I Want My (Network) TV! – Music Video Premieres in Prime Time

This past Wednesday, while I was listening to The Retro Network’s WIZARDS podcast, something in the “Wave Rider” segment tickled my eardrums with recognition. It also reminded me of a big trend that occurred primarily in the 1990s: Music video premieres during prime-time network television. In some cases, the videos were even worked into the programs!

Here is a list of seven music video premieres that were broadcast on network television:

“Like a Prayer” Madonna (Pepsi) – March 2, 1989 

The Pepsi commercial itself is innocent. Madonna is sitting in a chair watching a home movie of a birthday party from when she was a little girl. Young Madonna and Adult Madonna somehow make eye contact with each other and we’re brought into a fantasy sequence where Madonna is dancing on a street. Watching it now, it reminded me of Blondie’s video for “Rapture”. 

Both Young Madonna and Adult Madonna watch each other on television in the commercial. Some of the Young Madonna scenes feature her holding a doll. The commercial was fairly innocent with no indication of the controversial content that would be found in the video. 

The next day’s premiere of Madonna’s actual “Like a Prayer” video changed everything. People were upset about the religious and racial symbolism in the video. I didn’t really understand what was going on in the video when I was young, but watching it now, the symbolism used makes sense within its context.  

I did get the Like a Prayer CD. My mom bought it for me while I was camping with my Girl Scout troop. I still have this one. 

“Do The Bartman”- The Simpsons (FOX) – December 6, 1990 

The premiere of the “Do The Bartman” video was a huge event in early December of 1990 when it followed the “Bart The Daredevil” episode of The Simpsons. The next day, everyone was either talking about it or singing it at the bus stop, on the bus, at the pencil sharpener, or between classes. 

Also, The Simpsons Sing The Blues CD made a lot of Christmas wish lists that year.  Since the album was also released in early December, a lot of budgets were tied up in holiday gifts so we had to be content with hearing “Do The Bartman” on the radio. 

On New Year’s Day that year (and several more years afterwards) we went CD shopping, but that’s another article. This was not my CD though, my brother got it and it went with him when he moved out. 

“Summertime” DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince (NBC) – May 1991 

I remember watching this video after an episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. When I did a search for it online, I can’t find much about it. IMDb has May 1, 1991 as the release date, so I’m wondering if the video could have followed the season finale for that season. 

I listen to the song at the beginning of every summer. When I was younger, I thought the events he lists in the song all happened in the same day. I didn’t really understand the concept of a composite back then, but the people dancing in the video seemed to be having a good time. 

I still have my cassingle of this one, but I don’t remember which store I bought it from. 

“Black or White” Michael Jackson (FOX) – November 14, 1991 

Like the Madonna Pepsi commercial,  the beginning of this video was innocent. George Wendt yelling at Macaulay Culkin to turn down his stereo and telling him he’s “wasting his time” with the music. 

My favorite part of this video was the face morphing technology which was groundbreaking at the time along with Michael’s shapeshifting into the panther. After that, there was some really good dancing but things get pretty weird toward the end. 

“Nothin’ My Love Can’t Fix” Joey Lawrence (NBC) – February 9, 1993

This was the song mentioned in the “Wave Rider” segment of the most recent WIZARDS podcast and reminded me of all the other videos in this article. I remember having this CD. I remember buying it and really liking how a piece of fabric on it exactly matched Joey’s vest. The vest and the fabric were in warm browns that went with Joey’s hair and brown eyes. Unfortunately, when I went to my CD rack to look for it, it wasn’t there. 

There were some CD’s that I sold at a used CD store, but there were others that got scratched and started skipping. I don’t know which one of these categories that CD fell into, but I don’t have it anymore. Fortunately, I did find the video on You Tube.

Unlike “Do The Bartman” and “Summertime”, which appeared independently of The Simpsons and Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Joey’s video was incorporated into the episode of Blossom when his character, “Joey Russo” dreams about making a video. His father on the show is a musician, so this actually makes sense on some level. 

“Right Kind of Love” Jeremy Jordan (Beverly Hills 90210) (FOX) – December 1992 

When Beverly Hills 90210 was a couple seasons into their run, they released a soundtrack with the music they would be featuring during the third season of the show. Past seasons featured music by artists like R.E.M. and The Rembrants, but the soundtrack focused on up and coming artists of the time. One of the first songs to be released was “Right Kind of Love”.  I forgot how nice the beginning of this song sounds. I love close harmonies. 

Over the past few months, I’ve come to appreciate simplicity. Like some of the other videos in this article, the lead singer is hanging out with a group of his friends and there are young people dancing. Apparently, there’s another version of the video featuring Tori Spelling. 

“How Do You Talk to an Angel?” The Heights (Fox) – September 5, 1992 

I think I only watched the pilot of this. Not so much for lead singer Jamie Walters as for cast member Charlotte Ross, who played “Eve Donovan” on my soap opera, Days of Our Lives. I also recognized actor Alex Dèsert, who would go on to be a regular on the TV series Becker alongside Ted Danson. 

This is another video where the lead singer is hanging out with his friends and they’re having a good time, but the good time doesn’t last as the show gets cancelled after “How Do You Talk to an Angel” loses its number one spot on Billboard’s Hot 100.

Walters joined the cast of Beverly Hills 90210 as Donna Martin’s (Tori Spelling) boyfriend., Ray Pruitt. Unfortunately, the Ray character abused Donna and fans sent in hate mail which resulted in Walters getting written out of the show. 

During the 1990’s, music video premieres moved from basic cable to network prime time, often featuring the stars of their preceding programs. Sometimes controversy accompanied the videos, other times they were fun party songs, but they were always event television and discussed in detail the next day. 

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About Karen Flieger 21 Articles
I was born in the late 1970’s, spent my childhood in the 1980’s, and my pre-teen and teen years in the 1990’s. I graduated from Kennesaw State University in 2001 with a B.A. in English. I collect various forms of media (books, music, movies, and television shows) as well as plush toys, dolls, and Funko figures.