120 Minutes began on March 10, 1986. For the first ten years of 120 Minutes, viewers could see artists as varied as The Jesus and Mary Chain, Bronski Beat, New Order, The Replacements, The Verve, James, Slowdive, Weezer, Robyn Hitchcock, The Stone Roses, Oasis, 10,000 Maniacs, Obojeni Program, Blur, Butthole Surfers, Radiohead, KMFDM, Kate Bush, Ramones, XTC, Morrissey, The Smashing Pumpkins, Kitchens of Distinction, Sarah McLachlan, They Might Be Giants, Dinosaur Jr., Rage Against The Machine, Hüsker Dü, The Offspring, The Original Sins and Bad Religion. Nirvana's music video for "Smells Like Teen Spirit" received a world premiere on 120 Minutes, but soon proved so popular that the channel began to air it during its regular daytime rotation. For a time in the mid-1990s, a companion program called Alternative Nation aired every weeknight on MTV.
As time went on, and MTV found shows like The Real World immensely profitable, the show found its time slot pushed further back. As this was happening, the show's playlist was becoming more and more mainstream, playing the likes of Sum 41 and Staind, and the show was more frequently preempted (usually without any warning) for reruns of The Real World, Loveline, and Undressed before being removed from the airwaves in the summer of 2000. In 2001, the show returned to the airwaves on MTV2, where it returned to the style of music it was known for.
On May 4, 2003, the show was canceled with no formal announcement from MTV2. Jim Shearer, the current host at the time, shared the screen with the creator of 120 Minutes, Dave Kendall, as well as Matt Pinfield. The two "classic era" hosts shared their favorite videos from over the years (a full playlist for the final episode can be found here ), finally ending with the selection of Siouxsie and the Banshees's "Kiss Them for Me" as the final video aired.
120 Minutes made its return to MTV2 on July 31, 2011, at 1 am ET. Matt Pinfield reprised his role as the host and the show is formally called 120 Minutes with Matt Pinfield. The show initially aired on a monthly basis, but returned to a weekly format in late November 2011. It currently airs Fridays 6AM-8AM on MTV2. In addition to videos and interviews from alternative rock and indie rock artists, the show also features music from underground hip hop, alternative hip hop, electronica, turntablism and dubstep artists. 120 Minutes also airs as a two-minute clip in a series called 120 Seconds which can be seen on MTVhive.com.
120 Minutes was taken off the MTV2 schedule without announcement. The last airing was February 1, 2013. A two-hour indie block called Artists to Watch took its slot during the same Friday 7AM-9AM ET block. However, that show has stopped airing as of May 2013.
The following MTV VJs hosted 120 Minutes on a regular basis.J.J. Jackson (1986)
Martha Quinn (1986)
Alan Hunter (1986)
Downtown Julie Brown (1980s)
Adam Curry (1987)
Carolyne Heldman (1980s)
Kevin Seal (1987-1989)
Dave Kendall (1989–1992)
Lewis Largent (1992–1995)
Matt Pinfield (1995–1999; 2011–2012)
Dave Holmes (1999–2000)
Jancee Dunn (2001)
Chris Booker (2001–2002)
Jim Shearer (2002–2003)
In 1991, two CDs were released entitled "Never Mind the Mainstream: The Best of MTV's 120 Minutes" volumes 1 and 2 and featured many songs featured on the program. Artists included Red Hot Chili Peppers, Echo & the Bunnymen, Julian Cope, R.E.M., Sinéad O'Connor, Ministry, Depeche Mode, Sonic Youth and Violent Femmes. The title referenced the Sex Pistols' landmark album Never Mind the Bollocks, but fortuitously recalled the title of Nirvana's Nevermind album which was released near-simultaneously.
1. Red Hot Chili Peppers - Higher Ground
2. Soul Asylum – Sometime To Return
3. The Stone Roses – Fools Gold (Single Edit)
4. The Mission UK – Wasteland
5. Bob Mould – See A Little Light (CD Bonus Track)
6. The Church – Under The Milky Way
7. Cocteau Twins – Carolyn's Fingers (CD Bonus Track)
8. Julian Cope - World Shut Your Mouth
9. Sinéad O'Connor – Mandinka
10. Sonic Youth – Kool Thing
11. Robyn Hitchcock & The Egyptians – Balloon Man
12. World Party – Put The Message In The Box (CD Bonus Track)
13. XTC – Dear God
14. They Might Be Giants - Ana Ng
15. Camper Van Beethoven – Eye Of Fatima (Pt. 1)
16. Modern English – I Melt With You (CD Bonus Track)
1. R.E.M. – Orange Crush
2. Public Image Ltd. – This Is Not A Love Song
3. Ramones – Do You Remember Rock 'N' Roll Radio?
4. X – Burning House Of Love (CD Bonus Track)
5. Ministry – Stigmata
6. Morrissey – Everyday Is Like Sunday
7. The Jesus And Mary Chain – Head On (CD Bonus Track)
8. Echo And The Bunnymen – The Killing Moon
9. Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart
10. New Order – The Perfect Kiss
11. Depeche Mode – Personal Jesus
12. The Sugarcubes – Birthday (CD Bonus Track)
13. Hüsker Dü – Could You Be The One?
14. Faith No More – We Care A Lot
15. Violent Femmes – Gone Daddy Gone
16. Wire – Eardrum Buzz (CD Bonus Track)
In 1998, an album was released by Atlantic Records featuring 14 of the best and most memorable live performances on 120 Minutes from the 1990s.
- Oasis – "Supersonic"
- Morphine – "Honey White"
- Porno For Pyros – "Kimberly Austin"
- Evan Dando – "It's About Time"
- P.J. Harvey – "C'mon Billy"
- Weezer – "Undone – The Sweater Song"
- Violent Femmes – "Kiss Off"
- They Might Be Giants – "Particle Man"
- Sex Pistols – "Pretty Vacant"
- Bad Religion – "American Jesus"
- Victoria Williams with Lou Reed – "Crazy Mary"
- Björk – "Aeroplane"
- The Verve Pipe – "Villains"
- Radiohead – "Fake Plastic Trees"