MTV’s TRL really should have stayed in the past.
We all remember those mid-2000s afternoons when we’d come home from school, turn on MTV and watch the latest episode of Total Request Live. It was then where young adolescents would catch up on all trending aspects regarding pop culture along with whatever host Carson Daly had to say. The show had a successful 10-year run with the final episode airing in 2008. But when the news broke about a TRL reboot, it just never seemed like a good idea.
The reboot aired last Monday, consequently the same day that most Americans were glued to daytime TV news following reports of the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, occurring in Las Vegas. But now that the show is a week and a half in, it’s clear MTV is struggling to figure how to make a show that was designed in the world of CD’s, flip phones and dial-up internet fit in the modern age of 2017. Let’s be real here, Myspace wasn’t even around until five years after the series originally aired.
One of the greatest values of TRL was being able to watch the new music videos from your favorite artists. Back then, it was basically the only place you could even watch music videos because trying to successfully buffer a video while maintaining decent picture quality using dial-up internet would literally take hours. Instead, the reboot replaced music videos with a segment where guests of the show would each add a song to a playlist in hopes to give trendy insight on what celebrities are listening to. It instead had musicians adding their new songs to plug their music. TRL was also an almost mandatory stop for celebrities like N*Sync, Britney Spears, Beyoncé, Blink 182 and Eminem to name a few, to go on air and promote new music. Now with social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram, musicians don’t need a TV show to announce upcoming projects, they can simply tweet new information to millions of followers.
MTV used to be the go-to relevant source for all things pop culture, but not so much anymore. Pitchfork contributor Judy Berman writes, “The era-defining show eased MTV’s transition from the alt-rock sarcasm it had cultivated with Gen X to the more upbeat and interactive programming with which it would greet a diverse new demographic: millennials. But MTV isn’t the gatekeeper of youth culture it once was. The new ‘TRL’ is courting an audience born in the 21st century, whose idols rose to fame on YouTube, Vine, and Instagram.”
MTV did try to appeal to the new demographic by signing on Vine comedian D.C. Young Fly and Tamara Dhia, a former host for the music site Complex with a few other YouTube stars to host the show. But their lack of hosting expertise for mainstream television led to wasted time on mundane information from Twitter trying to pass as viral and poor interviews that didn’t tell the audience much other than what guests had for breakfast.
It’s clear that MTV is seeking to culturally connect with Gen Z like it did for decades past, but trying to appeal to a generation so accustomed to on-demand entertainment, a cable TV show airing at a scheduled time is probably not the best place to start.