Posted at 1:19 PM on September 17, 2008
by Sanden Totten
Before there was American Idol, before YouTube even, there was Total Request Live (or TRL for the txt generation). After roughly a decade of spinning the latest pop confectioner's music videos, TRL is taking a break. Resting up, if you will. After all, ten years in TV time makes the show about as current as John McCain's baby photos (truthfully I thought it was off the air years ago).
For those of you who weren't a teenage girl in the late 90's or mid 2000s, TRL is a live music video request show where gaggles of fans would crowd around, scream as their favorite artists were played on MTV. (Photo by Frank Micelotta/Getty Images)
As easy as it is to dismiss the show as nothing more than "Tweens Gone Wild", TRL added a lot to the current media landscape. TIME magazine proclaimed "You" the person of the year in 2006. But TRL was getting comments and videos from it's audience back when the phrase "user-generated content" would draw blank stares. They had a scrolling bar at the bottom of the screen during the show where fans could comment on the video being played in real-ish time . . . not unlike the comments section of YouTube (minus all the profanity). In a sweet and smart eulogy of sorts, James Montgomery at MTV.com points out that TRL was 2.0 when 1.0 was still finding it's ground:
"At its very heart, "TRL" was the first television show that turned the camera squarely on the audience. It made them the stars of the show -- they dictated where it went and what videos made the cut . . . "TRL" was the first program of its kind that could turn on a dime, could begin as one thing on a Monday and by Friday be something completely different. . . And that sentiment, that sense of spontaneity and that viewer-controlled flexibility is what made YouTube into the culture-defining thing it is today."
And as Montgomery points out, that same trend it kicked off is the one that eventually made it obsolete. After all, on YouTube, you can DJ your own TRL. No Carson Daly required. But I guess that's the fate of any good media meme . . . you can be the first to discover a trend, but if that trend is really significant, it'll take on a life of it's own.