After its cancellation, MTV2 premiered a replacement show called Subterranean. A similar but separate MTV Classic program, also titled 120 Minutes, plays many classic alternative videos that were regularly seen on 120 Minutes in its heyday.
120 Minutes began on March 10, 1986. For the first ten years of 120 Minutes, viewers could see artists as varied as The Jesus and Mary Chain, Bronski Beat, New Order, The Replacements, The Verve, James, Slowdive, Weezer, Robyn Hitchcock, The Stone Roses, Oasis, 10,000 Maniacs, Obojeni Program, Blur, Butthole Surfers, Radiohead, KMFDM, Kate Bush, Ramones, XTC, Morrissey, The Smashing Pumpkins, Kitchens of Distinction, Sarah McLachlan, They Might Be Giants, Dinosaur Jr., Rage Against The Machine, Hüsker Dü, The Offspring, The Original Sins and Bad Religion. Nirvana's music video for "Smells Like Teen Spirit" received a world premiere on 120 Minutes, but soon proved so popular that the channel began to air it during its regular daytime rotation. For a time in the mid-1990s, a companion program called Alternative Nation aired every weeknight on MTV.
As time went on, and MTV found shows like The Real World immensely profitable, the show found its time slot pushed further back. As this was happening, the show's playlist was becoming more and more mainstream, playing the likes of Sum 41 and Staind, and the show was more frequently preempted (usually without any warning) for reruns of The Real World, Loveline, and Undressed before being removed from the airwaves in the summer of 2000. In 2001, the show returned to the airwaves on MTV2, where it returned to the style of music it was known for.
On May 4, 2003, the show was canceled with no formal announcement from MTV2. Jim Shearer, the current host at the time, shared the screen with the creator of 120 Minutes, Dave Kendall, as well as Matt Pinfield. The two "classic era" hosts shared their favorite videos from over the years (a full playlist for the final episode can be found here ), finally ending with the selection of Siouxsie and the Banshees's "Kiss Them for Me" as the final video aired.
120 Minutes made its return to MTV2 on July 31, 2011, at 1 am ET. Matt Pinfield reprised his role as the host and the show is formally called 120 Minutes with Matt Pinfield. The show initially aired on a monthly basis, but returned to a weekly format in late November 2011. It aired Fridays 6AM-8AM on MTV2. In addition to videos and interviews from alternative rock and indie rock artists, the show also featured music from underground hip hop, alternative hip hop, electronica, turntablism and dubstep artists. 120 Minutes also aired as a two-minute clip in a series called 120 Seconds which can be seen on MTVhive.com.
120 Minutes was taken off the MTV2 schedule without announcement. The last airing was February 1, 2013. A two-hour indie block called Artists to Watch took its slot during the same Friday 7AM-9AM ET block. However, that show has stopped airing as of May 2013.
In 1991, two CDs were released entitled "Never Mind the Mainstream: The Best of MTV's 120 Minutes" volumes 1 and 2 and featured many songs featured on the program. Artists included Red Hot Chili Peppers, Echo & the Bunnymen, Julian Cope, R.E.M., Sinéad O'Connor, Ministry, Depeche Mode, Sonic Youth and Violent Femmes. The title referenced the Sex Pistols' landmark album Never Mind the Bollocks, but fortuitously recalled the title of Nirvana's Nevermind album which was released near-simultaneously.
In 1998, an album was released by Atlantic Records featuring 14 of the best and most memorable live performances on 120 Minutes from the 1990s.