Total Request Live

Total Request Live
Also known as 'TRL'
Presented by Carson Daly
Damien Fahey
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 19
No. of episodes 2,247
Running time 45–48 minutes
Original network MTV
Original release September 14, 1998 (1998-09-14) – November 16, 2008 (2008-11-16)

Total Request Live (known from 1998 to 2008 as TRL) was a television series on MTV that featured popular music videos. TRL was MTV's prime outlet for music videos as the network continued to concentrate on reality-based programming. In addition to music videos, TRL featured daily guests. The show was a popular promotion tool used by musicians, actors, and other celebrities to promote their newest works to the show's target teen demographic.

TRL played the ten most requested music videos of the day, as voted by viewers via phone or online. The show generally aired Monday through Thursday for one hour, though the scheduling and length of the show fluctuated over the years. Despite the word "Live" in the title of the show, many episodes were actually pre-recorded.

MTV announced the cancellation of TRL on September 15, 2008.[1] The special three-hour finale episode, Total Finale Live, aired on November 16, 2008.[2]

An international version of TRL aired on MTV Italy until 2010.



Origin of TRL can be traced back to 1997 when MTV began producing MTV Live (originally hosted by English VJ Toby Amies) from the newly opened MTV studios in Times Square in New York City. MTV Live featured celebrity interviews, musical performances, and regular news updates. Music videos were not the major focus of the program. For a time, the show drew more than 750,000 viewers. .

During the same time period, MTV aired a countdown show simply called Total Request, hosted by Carson Daly (it should be mentioned that a forerunner to Total Request was Dial MTV, which ran from 1986–1996). Total Request was far more subdued, as Daly introduced music videos from an empty, dimly lit set. As the show progressed and gained more momentum with viewers tuning in, it was soon added to the list of daytime programming during MTV's Summer Share in Seaside Heights, New Jersey. The countdown would prove to be one of the most watched and most interactive shows in recent MTV history, demonstrating that it had potential to become an even larger success by combining with the element of live television.

Carson Daly era

In Fall 1998, MTV producers merged the real-time aspect of MTV Live with the fan-controlled countdown power of Total Request into Total Request Live. The series made its debut from MTV Studios on September 14, 1998. The show then grew to become MTV's unofficial flagship program.

The original host of TRL, Carson Daly, brought popularity to the show. The widely known abbreviation of TRL was adopted as the official title of the show in February 1999, after Daly and Dave Holmes began using the abbreviation on-air regularly. In the years following, the program was rarely referred to by its complete title. The show's countdown started off successfully while receiving hundreds of votes for Original Favorite Stars such as Hanson, Aaliyah, Eminem, Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, Korn, 'N Sync, and Backstreet Boys.

TRL spent its first year developing a cult-type following.[3] In the fall of 1999, a live studio audience was added to the show. By spring 2000, the countdown reached its peak, becoming a very recognizable pop culture icon in its first two years of existence. A weekend edition of the show known as TRL Weekend, with a countdown consisting an average of the week's Top 10, aired for a short time in 2000.

In 2001, the popularity of TRL was at such a level that it spawned a country music spin-off, CMT Most Wanted Live, on sister network CMT, until 2004.

Some evolutionary changes were made to TRL throughout the next couple of years. The show received a new set and on-screen graphics for the debut of the fall 2001 season. A year later, on October 23, 2002, TRL celebrated its 1,000th episode. The number-one video on that day was "Dirrty" by Christina Aguilera. Also throughout the year of 2002, original host Carson Daly would be seen gradually less and less.

Post-Carson Daly era

In 2002, the next generation of TRL was ushered in as Carson Daly officially stepped down as host. He left the show to host his own talk show, NBC's Last Call with Carson Daly, which premiered a year earlier. Following Daly stepping down, a revolving door of VJs hosted TRL, including Damien Fahey, Hilarie Burton, Vanessa Minnillo, Quddus, La La Vasquez, and Susie Castillo. Some of these VJs made their debut on the show in earlier years, so they already had the opportunity to host the show on days in which Daly was not present.

Some changes were made to TRL's voting process in 2005. The show previously allowed anyone to vote online multiple times, but as part of these changes, only registered members on could vote online. Additionally, a limit of one vote per day was added. Then, on July 10, 2006, MTV announced that votes would no longer be taken by phone, ending the legacy of the "DIAL MTV" phone number, which had been in use for voting on MTV since the premiere of the countdown show Dial MTV in the mid-1980s.

In September 2006, TRL reached its eighth anniversary, and it continues to be the longest-running live program that MTV has ever produced. It is also the third-longest-running program of all time in the network's history, following behind The Real World, which has aired for the past 21 years, and 120 Minutes, which aired for 17 years. Around this time, TRL began airing officially on just four days a week (Monday through Thursday), as opposed to all five weekdays.

On November 2, 2006, TRL debuted what was billed as the first ever hip hop public service announcement on global warming. The three-minute piece, titled "Trees", warned about deforestation and the dangers of global warming. The video corresponded with MTV's social campaign, Break the Addiction, as part of think MTV.

The hosts of TRL in 2008 were Damien Fahey and Lyndsey Rodrigues. Additionally, Stephen Colletti, former cast member on Laguna Beach, has appeared on TRL as host numerous times. The rest of the VJs are or have been working on separate projects. La La Vasquez went on to go work on her debut rap album . Hilarie Burton left TRL in 2003 after joining the cast of The WB/CW's One Tree Hill, playing Peyton Sawyer. Quddus hosted from 2001 to 2006. He left to move to California to be a host of TV One Access.[4]

On May 22, 2007, TRL celebrated its 2000th episode, showing highlights from the past 2000 episodes, and a special countdown of ten of the most successful videos to ever appear on the show. Justin Timberlake's "Cry Me a River" topped the special countdown.

The end of TRL

In 2007, rumors began circulating stating that the ratings-challenged music video countdown show was to be canceled. In early 2007, an average of 373,000 viewers regularly watched the program.[5] New York Daily News were one of the first to publish this rumor. In February 2007, MTV said the rumor was unfounded and claimed TRL will continue to air for the foreseeable future.

The producers of TRL experimented with web-based viewer interaction throughout the 2006–2007 season, showing viral videos, allowing viewers to send feedback on a video via internet forums and webcams, along with a heavy emphasis on MTV's since discontinued Overdrive video portal. However, MTV still secretly planned to cancel the show and replace one with even more emphasis on viewer interaction, named YouRL (a homophone of URL.)[6]

Consequently, in July 2007, it was reported that YouRL was not received well by test audiences and that the concept of YouRL has been abandoned for the time being. Total Request Live proceeded with a new season as usual on September 4, marking the tenth season of the show.[7]

On September 15, 2008 it was announced that TRL would be shut down. The final regular weekday episode aired on November 13, 2008 with guest Seth Green and The All-American Rejects. The Rejects spent the entire episode assisting in the tear down of the set which was a theme for the episode. At the end of the episode, Lindsey and Damien cooperatively added the last step in the demolition process by shutting down all the lights. Preceding was a montage of cast and crew members saying their goodbyes by waving to the camera.

A three-hour special marking the end of the show aired on November 16, 2008.[1] Several artists made appearances, including Ludacris, Snoop Dogg, Nelly, Beyoncé, 50 Cent, Fall Out Boy, Backstreet Boys, Justin Timberlake, Kid Rock, JC Chasez, Christina Aguilera, Travis Barker, Taylor Swift, Hilary Duff, Eminem, and Korn's Jonathan Davis.[8] Former host Carson Daly described the media atmosphere after his departure from TRL, in an interview with TV Guide: "MySpace was sold. Social networking took off. Technology went crazy. The whole tectonic shift of mass media. There were a lot of reasons why TRL became kind of a different show after I left. I don't necessarily think it had anything to with me leaving as much as it had to do with the changing landscape."[9]

The last music video to be played on TRL (during the final episode) was "...Baby One More Time" by Britney Spears, being the video that made number one on the countdown of the most iconic videos of all time. As the show did its final countdown of all-time videos, her now-iconic first hit, "... Baby One More Time", emerged as the top video, and played as the credits of the show ran for the final time. .

On June 25, 2014, MTV announced it will reprise TRL for one day on July 2, 2014, with American singer Ariana Grande.[10]

Final top 10

TRL chose the top ten most iconic videos and aired them as their final countdown.[11]

Position Year Artist Video Director
1 1998 Britney Spears "...Baby One More Time" Nigel Dick
2 2000 Eminem "The Real Slim Shady" Dr. Dre/Philip Atwell
3 1999 Backstreet Boys "I Want It That Way" Wayne Isham
4 2000 'N Sync "Bye Bye Bye" Wayne Isham
5 2002 Christina Aguilera "Dirrty" David LaChapelle
6 1999 Kid Rock "Bawitdaba" Dave Meyers
7 2003 Beyoncé featuring Jay-Z "Crazy in Love" Jake Nava
8 2004 Usher featuring Ludacris & Lil Jon "Yeah!" Mr. X
9 1999 Blink-182 "What's My Age Again" Marcos Siega/Brandon PeQueen
10 2003 Outkast "Hey Ya!" Bryan Barber

2014 revival

On June 25, 2014, MTV announced that they would bring back Total Request Live for one day on July 2. The program was 30 minutes long and featured recording artist Ariana Grande, who performed her single "Problem" and premiered her song "Break Free", as well as had her hip hop knowledge tested in a "Hip Hop Mix Up" game. The special was titled Total Ariana Live and was broadcast from MTV's Times Square studio in front of a live audience. Grande called it "a huge honor" to bring back TRL.[12] The episode drew an average of 456,000 viewers.[13]


TRL's studios in Times Square.

TRL is widely viewed as the show that launched the careers of many teen artists from the late 1990s and early 2000s (decade).

Boy bands

Even though clean-cut boy bands like Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync reached success before TRL began in the fall of 1998, both groups only reached their commercial peaks after their videos were seen on TRL. In 1999, the Backstreet Boys' second LP, Millennium, achieved the highest first week sales ever from an LP at the time.

'N Sync also appeared on TRL in 2000, when their second LP, No Strings Attached, topped the Backstreet Boys' first week sales. Once again, the large number of fans in attendance closed down the streets of Times Square. Throughout most of 1998, 1999, and 2000, videos by the Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC would claim the top position on the countdown.

Pop princesses

Pop singers like Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Jessica Simpson all made their music debuts on TRL as well. Britney and Christina became regulars on the show and would often appear as a guest. When the Backstreet Boys or 'N Sync did not have a current video on the countdown, a video by Spears or Aguilera would most likely take the number-one position. Simpson would not enjoy the same type of success until two years later, when she released "Irresistible" video, which reached at number two on the countdown. Mandy Moore saw success on the show with her debut single's "Candy" in 1999 and "I Wanna Be with You", but did not score her first number-one video until her 2002 single "Crush" which she also performed on the show.

Jessica Simpson's younger sister Ashlee Simpson is another pop princess that has had some success on TRL with her first music video "Pieces of Me" in 2004. Ashlee Simpson had three videos in the number one and one close to retirement, Ashlee had a first number one video than her sister Jessica. She would go on to score a number of number one videos on the show.

The artist with the most retirees videos is pop princess Britney Spears with 13 videos retired, an honorary retired video ("I'm a Slave 4 U") and three videos retired number one.

An unusual pop princess streak occurred in March 2007: The number one and number two spots were women for every show. There was no other month in the history of TRL where every show had a woman at the top spot.[14][15]

Disney stars

Vanessa Hudgens premiered "Come Back to Me", which peaked at number three, and "Say OK", which only went to number ten. The Jonas Brothers have had their songs "Hold On", and "SOS" premiere; "SOS" made it on the countdown peaking at number six. "When You Look Me in the Eyes" was on the charts for several weeks before peaking at number one, after fans crushed and flooded the TRL site by requesting hundreds of times on March 19, 2008. "Burnin' Up" has also made it to the number-one spot on TRL. Ashley Tisdale premiered "He Said She Said" on TRL and it reached the number-one spot for sixteen days and these was retrieved at forty days in the countdown, becoming the most successful song for a Disney recording artist in the show. Aly & AJ's videos for "Rush", "Chemicals React" and "Potential Breakup Song" have all been on the countdown with "Rush" peaking at number two and "Chemicals React" peaking at number four, and "Potential Breakup Song" peaking at number five. Miley Cyrus's "7 Things" premiered on TRL and reached number four on the show.

Video game

Aggregate scores
Review scores
PC Gamer (US)50%[22]

There was also a video game called MTV Total Request Live Trivia, which was developed by Hypnotix and published by Take-Two Interactive; it was released exclusively in the United States on August 14, 2001. So far the game has a score of 53.89% from GameRankings[16] and 48 out of 100 from Metacritic.[17]

International versions

TRL logo used in Italy.

Past programs

Similar programs

See also


  1. 1 2 "Report: MTV to Cancel TRL". Broadcasting & Cable. September 15, 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-15.
  2. MTV News: Beyonce To Perform On 'TRL' Finale – 'Total Finale Live' will air November 16 at 8 p.m. on MTV.
  3. "Merchants of cool" (PBS)
  4. Quddus CV
  5. Hau, Louis (February 15, 2007). "R.I.P. For MTV's TRL?". Forbes. Archived from the original on May 9, 2008. Retrieved 2007-02-17.
  6. Becker, Anne (April 30, 2007). "MTV Favors 'YouRL' Swap for 'TRL'". Broadcasting & Cable. Retrieved 2015-01-27.
  7. Widdicombe, Ben (July 16, 2007). "New York Minute". New York Daily News. Retrieved 2007-07-17.
  8. Cohen, Jonathan (November 11, 2008). "Superstars Sign on For 'TRL' Finale". Billboard. Retrieved 2008-11-11.
  9. Eng, Joyce (November 14, 2008). "Carson Daly Looks Back on TRL". TV Guide. Retrieved 2008-11-15.
  10. "MTV bringing 'TRL' back for 1 day with Ariana Grande". Fox News. June 25, 2014.
  11. "Show Tracker". Los Angeles Times. November 17, 2008.
  12. Ng, Philiana (June 25, 2014). "Ariana Grande, MTV Revive 'TRL' for One Day". Billboard.
  13. Cantor, Brian (July 4, 2014). "Ratings: MTV's "Total Ariana Live" Draws In Under 500,000 Viewers". Headline Planet.
  14. ATRL – TRL Recap (March & April 2007)
  15. "The TRL Archive – Recap, records, and statistics for MTV's Total Request Live". ATRL. Retrieved 2012-11-07.
  16. 1 2 "MTV Total Request Live Trivia for PC". GameRankings. Retrieved 2014-11-26.
  17. 1 2 "MTV Total Request Live Trivia for PC Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 2014-11-26.
  18. Miller, Eden. "MTV TRL Trivia – Review". AllGame. Archived from the original on November 16, 2014. Retrieved 2014-11-26.
  19. Goble, Gord (August 20, 2001). "MTV Total Request Live Trivia Review". GameSpot. Retrieved 2014-11-26.
  20. The Badger (August 15, 2001). "MTV Total Request Live Trivia Review – PC". GameZone. Archived from the original on July 18, 2007. Retrieved 2014-11-25.
  21. Morrissey, Mike (August 13, 2001). "TRL Trivia". IGN. Retrieved 2014-11-26.
  22. Barnstone, Trina (November 2001). "MTV Total Request Live [Trivia]". PC Gamer. Archived from the original on February 16, 2002. Retrieved 2014-11-26.
  23. MTV TRL – Total Request Live
  24. TRL Latin America

Further reading

External links

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