On this day in 1981, MTV premiered on cable television.
MTV plays a pivotal role in Monkees history. On February 23, 1986 MTV aired a weekend marathon of The Monkees television series. The reaction was overwhelming and birthed what would become a major resurgence for The Monkees just as the band was set to reunite. "We've never received such a volume of mail," MTV's general manager Tom Freston told Rolling Stone in September 1986 about the initial response to the marathon airing of episodes. "We were dumbfounded by the whole thing." The perfect storm brewing around the reunion was completed just as the music of The Monkees was being made available again. In 1985, Rhino Records licensed the rights to the band's original nine albums and immediately began a reissue program, even before MTV started to air the series.
A press conference was held on May 28, 1986 at the Hard Rock Cafe in New York City to officially announce that The Monkees would embark on an extensive summer tour. Original MTV VJ Alan Hunter was a part of that event.
The Monkees’ 20th Anniversary Reunion Tour of 1986 became one of the biggest grossing tours of that year and the hottest ticket of the summer, having sold out nearly every date on the itinerary. The tour was originally booked in small amphitheaters for a period of six weeks. But after the heavy promotion by MTV, a new generation of Monkees fans was born and the demand for tickets increased dramatically. As a result, the tour quickly stormed into larger capacity arenas and stadiums, keeping the trio on the road for an incredible six months.
“That Was Then, This Is Now” became the band's new single and a video for it was filmed at the Great Arena in Jackson, New Jersey on July 25. The video received heavy airplay on MTV, making the song a Billboard Top 20 hit in the summer of 1986.
After the initial success of the "Pleasant Valley Sunday" marathon of The Monkees television series on February 23, MTV started to air the series in March twice a day, seven days a week. By April, the show was being screened three times a day. Micky and Peter acted as guest VJs on MTV in early May, and another marathon of episodes occurred in June.
By the time the video for "That Was Then, This Is Now" debuted on MTV in early August, Monkeemania was in full swing again. The trio (along with their touring band) later performed at the 1986 MTV Video Music Awards on September 5.
With the tour still adding dates in the fall, MTV brought in Micky, Davy, and Peter to host another extended airing of episodes in October.
To cap off the relationship between The Monkees and MTV in 1986, all four Monkees took part in filming a Christmas medley music video for MTV in early December. The video featured Michael Nesmith as "Santa Claus" and was in heavy rotation on the cable network during the holiday season.
Unfortunately, by early 1987, the relationship between The Monkees and MTV had soured:
The breakdown between MTV and the group would seemingly have an impact on future Monkees activities in the '80s, much to their detriment:
Monkees Farewell Tour
Dolenz sings Nesmith