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35 Incredible Things That MTV Gave Us

From VJs and Reality TV to ‘Nirvana: Unplugged,’ celebrating the channel’s legacy on its 35th anniversary

Thirty-five years ago today, viewers tuned in to see an astronaut planting a flag on the moon — a colorful, ever-changing banner for something called "MTV" — and, whether they knew it or not, witnessed the beginning of a music-industry gamechanger. When you think of the channel today, of course, you probably think of shows involving teen moms, ironic Nineties meta-horror and Nick Cannon hanging out with his famous friends; music videos are now things you watch on YouTube. But in the three-plus decades since folks starting screaming "I want my MTV!", the network has left a lasting legacy of everything from memorable on-air personalities and mind-warping promos to selling musical styles and subcultures to the masses. It's turned oddball characters into pop-culture icons, been a key career-booster for everyone from Madonna to Britney and invented TV genres. It even helped sway a Presidential election.

In honor of MTV's anniversary — and the kick-off of MTV Classic, a cable channel devoted to the revisiting and rerunning programming from the network's glory days — we've singled out 35 things MTV has given us since that first Buggles clip ("Video Killed the Radio Star") helped the channel plant its flag on the pop landscape.

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The Miley Twerk

The VMAs are a great stage for breaking free of an innocent public image, and Miley Cyrus twerked her way out of her Disney history by emerging from a giant bear and grinding on Robin Thicke at the 2013 ceremony. With tongue out, hair buns in and and animal onesie on, the former Hannah Montana creeped her way across the stage while singing her hit "We Can't Stop." Then Thicke — seemingly cosplaying as Beetlejuice — joined just as Cyrus stripped down to a nude bikini as they gave a naughty delivery of "Blurrred Lines." Cries of cultural appropriation filled social media and Op-Ed pages for days, but regardless, Cyrus' appearance did the trick: She immediately shed her teenage image in seconds, reminding everyone that MTV has long been the perfect platform for pop stars to shed their old skins. BS

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‘Liquid Television’

You probably know that before the rise of YouTube, MTV was your best source for music videos. But it was also your best source for mind-bending animation: From 1991 to 1994, an era before animated clips went viral on Monday mornings, they had a showcase on Sunday nights. Liquid Television was the first place anyone saw Beavis and Butt-Head, but its defining star was Aeon Flux, the impossibly leggy secret agent moving through a surreal landscape. Charlize Theron played her in a 2005 movie, but she was never meant to be rendered in imperfect human flesh. GE

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