The one-day return of Total Request Live hearkens back to a greater time of music in television

Reality singing shows pride itself in viewer involvement.

American Idol, the Voice, and whatever that new one is on ABC with Ke$ha all let the viewers pick their favorite acts, usually by text message or online voting, and determine the results of the show.

That’s what makes them different from just being a regular contest.

But it’s not innovative. And they certainly didn’t invent it.

Long before these shows, there was another show — with a host, and involving music — that let the viewer determine the results.


Total Request Live. Or TRL for short.

No, it wasn’t a singing show, per say, but it was designed to solely rely on viewer involvement to determine what contemporary pop songs were the most popular. Not the most popular of the year, or the month — but the day.

The show, which aired from 1998 to 2008, molded a generation of music lovers. It gave mega fame to the most popular musical acts at the time, like Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and the Backstreet Boys. It made teenagers excited to come home from school and listen to music. And most importantly, it was a time when MTV — short for Music Television — showed actual music videos.

But that’s not to say that I particularly miss it, or even want it to come back. It was right to end when it did. I was 11 when it started, and 21 when it finished. By that time, I was in college, and not making a point to tune into MTV every day at 5:30 p.m. But I certainly did in middle and high school. And those were some good times. Carson Daly was my homeboy.

The reason TRL is relevant right now is because MTV brought it back for one day on July 2 — sort of. It was a half hour segment called Total Ariana Live, hosted by Ariana Grande, that followed the classic TRL format, but really served as a means for her to debut her new single, “Break Free.”

I didn’t even watch the segment. But it’s just nice to have TRL back in the spotlight for nostalgic purposes, even if it was for one day.

Remember, TRL’s popularity existed before Facebook and Twitter. Before Smart phones. Heck, it was even before the majority of people had cell phones. To request songs, you had to dial a toll-free number. And people did it.

That, my friends, is innovation. American Idol and Rising Star (that’s the name of that stupid ABC show) can talk all they want about giving viewers control, but more than 15 years ago, TRL did it first.

Unfortunately, if you look at the channel guide for MTV right now, at 8:15 p.m., you’ll see an interesting dichotomy that exemplifies what the network has become. The revamped TRL segment aired at 7, and before it was a show called Girl Code, and after that is 16 and Pregnant. No more music videos.

Oh well.

At least we have YouTube.


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