Bright colors, bubble gum pop, and Beanie Babies are just some of the things that come to mind about the 1990s. If you’re looking for a nostalgic trip back to those days, VICE TV has you covered with Dark Side of the ’90s. The newest series spun off from the popular Dark Side of the Ring and Dark Side of Football examines some of the decade’s most infamous moments and memorable personalities.
And who better to take us through this newsworthy era than Mark McGrath, the Sugar Ray lead singer who helped put frosted tips on the map. Of course, the star expanded his résumé in the years since with stints on reality shows, movie spots and hosting gigs. But McGrath is still connected to his roots on the regular. His signature voice can be heard on SiriusXM’s ‘90s on 9.
TV Insider spoke with McGrath to further reminisce and discuss what’s to uncover over the 10-episode season.
How did this opportunity come about?
Mark McGrath: It’s kind of ironic. I do these Cameos, and VICE TV actually has an ironic sense of humor. I was a secret Santa gift for a bunch of VICE folks as a Cameo. So, I met these wonderful people from the production staff, these smart forward-thinking people on this Zoom Cameo.
They said, “Would you ever be interested in doing something for VICE?” I said, “Sure.” I don’t know if it came from that, but about two months later I did get an email about narrating Dark Side of the ’90s. They did an incredible job on the wrestling series. They really dig deep into the production, so I was honored to be asked.
How was it looking back, especially at the famed Viper Room?
The Viper Room in particular had an effect on me when I was narrating. If you let it go two seconds longer, you’d see me in a lot of those paparazzi shots. I was right there. You see Shifty Shellshock from Crazy Town. He looks like a baby there. Tommy Lee and Pamela [Anderson], I was friends with them. I met my now wife at The Viper Room. I knew everyone. I knew the door guy and Adam Duritz [of Counting Crows] being the bartender there.
I felt like I was narrating a part of my life. There was Robin Antin, who was putting together the Pussycat Dolls at The Viper Room. I remember her sewing the costumes. I thought that was cute, that Pussycat Dolls thing—it turned out to be this big R&B girl group a few years later. There are so many ironic, personal bullseyes for me in The Viper Room episode. That one got me very emotional. I went back and asked my wife to marry me at The Viper Room too. I think it was meant for me to narrate this show. I’m not the best narrator in the world, but this project was drawing me to it and vice versa.
What are some of the other standout episodes for you?
I went into the Beanie Babies episode not thinking much about it. I didn’t know there was counterfeiting and murder involved with the Beanie Babies. We touch on the talk show explosion with Ricki Lake and Jenny Jones, which ended in a murder. Dark Side of the ’90s is a lot darker than what you see when you see the subjects. The episode on boy bands, the technology episode—it’s all incredible how well done it is. The 1990s was the last decade really defined as a decade—with an identity with music and how technology came abroad and changed the game. I can’t wait for people to sink their teeth into it. You’ll be floored. It’s fascinating.
And Sugar Ray is still on the road with bands including Smash Mouth and the Gin Blossoms. There is such a staying power for this decade.
I’m so grateful that for all these years I still get to play music for a living. The highlights don’t look as lame as they used to in the 1990s. The Hammer pants don’t look as lame as they used to. As the generation circles out, people look back to it as something cool. We look back at decades through rose-colored glasses. That’s what we’re going through. There are younger people attending the shows now more than ever.
At the end of the day, people are still coming because of the songs. They used to come to see me because I used to take my shirt off. If I took my shirt off now, they’d go home and never come back. It’s all about the songs now, bro. We have three or four songs that really connected with people. Nostalgia, if you look it up in the dictionary, there are all these beautiful adjectives. It’s a compliment calling us a nostalgic act. It means you had a wonderful memory when you think of some music by Sugar Ray. It’s really a fortunate position to be in.
You’ve parlayed your music success into other opportunities. Just recently you’ve been hanging on The Talk for a few episodes as a panelist alongside just-announced first male co-host Jerry O’Connell. How do you feel things shaped up for you since the 1990s?
Jerry is such a natural at that job. The guy makes me laugh so radically. This band Sugar Ray has afforded me all these opportunities. Because of the band, I was on Celebrity Big Brother and on The Masked Singer. I somehow kept it from my kids, and they were blown away when I was on that. I get to do things like The Talk every now and then. I’m super grateful.
There are a lot of opportunities if you’re willing to take them. There are people who join bands and that’s their thing, but I love the entertainment business. I love Hollywood and movies. I wish I was a better actor. I was in Sharknado, 2, 3 and 6. That shows you my skill set. I love getting these chances to do these things that are not only fun to do but also help the band. Add Dark Side of the ’90s, and life is good. I can’t complain.
Dark Side of the ’90s, Thursdays, 10/9c, VICE TV