MTV continues its push to bring back the music with the reboot of “Total Request Live” (TRL), the popular afterschool show of the early aughts. This effort comes just weeks after MTV’s reboot of “Unplugged” and rides the wave of the highest ratings the station has ever seen this past summer.
But gone is the TRL you might remember, with Carson Daly as host and a music video countdown. Reviving a long-dead show (it’s been almost a decade since it last aired) to boost ratings is an ambitious task, and the new producers apparently thought it best to take a new, modern approach to it. MTV’s newly instated president, Chris McCarthy and head of live programming, Albert Lewitinn, are attempting to do this by incorporating social media into the show.
"TRL was social media before there was social media,” Lewitinn says, seated in the show’s still-under-construction set overlooking 7th Avenue in New York's Times Square. "You came home from school and turned on the TV and were like 'Oh my god, did you see that?' Then you called someone on the phone to say 'Are you watching?' So the idea here is to do the same thing (on social media). You’ll come to be there for the moment.”
This is interesting considering that Daly attributed the end of the original show to the dawning of the social media era.
"MySpace was sold. Social networking took off. Technology went crazy,” said Daly to TV Guide. “The whole tectonic shift of mass media. There were a lot of reasons why TRL became kind of a different show after (that)."
During the shows premiere this past week, they certainly tried to incorporate as much social media interaction as possible with an abundance of Twitter polls, hashtags, online giveaways, games involving tweets and by curating its signature request playlist via internet over the course of the week.
The show now boasts five hosts, including rapper-comedian DC Young Fly, actress-DJ Amy Pham, radio host Erik Zachary, journalist Lawrence Jackson, writer Tamara Dhia and social media stars like the Dolan Twins. Guest appearances during the premiere week of the reboot included big names, such as Ed Sheeran, DJ Khaled, Noah Cyrus, Migos and more.
“I always saw clips of people doing this, so it feels surreal,” said Sheeran as the first guest in the show’s new Times Square studio location.
Of course, MTV hasn’t made a full transition back to music just yet, and reminded us of this with the appearance of television names, such as Lili Reinhart and also Youtubers such as Liza Koshy.
The premiere was Monday, after the tragedy in Las Vegas, and guest DJ Khaled as well as host DC Young Fly took time to address the event.
“There’s so much going on in this world. Love is the key, love is the answer, love is the solution, love is the most powerful thing in the world,” said DJ Khaled.
The show tried to balance the seriousness of the current political-social situation with the lighthearted premiere they had planned. They raised the Times Square New Year’s ball to kick-off the show and had live performances from Ed Sheeran and Migos in Times Square. The hosts also played games with guests and fans who had come out to watch, as well as showing some clips from past TRL episodes.
As far as the logistics of the show go, it seemed a bit choppy and clearly still has some kinks to work out, as there were some technical difficulties in the first few episodes (it is live, after all). Otherwise, it was very real and managed to show some honest, unscripted interactions between hosts, guests and fans. Only time will tell if the nostalgia of the show will keep it afloat or if it will begin to hold it’s own. Staying true to it’s nature as a daytime show was an interesting choice on the producers’ part. Watching TV after school was the norm back in the 90s and early 2000s but has the teen culture evolved away from that?Viewers will likely keep tuning in over the next few weeks to see for themselves whether or not MTV can pull this off, but everything after that remains a mystery. We live in a time where popular culture spends more time on non-TV screens, something that couldn’t have been predicted twenty years ago, and the next big thing can come and go in six seconds. It’s hard to tell if TRL will be able to keep up. But the network remains positive.
“We want that ‘fear of missing out’ moment,” Lewitinn says. “We want to make those moments.”
“This show is about the people, the fans, the energy,” said DJ Khaled. “TRL is back, man!”
TRL will be airing every weekday on MTV from 3:30-4:30 p.m. The daily pre-show can be viewed on Facebook and the post-show on Youtube.
Julia Mancini is the associate life editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at Julia.firstname.lastname@example.org.