Remember that scene in Napoleon Dynamite where Uncle Rico buys a time machine online and tries to send himself back to his high school glory days of 1982? It obviously didn’t work, but watching these five minutes of MTV will make should make everyone briefly feel like they’re somehow pulled off Uncle Rico’s dream. There’s the occasional shot of original VJs Mark Goodman and J.J. Jackson goofing around, but this is mostly old MTV promos and awesomely vintage commercials.
There’s no exact date here, but considering there’s a commercial for Fast Times at Ridgemont High and talk of MTV’s one-year anniversary, we appear to be in late July or early August 1982. It was a time where MTV could show a rapid-fire montage of 16 contemporary pop stars without displaying a single black face. There’s also a great commercial for the Atari game Defender where a guy dressed like Rick Santorum plays the game while a pretty blonde woman clutches his arm and squeals with delight as he shoots down alien ships (though the joke comes at the end when we learn that somehow this non-male person is better at it).
This was near the peak of the golden age of arcade games, so a commercial for Oxy-10 is presented like a Space Invaders game where a box of the acne treatment shoots beams at pimples on a woman’s floating, disembodied head. Even a commercial for Apple Jacks incorporates an arcade game, though this time it’s pinball. We also get commercials for Hawaiian Punch, Doublemint gum and the promise of an upcoming 38 Special concert. Michael Jackson was just three months away from releasing Thriller, an event that would change MTV forever. But for right now, this was a land ruled by Journey, the Go-Go’s, Pat Benatar and Billy Joel — and the thought of spending more than $300 and two hours to make a video was laughable.