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A Goodbye to TRL

Laura Myers | Friday, November 14, 2008

When we were kids, my sister and I did not agree on much.Every day, we would come home from school, grab an afternoon snack of a brown sugar cinnamon Pop Tart, hers frosted, mine not, pour ourselves a glass of milk, hers skim, mine one percent, and sit down in front of the television. We fought over that, too, because I wanted to watch Sailor Moon and she wanted to watch Pokémon. Then came 1998, and a little show called “Total Request Live.” I was in fourth grade and she was in sixth. We were too old to watch Pokémon (you’re never too old to watch Sailor Moon), and we needed something we could agree on. TRL soon became a fixture in my life, just as it did in the lives of almost everybody in our age group. And after 10 years, music video lovers will stop traffic at Times Square for the last time Sunday during “Total Finale Live,” MTV’s tribute to the monumental show.When he announced the scheduling of TFL in September, Executive Producer Dave Sirulnick said the show would not be ending for good, but simply, “taking a break.” Whether that will hold true remains to be seen.The finale will bring back popular host Carson Daly as well as many stars, including P. Diddy, who appeared on TRL a record 36 times, members of ‘N Sync, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Fred Durst, Eminem, Marilyn Manson, Travis Barker and others. The Backstreet Boys will be performing, as will 50 Cent and Fall Out Boy.TRL is the third longest-running show produced by MTV, behind “The Real World” (14 years) and “120 Minutes” (17 years). It is the longest-running live show.The top-10 countdown, which was voted on by viewers who could call 1-800-DIAL-MTV or vote online, encompasses every genre of music, from bubblegum pop to hip-hop and even country. It helped launch the careers of many artists and continues to do so. It has also helped the careers of its VJ’s, or Video Jockeys. Daly left the show in 2003 to host NBC’s “Last Call.” Since then, other VJ’s have come and gone, including One Tree Hill’s Hilarie Burton. Damien Fahey and Lyndsay Rodriguez currently host the show.The program will be remembered for its outrageous moments, including the time MC Hammer married two fans during the telecast and the interview in which Elton John asked Justin Timberlake some very personal questions about his dreams the previous night.It also had its share of awkward moments. After the debut of one of the “Harry Potter” movies, Daniel Radcliffe made an appearance on TRL and was greeted by a fan in Times Square who was wearing nothing but a towel. In another uncomfortable moment, Daly had to interview actress and ex-girlfriend Tara Reid just days after their very public breakup.Through its news portion of the program, TRL was able to give its viewers a glimpse of the world look outside of entertainment. It was a part of MTV’s Rock the Vote movement, which encouraged young voters to become active in the political process.For the most part, though, TRL is about the music, one of the only shows on MTV that can say that (other contenders: “Making the Band 27,” and… no, that’s it). It has always catered to its audience with current hits and popular performers. When it first started, TRL aired five days a week at 4 p.m., making it perfect for its demographic — teens and pre-teens who could come home from school to watch the show. In 2005, it began airing only four days a week at 3 p.m., which made it harder for many to tune in and could have led to producers’ decision to halt the show. “Total Finale Live” airs Sunday at 8 p.m. I plan to grab a frosted brown sugar cinnamon Pop Tart, pour myself a glass of skim milk, and say goodbye to the show that informed, entertained, and united my generation.