“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.
Over the years, Pinfield said that Jack White, Vampire Weekend, Michael C. Hall (“Dexter”) and Jonathan Togo (“CSI: Miami”) have all come to him and expressed their admiration for “120 Minutes,” which ran on MTV from 1986 to 2000 and on MTV2 from 2001 to 2003.
“Thomas [Mars] from Phoenix was saying he watched me all of the time on MTV France,” Pinfield said. “I didn’t realize at the time how many countries the show was being broadcast in!”
“120 Minutes” was created by journalist Dave Kendall, who served as the show’s original host when it began airing 25 years ago in March 1986. The two-hour program was home to music videos from a wide-ranging selection of underground artists who had few other mainstream outlets and whose passionate fans hungered for every bit of content they could find. From shoe-gaze to indie rock to imported Britpop to the beginnings of grunge, it all had a place on “120 Minutes.” Morrissey and KMFDM videos sat alongside XTC and the Replacements.
Future megastars like Smashing Pumpkins, Oasis and Radiohead earned early airings. The video for Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” had its world premiere on “120 Minutes.”
“I got a text recently from Patrick [Carney] from the Black Keys, and he said, ’I just want you to know how much “120 Minutes” and you turning me on to so many great bands changed my life,’ ” Pinfield said. “It was an amazing, heartfelt text. And that kind of stuff just blows me away. It makes me feel so good about it.
“I know how much the show meant to me, and it means so much to know how much it meant to other people, too. I was a fan of the show before I ever hosted it,” Pinfield added. “And so many people said they missed the show.”
A number of MTV VJs had a chance to host the program at various points, from the late and great J.J. Jackson to Alan Hunter, Kevin Seal, Dave Holmes and Chris Booker. But Kendall, Pinfield (who hosted from 1995 to 1999) and Jim Shearer (who wrapped the show’s last run from 2002 to 2003) are arguably the most identified with the program.
“There were a lot of great hosts on the show. Nothing but respect for all of them,” Pinfield pointed out. While he’s currently a DJ for New York’s WRXP, and has hosted other shows for MTV and VH1, served as as vice president of A&R for Columbia Records and more, he said, ” ’120’ has always been near and dear to my heart. I know people always identify me with that show. I’m proud of that. I’m blessed and honored.
“I’m always looking for new music; it’s never stopped for me,” he continued. “To talk about music, to turn people onto music — I’ve always joked that if I wasn’t able to do it on the radio and on television I’d probably be telling it to some guy sitting next to me at the park.”
Pinfield said that certain elements of the show’s new format are still being discussed but promised that it will combine location shooting, videos, interviews and possibly some live performances.
Pinfield acknowledged there are a lot more places for people to discover music these days than in the mid-’90s. But that’s all the more reason to bring back “120 Minutes” and to launch “120 Seconds” now. With so much information out there, there’s a need for intelligent organization, credible recommendations and general curation.
“Even with all the destinations that people have and all the ways they can be entertained, educated and find information, I think it always gets back to the fact that they still want a trustworthy place to go,” he said.