You really had to be a particular age for this aspect of 1998 I loved with every fiber of my being, and my guest – Bradley Butin of ‘The Fandemic‘ and ‘Pre-venge of the Nerds‘ – was just graduating high school and about to head off into the military. So perhaps he wasn’t too focused on what music videos viewers were going insane over. Of course, you’ll learn what he loved later this week when Crushin on 1998 drops, but first – let’s discuss the reason behind so many of my interests today, MTV’s ‘Total Request Live’ aka ‘TRL.’
Before ‘TRL’ MTV placed Carson Daly in what appeared to be a basement. There he counted down a handful of videos that included Hanson’s “Weird.” It was done at night and not that big of a deal, yet. Then came the summer of 1998 and the network released Daly out into the world to do what he did before, but out on location and with 10 videos throughout the summer. By fall, ‘Total Request Live’ was official, and Daly was at 1515 Broadway overlooking Times Square. For a decade, that would be where you had to be if you wanted to be known in pop culture. It was a glorious time before teen moms, spray tans, and Rob Dyrdek became the network norm. Oh, how I miss those days…
I’d race home every day from school. Well, raced as fast as I could seeing as how I was stuck on a school bus in which I had no control. I’d get in the door, flip on the TV, make myself a snack, and then just sit enamored by the daily guests, the countdown, the premieres, and the news. I dreamt about so many things while watching; what it would be like to stand outside, screaming while looking up at Nick Carter waving down to a sea of insane fangirls, but also something grander.
Carson Daly, along with Ananda Lewis and later Dave Holmes were who I wanted to be. Holmes made me think I could when he came in second in the big “Wanna be a VJ” contest MTV had, losing to the eccentric Jesse Camp, but ultimately getting a job because hello, Dave Holmes was and will forever be a badass of pop culture. If you haven’t read his book, please order it now right here and enjoy. Recommended reading aside, I was enamored with the idea of being a VJ. It wasn’t because I wanted any level of fame. That seemed to be the most annoying aspect of it. I just wanted to ask people questions.
I’ve always been interested in the who, what, why, when, where, and how of other people. Team that with being a great listener because with my tiny voice, I’m often talked over so…you learn to listen more than speak over others. All of that, plus a growing love of pop culture as a tween made ‘TRL’ my goal. Sadly, NYU was out of reach, and by the time college was over for me, the show that shaped my adolescence had signed off. I still remember sitting in my dorm senior year, watching the final episode, and shedding all the tears.
We can say MTV died long before that when reality shows started to take over, but the ending of ‘TRL’ felt like the final nail in the coffin, and it hurt deep within my soul. I’d spent almost every day from middle school through the end of high school watching this show, taking in the interviews, dreaming of what it’d be like and it was now done.
Despite the sad goodbye, ‘TRL’ remains one of my favorite things about the ‘90s because it celebrated not only various aspects of pop culture but was at the helm of the Boy Band War of the late ‘90s when many of us enlisted, and it felt like a safe place for fangirls to go and just be as wild as we can be. Which, we are. I mean…if you’re reading this and watched ‘TRL’ as much as I did, you remember the Backstreet Boy fan Tiffany? If not, you clearly did not invest as much time as some of us. She is an icon among fangirls.
Tiffany came and went though, just like the show but for so many ‘90s kids, this was like the cherry on top. It helped give what we were into a platform and made you feel as if what you liked – the TV, movies, and music you enjoyed – mattered. For that, I’m forever grateful to have gotten to experience the last great chapter of MTV’s legacy before well, you know…and despite not getting to be a VJ in New York City, I still managed to find my way into a place in life where I spend my days interviewing people and writing about pop culture, and who knows if I would’ve if it wasn’t for my MTV obsession…
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