Top 10 Late Night Music Video Shows

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Way back, before the days of VEVO and YouTube, there was actually television programming whose singular purpose was to present you music videos. At one time, MTV’s entire existence was also based on showing videos, but those days are long gone. For those of you who agree that the music video is an underappreciated art form, this list, of Top 10 Late Night Music Video Shows is for you:

10. Rock N America

In the mid-80’s, NBC tried to capitalize on the music video fad with this late night entry for less than accessible music. First hosted by comedian Rick Ducommun, radio personalities Frazier Smith and Russ Parr took over in season 2. The sketches that appeared between videos were barely above the production value of public access, but for those of you who love 80’s cheese, Rock N America’s videos are a must see. (Oh, and Fee Waybill of the Tubes liked to stop by and visit.)

9. The Max Headroom Show

Great Britain’s Channel 4 late night video program hosted by the computer generated Max Headroom (Matt Frewer in real life) only lasted 16 episodes. The videos were primarily British pop and American rock, but it was the biting comedy between the songs that was the primary draw. Starting in 1986, each episode had more of Max and less of videos until 1987, when Max spun off into his own American TV show Max Headroom: 20 Minutes into the Future. For about 4 years, Max was a cult of personality, found almost everywhere in pop culture; as a host, New Coke pitchman, and staring in his own show, song and movie. By 1990, he had disappeared entirely.

8. Uranium

When Headbanger’s Ball was cancelled in 2003, MuchMusic (MMUSA, now Fuse), attempted to jump into the heavy metal void. Aired in the evenings and re-run late at night, Uranium was okay: I think the show aired more commercials than actual content, but it was the host, Mistress Juliya that made the show a rousing success. Sorry to be so shallow, but the Canadian entry on this list is only differentiated from other metal shows by its feisty, beautiful host. A young, metal fan interviewing a bunch of immature heavy metal musicians makes for great television!

7. TVU

Geared toward Christian teens and young adults, TVU started in 2001 as a commercial free video music program on the Sky Angel and KTV networks. Airing through most of the wee hours of the night, TVU plays little of what would be classified as ‘Church Music,’ focusing instead on the underplayed genres of Christian metal, rock, & rap. When it comes to the love of a show’s pure content, it’s hard to beat the scrappy bunch that produces this show.

6. Friday Night Videos

In 1983, Friday Night Videos was born out of the ashes of the live music show the Midnight Special. When MTV was born in 1981, only a small portion of American households actually had cable TV. NBC had the bright idea to take the most popular songs of the day, air them on Friday nights with a guest host, and rake in the profits. Airing after the late night local news, FNV was arguably the most popular network video program ever when the lights went dark in 2002. For a show that aired for nearly 20 years, you certainly don’t hear too much about it anymore.

5. Night Flight

Night Flight wasn’t so much a music video show as a late night state of mind. Night Flight ran in its original form from 1981 to 1988, playing videos, cult films, short films, cartoons, documentaries, and really anything on the fringes of broadcasting. Cable’s USA Network had trouble defining its own existence and Night Flight help carve out the station’s niche. Airing 4 hours a night through the wee hours of the morning, Night Flight was named the top cable video show of the 80’s by both USA Today and TV Guide. I don’t know an insomniac who lived through the 80’s that wasn’t a fan.

4. Amp

Now it’s time to bash on MTV for a few minutes. “I want my MTV” is part of the American lexicon, but once MTV formed in 1981, they were already looking for more profits, like every other American corporation. It only took the station a few years to figure out that original programming drives more advertising dollars than music videos. So as scripted and reality shows began to clutter the network, MTV started airing themed music video shows. In 1997, MTV debuted Amp, geared toward electronic music. It aired monthly (more or less), primarily between 2am and 4am. MTV created something awesome, abused it, mishandled it, and cancelled it in 2001.

3. BET: Uncut

Probably NSFW


There have been dozens of rap shows, but none that had the courage (or the gall, depending on your point of view) to show the raunchiest, dirtiest, and filthiest rap videos uncut. Airing at 3 a.m. on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays in the late 00’s on BET, the show created a firestorm of controversy and was compared by some to soft core porn. The last episode was aired in 2006.

2. Headbangers Ball

Started on MTV in 1987, Headbangers Ball is the standard bearer of metal shows. Too bad the buffoons at MTV didn’t know how to treat it. The show almost didn’t survive its infancy with its un-metal host Adam Curry. Riki Rachtmen took the show to the peak of its popularity between 1990 and 1995 with a simple format: play metal videos, maybe interview a touring artist passing through town. Cancelled on MTV in 1995 and brought back on MTV2 in 2003, the serviceable Jamie Jasta of Hatebreed returned for the hosting duties. The show has aired at 11 pm, Midnight, 1.a.m., 3 a.m., and 4 a.m. The Ball is now on the web only. Really, how hard is it for a network called Music Television to play videos?

1. 120 Minutes

In 1986, MTV came up with the concept of 120 Minutes, mostly alternative videos played on college radio stations. Relegated to late night Sundays, 120 Minutes helped alternative music bubble up to the mainstream. When grunge broke, the show was on the cutting edge of the new musical phenomenon. By the late 90’s, pop had regained its throne and 120 Minutes was being pre-empted by re-runs of the Real World. As with all un-nurtured MTV shows, 120 Minutes was unceremoniously cancelled in 2003 and spun off into the even more abused show Subterranean, which pretty much aired randomly in the middle of the night. Last year 120 Minutes was reborn with the human music dictionary Matt Pinfield back at the helm.

What show did you watch? Let us know in the comments and we might add it to our…

TopTenz Late Night Music Video Shows Playlist

by Fred Hunt


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19 Comments

  1. AMP and Friday Night Videos were two of my favorite late night shows. FNV had a contest once and my sister and I filled out about 200 postcards to enter. By hand. We never heard anything from them. To this day I harbor deep, deep rage that I did not win that guitar or whatever. Hell if I could play the thing though, because I don’t know how.

  2. I used to watch Headbangers Ball… and it was sometimes embarrassing as Adam Curry seemed to know nothing about the subject matter (i.e. metal music).

  3. Hmmm, weird… or, come to think of it, not so weird. I made a comment about Headbangers Ball, and the comment doesn’t seem to have appeared here . I suppose it’s because I claimed the other day that Toptenz.net had borrowed some stuff from Cracked.com, and I became a “persona non grata” because of saying that. I’m pretty sure I was right, though, I have seen at least one list that I saw at Cracked.com first and a day or two later at Toptenz.net. It might have been a simple mistake, though, not conscious plagiarism. I would still like to be able to make comments on this excellent site, unless you are too mad at me.

    • Ugh.

      Would everyone, ParusMajor included, stop thinking they are being banned for imaginary slights against TopTenz.net? Read through the abuse the site and I have taken over the years. There are plenty of critical comments that are here to read. It is annoying and frustrating and a bit narcissistic when commenters say this. Let is go. The spam filter catches things, I don’t always know why a comment is put in the spam queue. Your comment was. I approved it. Please jump off this bandwagon of people that believe I ban people for comments. The only time I ban or put someone on a watch list is if they are verbally abusive or threatening (you know who you are) and you would usually see a personal email from me first with a warning, if I have your email.

      So, Parus, please continue to support, comment and read the site, but please, please, please stop thinking we are concerned about making you a “persona non grata” on our site for any comments you make, even if they are ludicrous and/or unsubstantiated.

      I receive lists months ahead of the time we publish them; so anything on Cracked.com you see, and then you see on our site soon after, wouldn’t be copied. Do you think we actually wait to write lists a day or two before publishing. Ha, ha!

      Now, is it possible a writer has made a similar list? Sure. Please email me anything you find that you believed was copied. As I replied to you before (yes, this is time #2 see our previous comment conversation – http://www.toptenz.net/top-10-facts-about-toptenz-4th-anniversary-edition.php#comment-30948) I will personally contact the writer in question and if they did copy or plagiarize, the list will be removed or rewritten and the writer will be dealt with. That is a promise. Duplicate content kills sites. I plan on Toptenz.net being around a long time.

      • “I receive lists months ahead of the time we publish them; so anything on Cracked.com you see, and then you see on our site soon after, wouldn’t be copied. Do you think we actually wait to write lists a day or two before publishing. Ha, ha!”

        Actually, don’t you think this might be the problem, sometimes? If it takes months for a list to be published, the author might get frustrated and offer the same list (maybe slightly altered) to another site? In that case it’s not the case of plagiarism, it’s more like the author cannibalizing his own work? Just a thought.

        • No, the author gets paid for the list and then begins to write for the next month. Most lists are up within 45 days, some much sooner, depends on our backlog. Do you think Cracked.com is publishing lists a week after submitted? Not bloody likely.

  4. Wow, Friday Night Videos, sure brings back memories! I can’t believe how music videos so consumed my life back in the day. I looked forward to new videos like people look forward to blockbuster movies. I loved how they always seemed to push the creative edge for videos, many with plots and themes like movies. Seems like most music videos are now all online, especially on Youtube.

  5. johnnycanuck on

    The Pepsi Power Hour was a live one-hour program that aired on the MuchMusic television channel in Canada from 1986 to 1991. It was first hosted by J.D. Roberts who went on to be a news anchor on CNN and is now on Fox News. It was unique in that it had many members of popular hard rock/metal bands host the show.

    • I remember this show but was it on late at night? I think maybe the Wedge or something might fit the criteria for this list better… let me know and I’ll add it to the list’s playlist on YouTube.

      I added Bombshelter Videos to the playlist because that is the one I used to watch – I used to set my Betamax player to tape it automatically at 3 or 4am so I could watch it. First place I saw a Sonic Youth video!

  6. Holy crap. Night Flight. We watched that faithfully, after getting home from the bars and clubs. I miss programming like that.

  7. You guys totally forgot (or were not aware of…) ABC’s “New York Hot Tracks” with first,Carlos De Jesus,then Darnell Williams and Debbie Morgan (from General Hospital).It was more “urban” than Friday Night Videos but occasionally played Hall and Oates,Teena Marie,George Michael, and New Kids On The Block.It can be seen,in parts,on YouTube now…

  8. The best was a live overnight show on Toronto’s CITY-TV that preceded the launch of Canada’s version of MTV – Muchmusic in 1985, called “City Limits”.

    Chris Ward was the host and one time a young, unknown Toronto comic named Mike Meyers, in the persona of Chris’ cousin “Wayne” showed up. Great stuff.

    There was a time when videos were so new and rare that not only did we stay up and watch them, if we couldn’t stay up we would tape them on the VCR to watch Sunday mornings

  9. I’m looking for the name of a music video show that was only late night in the early 70s not midnight rider can anybody help? they played it then tv went off for the night

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