The Revival of TRL Is Dead On Arrival

Back in July, MTV announced they were bringing back Total Request Live also known as TRL after it’s original cancellation back in 2008. I had a feeling this revival would fail and I was right. Let me give you some backstory here.

Back in 1998, MTV debuted TRL, a live music video request show hosted by Carson Daly. The format was straightforward; people would call in or vote online their favorite music video of the day and tune in to TRL that afternoon to see how their favorite video did. By 1999, the show was a smash hit that heightened the careers of many artists such as Britney Spears, Eminem, Kid Rock, Christina Aguilera, and so many others.

The show was filmed live in the heart of Times Square in New York City which gave the show a unique look and feel MTV hasn’t been able to recreate since. When Carson Daly left the show in 2002, an assortment of VJs filled the void for the remaining years like Hilarie Burton and Vanessa Lachey (then Minnillo). But by the year 2005, the show had lost all of its mojo and was a shell of itself. By 2008, ratings were in the toilet and MTV canceled TRL for good ending the era of young adults screaming for a video they have seen every day for the past 3 months for good.

MTV has desperately tried to recreate the magic they had for TRL but have failed every time. In the year 2010, MTV created a show called The Seven, that was supposed to continue the legacy of TRL but didn’t make it through a year before it was shut down. MTV also did a one-off Total Ariana Live which was called a TRL revival but had little to nothing to do with the original series.

Now, 9 years after the cancellation of the show, TRL is back and it is a beautiful disaster. The first episode of TRL last Monday only drew 165,000 viewers, by Wednesday that number dropped to 113,000 viewers. Put this in perspective, At TRL’s height in the year 1999, TRL averaged over 850,000 people. In the show’s dying days, they averaged 300,000 viewers before the network pulled the plug. So yeah, this is bad and they It never had a chance from the start.

Anyone who remembers watching TRL during its heyday of the late 90s and early 2000s is surely in their 30s and 40s at this point. Meaning outside of watching the first episode for the sake of nostalgia, nobody is going to watch the current lineup of celebrities and musical acts that MTV has to offer. Second, the current audience that MTV is aiming for the 18-24 demographic didn’t grow up watching TRL and have no emotional ties to the program.

For them, it’s just another show on MTV, they probably won’t watch anyway. So you have an audience who grew up watching the show who have no interest in the revival, and a younger audience who have no attachment to the show to tune in. How did MTV try to fix this problem?

They decided to use Youtubers and Former Vine Stars as VJs for the TRL revival under the thinking that a Youtubers with millions of online fans would tune in to MTV to see their newest projects. Amongst the new VJs for TRL includes DC Young Fly, Gabbie Hanna, and Gigi Gorgeous. Clearly, this idea didn’t work given the ratings.

The New TRL does not have a video countdown which right away turns off any fans watching for the sake of nostalgia. Daily clashes of music artists that the fans precipitate in is what made TRL great in the first place. Without that, you are watching a bunch of YouTubers attempt to host a show with absolutely no identity. It didn’t help matters that the New TRL had to début less than 24 hours after the biggest mass shooting in US history AND the death of Tom Petty, not the topics you want to discuss on your super cool super hip new show you want people to watch longer than 10 minutes.

No Identity, No Buzz, No Great Content, and No viewership. The TRL revival looks to be short-lived if things don’t improve ASAP. The revival of TRL is one that sounds good on paper, but even if they have brought back everyone from the original show in the original format, you simply can’t bring back the era that was the late 90s and early 2000s and MTV is finding that out the hard way.


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4 thoughts on “The Revival of TRL Is Dead On Arrival

  1. I grew up watching TRL on MTV in middle school years of school. It was fun and I always remember all the great music video (and figuring out which one would come out on top). Then things began to change on the show as it became more about crazy antics, cameo appearances, and fan interactions rather than the music videos (I remember they only showed like a minute of the music videos for a show that was like an hour long). I have feeling that this new revival of TRL is gonna fail as well.

    1. TRL’s peak was from 1999-2004. Once the early 2000s were over, the direction of the network changed and the show was never the same again. I grew up watching it from middle to early high school as well and I knew they were never going to remake that era again, the fact that the revival is nothing more than a variety hosted by Youtubers confirms that.

  2. Also, TRL was a hit because YouTube didn’t exist and unless you had a good internet connection, trying to play a music video could be a serious struggle. So TRL was where you not only got to see a music video, usually only in part, but also learned about new music.

    Now though, we have social media and YouTube to do that. Where is the niche for TRL? How does it fit in when it’s main claim to fame is gone and VJs don’t really exist anymore. At least noteworthy ones.

    In my mind, they’d be better off bringing the niche shows like Yo MTV Raps, Headbangers Ball and stuff like that. Push some indie talent and give them a televised platform. Also, maybe do Unplugged for a season. Heck, even Making the Video would be cool.

    [SB] Alongside Behind the Music on VH1 and Pop Up Video.

    1. The problem with this idea, this assumes that MTV is deciated to bring back music to the network and given the new TRL has not done a single video countdown since the reboot, they aren’t.

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