the history of Hip-Hop, historical Black figures, notable Black movies and more. It was a week full of laughs with my mom during that time. That segment introduced me to my long-time favorite comedians Godfrey, Tiffany Haddish and Chuck Nice. I wish they did it more often.
VH1 had a great thing going, and while it is giving a lot of employment to celebrities who may or may not be hot right now, it should have continued to take advantage of the gift it kept giving. All that’s left are some bits and pieces of its pop culture shows on Youtube, which I watch sometimes if I am having a nostalgia kick, but knowing the last known show was “The Greatest Songs of the ‘00s” makes me sad because I find myself wanting more of that VH1 again because it has lost its touch since then.
Now I sigh at the thought of hoping VH1 would give us a 100 Greatest Songs of the 2010s” It would be the perfect closure to what shaped my childhood.