Remember When MuchMusic Was A Music Channel?

As commercials for Much promote a new season of South Park and an array of syndicate shows culled from various other networks, it’s hard not to think back to the good old days, when Much was MuchMusic and their content was actually tied to music.

While the current Much line-up includes a whole lot of Degrassi, The Simpsons and Jimmy Kimmel replays from the previous day, people of a certain age (let’s say 25 and up) remember when syndicated shows like that were sporadic filler on a channel that served as the perfect background selection when you were doing homework, washing the dishes or just laying around the house doing nothing all that productive.

MuchMusic was a Canadian institution and introduced people to some of their favourite bands, exposed them to new styles of music and genres they’d never investigate on their own and so much more. It was original, constantly changing and an important part of the formative years of millions of Canadians. Though it may still draw in tons of viewers eager to watch the latest episode of Pretty Little Liars or Teen Wolf, it will always be the home of Electric Circus, The MuchMusic Countdown and Spotlight.

Now that Much has stopped being about music, it feels like a good time to reflect on some of the elements that made “The Nation’s Music Station” so amazing for so long.

1. VJs Making Good

He may have been “Rick the Temp” for a dozen years (at least it felt like it), but it’s pretty cool to see Rick Campenelli all growed up and continuing to host ET Canada. Hannah Simone has gone from hosting Much News segments to being an absolute smoke show as “Cece” on FOX’s New Girl. Countless others graduated to bigger, more prominent roles on other networks.

2. Strombo

You think we forgot about Canada’s boyfriend? Please. George Stroumboulopoulos did a four-year stint at Much that launched him to bigger and better, beginning with The Hour, which later became Stroumboulopoulos Tonight. Later this week, Strombo will debut as the new host of Hockey Night in Canada.

3. Much Video Dance Party

School dances generally sucked, but if you were lucky enough to get a Much Video Dance Party, it was an awesome experience. For whatever reason, flashing lights and your favourite videos playing on giant screens made dancing in front of your friends and that girl you liked whose locker was three down from yours acceptable.

4. The New Music

As much as watching videos in heavy rotation was a the staple of Much, it was also cool to look at music in a larger context at times and that’s where The New Music came in. It was a break from the compilation shows and countdowns that focused on societal, political and economic topics tethered together by music. It also may be where a certain Among Men contributor was first introduced to the works of Chuck Klosterman, for which he is eternally grateful.

5. Electric Circus

Here’s the thing: watching people dance on your television on a Friday night wasn’t great, but watching the idiots freeze themselves half to death standing outside, hoping to get in while wearing their favourite club attire was priceless. The fact that people literally never stopped dancing – even during interviews – was pretty impressive too.

6. Much VJ Search

Everyone knows someone that submitted a tape in hopes of being selected for the Much VJ Search. There was no set framework for when they would take place – it wasn’t an annual or bi-annual thing – but whenever those ads started running telling you to submit a video, just about everyone gave applying some thought.

7. Fromage

Ed the Sock could be grating and completely unfunny at times, but there was something about the annual look back at the absolute worst music videos and interviews that was priceless. This Christmas season staple was the precursor to shows like Video on Trial.

8. Spotlight

A daily 30-minute collection of the best videos from one artist and you never knew who was going to be featured. Even when TV Guide or the cable guide said who it was going to be, they were never right. You’d get all excited thinking it was going to be Michael Jackson or LL Cool J and it would end up being Paula Abdul… but you’d still watch anyway.

9. Genre-based Shows

Regardless of what type of music you liked, there was a show on MuchMusic dedicated to your tastes. From Rap City and French Kiss to The Wedge and Life on Venus Ave., you could find a block of time that delivered the videos you were looking for from the artists you liked no matter what.

10. Canadian Content

How many people got turned on to Canadian acts that wouldn’t otherwise have had an outlet if not for “The Nation’s Music Station” giving them a chance. Sure Canadian Content regulations played a part in this, but from megastars like The Barenaked Ladies, Our Lady Peace and Sarah McLachlain to smaller acts like Treblecharger, Gob and Swollen Members, there are a lot of people that found this acts and countless others courtesy of Much.

11. Intimate and Interactive

The I&I series was great because it was equal parts interview and performance. For every one that sucked (Hi Spice Girls!) there were two that kicked ass like Green Day or The Tragically Hip or No Doubt or Billy Talent.

12. Egos & Icons

It was like an hour-long edition of spotlight, but they always featured great artists. For anyone that wanted to know more about the musicians they heard on the radio and saw on MuchMusic, this was a solid entry point.

13. Videos

Thanks to YouTube and Vevo, you can cue up any video you want just about any time you want to watch it now, but back in the day, you had to leave MuchMusic playing and hope to catch the one or two clips you were waiting to see. The weekly MuchMusic Countdown was always a good bet to catch the biggest videos of the day, but every so often they would skip over the one video you were waiting to see and play something awful instead, like “Steal My Sunshine” by Len.

14. Sook-Yin Lee and Namugenyi Kiwanuka

MuchMusic always felt like a strong representation of who we were as a country, so it was awesome to see Sook-Yin and Nam, two strong, intelligent, entertaining, witty females from different backgrounds kicking ass and taking names as VJs.

15. MuchDance and Big Shiny Tunes

Growing up, you had at least one of each of these compliation CDs in your collection, even if you refuse to admit it now. In addition to always having a couple Canadian acts as part of the lineup, there were always a couple smaller artists or bands that you might not have heard of before that got dropped on there like Tantic. Thanks for that, Much. Thanks a lot.

16. Speaker’s Corner

There was just something amazing about watching the various random clips people would tape in this little booth on the corner of Queen Street in Toronto. It was like an Internet comment section crossed with Craigslist, blended together with YouTube and it only cost a dollar. It was so amazing that the videos ended up getting cut together into an hour-long show on CityTV on Sundays that always happened to be on whenever you woke up from an afternoon nap on the couch after the early NFL game.

17. Much More Music

It started as the “adult alternative” to MuchMusic, playing more “grown up” music. Then they started added content from VH1 and more Top 40 (minus the rap) and now it’s called M3 and doesn’t have much to do with music whatsoever. But here’s the thing: there was a time when there was enough demand for music television that we had two differnet channels catering to our needs.

18. Test Pattern

The original game show of MuchMusic, Test Pattern was hosted by Dan Gallagher and featured a lightning round where you had to slap the buzzer that was on the motorcycle helmet on your head. It wasn’t entirely focused on music and it was pretty random, but it was pretty entertaining too, which is why you can still catch reruns of the show on GameTV.

19. All the Shows Borrowed from Other Music Channels

Listen – MuchMusic was great, but part of what made it great were all the different stuff they showed from MTV or VH1 like “Diary” or “Storytellers” and stuff like that. While there were Americans that wanted to watch Much because it played more videos, there were always Canadians that wanted to see some of the shows that those American channels were producing. “You think you know, but you have no idea…”

20. “Too Hot”

Jagged Little Pill may have launched her into superstardom, but if you grew up on MuchMusic, you knew Alanis Morissette long before “You Oughta Know.” She wasn’t some edge, alt-rock chick – she was the bouncy Canadian pop star behind “Too Hot,” known simply as Alanis. Big shout out to How I Met Your Mother for weaving an Alanis angle into Robin Scherbatsky, a.k.a. Robin Sparkles.

E. Spencer Kyte

E. Spencer Kyte

E. Spencer Kyte is a freelance journalist based in Abbotsford, British Columbia, where he lives with his wife and dog. In addition to his work here, he writes about sports for Complex Canada and covers the UFC for various outlets. His mom also still tells him what to do on a regular basis, even though he’s nearly 40. He tweets from @spencerkyte.

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