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"[The 20th Anniversary Show] was like we pulled the underwear out of our drawer—some of it dirty and used—and exposed it to the world. MTV at its finest is that kind of train wreck—and that’s what I thought the night represented."
MTVAN TOFFLER
MTV/MTV2 President Van Toffler Changes Our Channel
On the heels of MTV’s 20th Anniversary bash on Aug. 1, the network presents its annual biggest night—the 18th Annual MTV Video Music Awards on Thursday, Sept. 6. The event returns for a second time to the Metropolitan Opera House at New York City’s Lincoln Center. It is also round two for Van Toffler as MTV/MTV2 President. For the second consecutive year, he’s the man pulling the strings, overseeing the show’s mix of mayhem, oddities and memorable moments.

The Awards gala is only the most obvious of the network’s impact on, and response to, youth and music culture. In addition to the VMAs, Toffler discusses this summer’s relaunch of MTV.com, MTV2’s growing reach to 35 million-plus homes by year’s end, new programming, music trends and staying on top of the tastes—and tendencies—of today’s multitasking teens and twentysomethings. Click here for the full interview.

On surprises or themes planned for this year:
The only theme is "train wreck," and we should find that in every aspect of the show. The 20th Anniversary show was a bit of that—going from Cyndi Lauper, Billy Idol and Boy George to Method Man, Sum 41 and Busta Rhymes. That’s the kind of mayhem we want to carry through in the VMAs. You have so many great stories out there this year, from the Bush daughters to Clinton’s arrival in Harlem, from Michael Jordan making a comeback to some of our favorite superstars taking a little time off in rehab, Axl coming back and Puff Daddy. Some of those stories might be represented on our stage and, of course, you’ve got Christopher Walken, who is a trend in and of himself.

On the 20th Anniversary show influencing the lineup and planning for the VMAs:
MTV20 was a look ahead and a look back. We opened with Sum 41; Billy Idol did "Rebel Yell"; we had a superstar hip-hop medley; Aerosmith, Janet Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, Boy George and even Huey Lewis presented. It was an ugly mess that brought together our current-day superstars and heritage artists who made MTV sometimes beautiful and sometimes ugly through our history. The VMAs are more current in that they celebrate the stories of this particular year and those bands that are breaking through today.

On taking fire for Eminem and Jackass:
MTV has standards and practices and airs its programs responsibly. There’s no gratuitous violence, homophobic or misogynistic content. Having said that, it’s incumbent upon us to lead and reflect the culture of youth and to play the music they like and with which they emotionally connect. Without any candy-coating, we need to present programming that’s real, honest and reflects what it’s like to be young. That’s what "Jackass" is. That is what a lot of our true-life specials are about. Violence, discrimination, drug abuse…

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