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Athens, Ohio, United States
"Art and love are the same thing. It's the process of seeing yourself in things that are not you."

Thursday, November 20, 2008

We Can't Say "Carson's a Tool" Anymore, Can We?

So....MTV's Total Request Live is done.

I am betting none of you woke up the morning of the 17th, eyes red from crying and the whiskey you used to drown your sorrows on your breath. TRL finished its ten year run on Sunday night with the reappearance of Carson Daly and a few live shows on (the probably now relieved) Times Square. From what I saw, the ceremonies were heartfelt and MTV certainly let the show go out with a bang.

Now, I hate to be the guy who trivializes ten years of a variety program that many professionals put their blood, sweat and tears into by saying "what's the point", but.....

What's the point?

Or what was the point, I should say. I don't remember TRL as a cultural phenomenon as some undoubtedly do. I remember TRL as something ubiquitous, something that was always there. You know, like Herpes. 

I remember one day, on the bus home, one of the "older kids" asked if I had seen Korn's new music video. I said no, of course. All I watched was Nickelodeon. He scoffed at my immaturity and told me how, as Korn performed (I had no idea who "Corn" was by the way), a bullet ricocheted through a series of mirrors and glass. Having no idea what a "music video" was, I imagined a few Eric Claptony-looking gentlemen on a stage performing a soft rock song live as a bullet flew dangerously among them. To this day, I have never seen this Korn video and I hope I never do; the image in my head is better.

Anyway, I assured the older kid I would watch MTV, the source of this "video". I then undoubtedly sunk back in my seat and wept and peed my pants simultaneously (older kids are scary). That was my introduction to MTV and conversely, Total Request Live. So as long as I have watched any television channel besides Nickelodeon, TRL has been on TV. Meaning that TRL has been on forever.

I never quite forged a concrete relationship with the now-dead show. I don't know what things were like in the rest of the country, but my classmates perception of TRL was wildly inconsistent. Depending on who you asked and when, TRL was either as cool as smoking tobacco, talking back to your mom and beating up nerds or it was "just totally gay, bro." Not wanting to step in line with either way of thought, I just ignored TRL for a decade. 

TRL has a reputation of being the "it" thing for a whole generation that I don't quite think is fair. At a certain point in the early 2000s, if you asked an older gentleman or lady what interested the young folks of the time, "That MTV show where they count backwards from ten", would be one of their answers. I think that is what baby boomers thought and what MTV told to advertisers, but I don't think that was the case. Some people at home watched and enjoyed TRL, and the psychotic crowd present at the TRL studio certainly enjoyed it, but I don't think very many other people did. I personally don't remember any of my friends getting excited on the way home from school to see Carson Daly sleep through an interview with Usher, then reveal the latest #1 video. Then again, if people like that existed, we probably wouldn't have been friends.

TRL certainly was a  bold venture though: re-capture some of the old American Bandstand glory, with Carson Daly in place of Dick Clark. It worked during the Boy Band years, with a whole legion of hormonal teenage girls tracking every move of the Backstreet Boys, N'SYNC, 98 Degrees and LFO (most badass boy band ever. If such a declaration is possible). But when the Boy Bands went away, so should have TRL. TRL didn't, however. Instead, it spent the second half of its life trying to recapture the supposed excitement and glory of its first half and never did.

So, I will not mourn TRL because it was not a quality program. But I cannot say it won't be weird that it is gone. I never watched it, but I took some bizarre solace in the fact that it was there. Maybe I identified it with the beginning of my adolescence, and now that the end of it coincides with my entering college it is making me nostalgic.

Maybe that is "the point." Maybe regardless of how much something sucks, regardless of how inane a supposed piece of "entertainment" is, regardless of how many minds it turns to gray pudding, regardless of how many idiotic "pop stars" it turns into gods, we will still miss something a show that was just always there.

You know what, I may have just talked myself out of that.

Good Riddance, TRL. 


Woozie said...

I was pissed when Nickelodeon stopped showing Rocko's Modern Life. And then they moved it to that secondary cable channel which was cool, only then they stopped showing it there too!

Emma said...

This article was awesome. The end of TRL needed to be addressed. Nice.

I was reading your info-- The Squid and the Whale is a great movie!

Melis said...

I wish I could bash TRL with you, but alas, my music passion began there with the world premiere of Sum 41's "Still Waiting" video. (Though I think TRL would be upset in the way my tastes then followed.) Also, TRL was SO a phenomenon at one point. It was on the "I Love the" series, so I know it's true.