‘TRL’s’ greatest contributions to Western civilization
By Todd Martens, Stephanie Lysaght and Patrick Kevin Day, Times Staff Writers
In November, after 10 years on the air, MTV’s one-time juggernaut of a show, “Total Request Live” is switching off the lights. The world has seen a lot of change in the last years of the 20th century and the dawn of the 21st century. We’ve experienced presidential elections, wars, celebrity breakdowns and the dominance of the Internet. But if any single agent of change has carried a steady pulse through the tumult, it’s the show that became so ubiquitous that it shortened its name to just three letters, “TRL.”
In celebration of 10 years of being a dominant force in pop culture, we present to you the greatest contributions MTV’s “Total Request Live” has made to our national consciousness.
“TRL” is dead. Long live “TRL”! (Peter Kramer / Associated Press)
A star is born: Britney Spears
As the face of MTV for the much of the last decade, Britney Spears videos were TRL staples. Her Baby One More Time was essentially the TRL soundtrack in 1999. Shes arguably the biggest MTV star since Michael Jackson and Madonna, and even casual observers of her career likely recall the Catholic school video for Baby One More Time that made her a superstar. (Kevin Winter / Getty Images)
Lessons in self-hype
If theres anything MTV excels at, its turning its own shows into commercials for its other television shows. Evidence? The Video Music Awards, which celebrate the handful of artists who still get videos aired on the network. And TRL itself provided some inspired moments of self-promotion, as when The Hills’ Heidi Montag stopped by for a little freestyle rapping with Nelly earlier this year. Her flow was choppy (Nelly gave her an A for effort), but she still managed to reference her designer clothing line, and she even provided a clip from that nights episode of The Hills. She’s hardly the only one. (Vince Bucci / Getty Images)
The glamorization of a celebrity breakdown
Even the supposed breakdown of a star couldn’t escape “TRL’s” cameras. Check Mariah Carey‘s infamous 2001 appearance to promote her film “Glitter,” which involved the singer passing out Popsicles to the audience and beginning a strip tease on live TV. The singer later claimed she behaved that way on purpose to live up to “TRL’s” wild and loose reputation, but she later checked into a hospital and her publicist announced she would be taking a break from public appearances. (Bruce Macaulay / 20th Century Fox / Columbia Pictures)
“TRL” has had its unsavory moments, but it can also be a good place to air grievances, right wrongs, and even provide positive examples of what’s lacking in today’s society, which for one singer is the familial unit. R&B prince Usher stopped by “TRL” to promote his album “Here I Stand,” and while there, he denied rumors that he and wife, Tameka Foster, were separating. Usher went on a little tirade extolling patriarchal pride, marital pride and racial pride. “My wife is not 40 years old. I love her to death, and Im a black, strong man in America standing up for my people ... as a man to my wife, to my son, to my family. Im making a stand that a lot of us should make. I coulda been like any other man who has a child and live with that woman and continue to just play the game. ... Im trying to do it the right way. This is the way youre supposed to do it! Pay attention, fellas.” Wow. (Rick Diamond / Getty Images)
The triumph of the boy band
The daily exposure “TRL” gave to videos by ‘N Sync and Backstreet Boys helped kick the already successful boy bands into the pop music stratosphere. Between the two groups, they had 18 videos played to near exhaustion for up to three months until being “retired” by the producers. No surprised then that the rise of these groups coincided with the rise of “TRL’s” ratings. (Kevin Mazur)
Only on MTV could a tall, wild-haired, high-pitched rock n roll kid win a contest to host a television show. Jesse Camps eccentric nature would stand in stark contrast to the more groomed winners of American Idol, but after placing first in the 1998 Wanna Be a VJ competition and hosting TRL, MTV didnt seem to know whether it should champion or mock Camp, so it played up his wild streak on Lunch with Jesse. (Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times)
Back when Ryan Seacrest was just an afternoon drive-time DJ in L.A., the teen world squealed to the host stylings of Carson Daly, the fresh-faced Southern California guy who once contemplated a pro golf career or life as a priest, but instead found himself called to evangelize for the musical tastes of tweenage girls. Like the singers he helped make into icons, Daly presided over a studio full of screaming fans and developed a dating life worthy of the tabloids. (He supposedly found out his relationship with Jennifer Love Hewitt was over when he heard it on the radio.) Then in 2002, he left MTV to host “Last Call” in a post-midnight slot on NBC and the screaming teenage girls went away. They grew up, went off to college, got married. But for many of them, Carson Daly will always be their first love. (Jim Cooper / Associated Press)
Country music spinoffs
In 2001, uber-hit Total Request Live inspired the country community to launch a spinoff series called CMT Most Wanted Live. The show was shot in Nashville and featured appearances by country music heavyweights such as Dolly Parton.
And the spinoffs didnt stop there! TRL-spin-off CMT Most Wanted Live went on to spawn MWL Star and MWL Stacked. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Carson Daily isnt the only “TRL” host who went on to have a career beyond the show. Former pageant queen Vanessa Minnillo, in photo at left on the right, got her start on “TRL” in 2003. After spending a few years hosting TRL, Minnillo landed a gig as an “Entertainment Tonight” correspondent, her own makeup line, an ad campaign for BONGO, a fledgling film and TV career and a high-profile romance with former boy-bander Nick Lachey. (Bryan Bedder / Getty Images)
“TRL” was a favorite destination of pop-tarts and boy-banders, but it was also the place where stars took shots at other stars.
Rapper Eminem lamented the show’s loss in a recent statement, saying, “I’m going to miss ‘TRL’ ... where else will I be able to start feuds, defend my honor vigorously and act like an angry teenager on national TV? Oh wait ... the VMAs!” (Chris Pizzello / Associated Press)