I was surprised to read last week that MTV’s afternoon staple – Total Request Live – came to an end with a three-hour finale last Sunday. Perhaps coinciding with the seemingly-impending death of music videos, the show’s end truly marks the end of an era for myself and millions others that grew up watching it.
Actually, ‘grew up’ might be a little much as the show debuted in September of 1998 while I was entering my junior year of college. Still, it was a staple of my 20s (god, I feel old saying that) and provided a look into the world of pop music for more than 10 years, better or worse.
Carson Daly owes his career to TRL and now has a late-night talk show on NBC. Eminem and Kid Rock really came to form on TRL, as did a bunch of boy bands and their spinoffs, Britney, Christina and others. It was a proving ground for how well a band was marketed, what was hot and was the perfect ‘This is what we are’ show for MTV and the teen audience they pulled in. But after 2,247 episodes and a decade on air, TRL is now done.
The show was the third-longest running in MTV’s history behind The Real World and the awesome 120 Minutes, which ran for 17 years.
If you have some time to waste like myself, give the finale a watch. Some things that stood out was when they discussed the fallout from 9/11 and when they made the decision to come back on. Daly and John Norris explained how it was a time before Facebook/MySpace and that there was a nation of young people who wanted to connect and understand what was going on by hearing and talking. It’s easy to forget life before social networking…and cell phones…and blogs, but they existed.
Generations before us had American Bandstand as their marker in the sand for pop culture music shows, while we had TRL. I know that MTV is making a big deal about having a video show on the network again in FNMTV, but I think they’re too far down the path of entertainment programming to ever convince the public that music videos matter. I fear and believe that the era of this type of program is done and I don’t think it’ll ever come back.
Spending hundreds of thousands on four-minute videos doesn’t seem so hot when spreading the gospel via online viral methods is a much cheaper and perhaps more effective solution. It’s sad, but more a sign of the times than anything. Ask yourself: what’s the last music video you watched?
So from a 30-year-old guy who used to watch a lot of TV, I bid farewell to TRL and an era that was great while it lasted.