The MTV of today hardly resembles the music-heavy offering that premiered three decades ago, but one thing hasn’t changed — its reputation for jaw-dropping moments.
Whether we’re talking risqué music videos, genre-making reality shows, unpredictable awards presentations or any number of unguarded celebrity appearances, there’s no denying that a steady stream of shockers has helped the cable staple make its mark.
Now, with the network poised to celebrate its 30th birthday on Aug. 1, it's the perfect time to look back at some of the over-the-top action.
Topping the list and crossing the boundaries of good taste is none other than Howard Stern's dimply-cheeked, codpiece-clad antihero, Fartman. Even Stern's loyal listeners, who were familiar with the full range of radio sounds the recurring character was capable of, had to be stunned when the shock jock brought the flatulent caped crusader to life for the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards.
The image of Fartman descending from the rafters and using his, er, special power to destroy a podium — and give presenter Luke Perry a breezy greeting — set the bar for future VMA gags.
Of course, not every shocker is entertaining. In fact, one surprising broadcast left viewers so taken aback, many of them called authorities to report what they'd seen.
In September of 2010, MTV's docu-series "Teen Mom" aired footage of a violent Amber Portwood physically attacking the father of her child during a heated dispute — repeatedly.
While it wasn't the first time Portwood had hit Gary Shirley on the show, this incident later led to her arrest on charges of domestic violence. She pled guilty in June 2011.
Kanye will let you finish
Kanye West would likely dispute his third-place entry on this list (and then push Fartman aside and explain why this moment was the most shocking of all time), but too bad. He earned it.
In 2009, just as Taylor Swift was accepting her very first VMA, the rapper charged the stage mid-speech to school the crowd about the artist he believed should have walked away with the honor — Beyonce. And sure, West had a good point about the Best Female Video award, but that probably wasn't the moment to make it. The action left Swift, Beyonce and the audience speechless.
It's Britney, b----
Oh, MTV Video Music Awards, you could fill this list on your own!
Yes, even ignoring stunts like Eminem vs. Bruno's backside or Eminem vs. Moby vs. Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, there's still room for another VMA entry. It's the comeback that came back to bite Britney Spears.
After a very public personal decline, a not-so-spotlight-ready Spears hit the stage to show off her moves, which included walking, sort of dancing and lip-syncing to at least a few lyrics.
Tom Green, MTV's former gross-out king, gave viewers a gag-inducing surprise on one episode of "The Tom Green Show."
While unsuspecting shoppers looked on, Green brought a cow into a grocery and then treated himself to a mouthful of the freshest milk possible — straight from the tap, so to speak. M-ew!
A shocking honorable mention goes to that unexpected on-air smooch Michael Jackson and his then-bride Lisa Marie Presley