Tuesday, September 16, 2008

TRL Heading for Retirement

Yes, it was still on.

TRL will officially be saying sayonara in November, after 10 years on the air. The show has been limping along the last several years, with a revolving cast of VJs, ever-younger acts, and odd timeslots. Designed to capture teenagers, the show started in 1998 from a meld of MTV Live and Total Request, two shows nobody watched. Carson Daly inexplicably became the guy with the coolest friends in the world, despite being incredibly dull. Unlike legions of young'uns who would love to be MTV VJs (many of whom appeared on TRL for their "I Wanna Be a VJ" contest), he either wanted to be a priest or a professional golfer, two deadly boring things for an MTV viewer.

Total Request Live's popularity is linked to the teen pop boom; both the show and the stars it created--Britney Spears, *NSYNC, Eminem, Fred Durst--fueled the maniacal teen-centered culture of the late '90s and early '00s. It was a symbiotic relationship; neither side would have done as well without the other.

Eminem, one of the show's mainstays back in its heyday, lampooned TRL frequently, in "White America" and in many of his videos. A version of TRL was mocked on Saturday Night Live, with Jimmy Fallon infamously quipping "Hello, I'm Carson Daly and I'm a massive tool." It also spawned BET's most popular show, 106th & Park.

TRL was no American Bandstand, but it became the de facto destination for actors and musicians to stop and pimp their work, taking a few pictures in the photo booth for posterity.

What's most notable might be that the show managed to hang on so long, even after most of the original acts showcased dropped out of the limelight. TRL was such a basic concept, easily fitting in with the realities of the new century by being user-friendly before that term was applied so liberally. The show increasingly edited videos down to nothingness, even forgoing some altogether, and while it gave a VERY skewed interpretation of what was popular in the US, it tapped into a certain teenage sensibility. The stats were interesting, and the idea of retiring a video meant that the countdown would never be dominated solely by one or two acts, though it sometime seemed that way. Apparently though, as the internet became increasingly sophisticated, the reason to vote for videos waned, and the structure behind the show changed.

New Yorkers knew to stay away from the MTV studios in Time Square during certain times of the day--notably immediately after school. In the summer, TRL would broadcast certain weeks from whatever Spring Break or beach haven the network camped to, moving the slot back earlier in the afternoon.

I spent many an hour after high school idly watching TRL. I never voted, although I once recognized the voice of a classmate on the television. It was also useful for checking out the weather in the city. That practicality never changed, even after all the names and faces did.

I also learned how to properly shout "Woooo!"Now that's a skill I will need.


John said...

Best line of this post: "It was also useful for checking out the weather in the city." That's why we love ya, MM!

I remember watching Total Request and Say What? before they morphed into their more successful forms. Both were interesting originally because they played the actual videos. Say What? was especially interesting because it displayed the lyrics along the bottom of the screen, so you could finally tell what those mumbly singers were saying!

I, too, am surprised that TRL managed to hang around as long as they did. Have they announced what they'll be replacing it with?

John said...

Also, I found it interesting that Carson Daly was able to get his launch to MTV stardom because he was friends with Goldfinger, who gave him an interview that ended up on MTV. Too bad he couldn't have thrown them a bone or two at any point afterward, but I guess that's the nature of the biz.

petpluto said...

"Best line of this post: "It was also useful for checking out the weather in the city." That's why we love ya, MM!"

I completely agree with John. I actually was going to post that exact same thing!

By the way, does anyone know what happened to that crazy Wannabe a VJ guy with the whacked out hair (great description, right?)? I think his name was Jesse... For some reason, reading about how boring Carson was actually made me think of the not boring crazy kid.

Also, I have a confession. The few times I watched TRL, I kind of liked Carson's laid back, almost not there style of VJing. The rest of the audience and outside world was crazy enough. With a wild and crazy host, the show would have driven me completely nuts as I sat there trying to catch clips from Buffy and interviews with the cast (because it all comes back to Buffy in my world).

MediaMaven said...

I figured you guys would like that line. :) Knowing the weather in NYC came in handy, since I'd be able to gauge my father's mood and what time he'd be returning home.

I enjoyed watching Say What as well. The show it morphed into, Say What Karaoke,was hosted by Dave Holmes, the runner-up to the first I Wanna Be a VJ contest, which was won by Jesse Camp. He was insane, and I think he was only kept on the air for a few months (maybe up to a year since that was his contract). Incidentally, I planned to audition for that when I was 18, which of course never happened.

Pet, you do have a point: Carson Daly worked because he was so bland; he was able to meld into whatever straight man was necessary for the hyperkinetic kids and guests who regularly appeared. The VJs that followed often didn't have much personality either, but that was more of a function of the program at that point than anything else.

Emily said...

I used to want to be a VJ. For about a few months, the same amount of time I wanted to be on the Real World. Then I got some sense.

I just hated how they cut down the videos to almost nothing. That is what turned me off the most.

LG said...

I was present at the TRL appearance of "2GE+HER", sad as it is to admit that fact. I knew in the back of my mind the show was still on, but did anyone really watch it after Carson Daly left? I sure didn't.