A Look Back at MTV’s “Undressed”

by Howie Decker @HowardTheDeck

In 1999 I was finishing up my undergraduate degree, living with my girlfriend, going out drinking five nights a week.

Today, I’m not using that undergrad degree (or my Masters degree), I still live with my girlfriend (she shares my last name now), and I might go out drinking five nights a year.

Things have certainly changed for me over the last decade. MTV has also undergone some major changes. You see, in 1999 they still played music videos on MTV. When we weren’t watching them as our primary form of entertainment, we’d at least have them on in the background while playing a game of Risk or Star Wars Monopoly.

When the only MTV shows were shows about music videos

Watching music videos on MTV was the only way I would have possibly seen the advertisements for an upcoming original program on the network. Nowadays, there could be an upcoming show on MTV called “Howie Decker’s Fart Olympics (Happy Valentine’s Day sweetie!), and I’d have no idea because I haven’t watched one second of MTV programming in several years.

In 1999 we were teased with ads for upcoming MTV original programming, specifically a show called Undressed. The ads weren’t necessarily what piqued our interest, but when my then girlfriend/now wife and I caught the first few minutes of the pilot episode, we were hooked. Undressed was basically a younger, hipper, edgier night time soap opera; and it seemed nothing was off limits.

Created and executive produced by British director Roland JoffĂ©, Undressed ran on MTV from July 1999 through Summer 2002. They packed 6 seasons into three years, each season running at least 30 episodes, the final season airing 52. Undressed was an anthology, meaning different characters and storylines were presented each season and even from episode to episode within each season. The show was relationship-based, focusing on characters whose ages ranged from high school through mid-twenties. The series was on television’s front lines with regard to examining gay relationships and depicting sexual situations in a brazen and candid way. The show won the GLAAD Media Award in 2003.

MTV’s tagline for the show was “No Subject is Too Taboo”. Undressed was as addicting as it was shocking- and it had to be to keep viewers coming back 5 nights a week. In a way, I think the show being on every night added to it’s strong grip on us. If it had been a once-weekly show, some of its momentum may have been lost; and in the pre-DVR days, had we missed one ep we might have given up on trying to catch up and connect the dots (although I’m sure we could have assumed that someone stripped down to their underwear in any ep we missed).

In typical soap opera fashion, the show featured actors and actresses that had largely been unheard of. It’s interesting to go back through the show’s alumni and see how many of them have gone on to Hollywood success:

Christina Hendricks

Katie Sackhoff

Other notable Undressed Alumni:

Adam Brody

Sarah Lancaster

Autumn Reeser

Brandon Routh

Bret Harrison

Taran Killam

Bree Turner

Jay Hernandez

Chad Michael Murray

Rachelle Lefevre

Undressed began running in syndication on Logo in 2010.

Share your thoughts on MTV’s Undressed! Was it a guilty pleasure? Still won’t admit to watching it? Was it off of your radar completely? Let us know in the comments or on Facebook & Twitter!

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