"Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll." Those words, spoken by co-creator John Lack, marked the beginning of MTV: Music Television on Aug. 1, 1981. The cable network's music-oriented programming featured news and music videos hosted by "video jockeys," or VJs, who promised viewers, "you'll never look at music the same way again." They were right. The music industry quickly realized the promotional potential of music videos and began pouring money into their production. This focus was evidenced by Michael Jackson's 1983 video "Thriller," a 14-minute feature directed by John Landis that included a storyline, dialogue and guest appearances.
Capitalizing on its newfound success, MTV expanded its programming throughout the 1980s. In September 1984 it held the first MTV Video Music Awards, featuring Madonna's provocative rendition of "Like a Virgin" in which she rolled around the stage in a wedding dress. The network launched its first non-musical program in 1987 entitled "Remote Control," an irreverent pop-trivia quiz show that featured Adam Sandler as a recurring contestant. Then in 1988 "YO! MTV Raps" hit the airwaves, popularizing hip-hop music by bringing it to a mainstream audience. Finally, MTV got into the history business with its "MTV Rockumentary" series, which examined the careers of artists from R.E.M. and Aerosmith to Michael Jackson and the B-52s. While the 1992 program "Real World" opened the door for today's extensive reality show programming, the 1980s will always be remembered as MTV's most music-centered decade.