MTV is mining the past this fall with the re-launch of its hit early 2000s video countdown show, TRL.
It’s a big gamble for the network. The original Total Request Live centered around a daily countdown of the most requested music videos, overseen by host Carson Daly. But in 2017, anyone can queue up their favorite clips on YouTube and Vevo, curating their own personalized playlists anytime they want. So, how will the new TRL attract a generation of teens and young adults who have grown up with that kind of instant gratification—who have never actually had to request much or anything?
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Details about the actual format of the show have been scarce since it was announced back in July. But this week, MTV opened the doors to TRL’s revamped Times Square studio ahead of the show’s October 2 premiere. Here’s what we know:
1. The TRL Squad
After Daly left the show in 2003, a rotating cast of VJs took over hosting duties for the remainder of TRL’s original run, and that’s more or less the same model the new version is going with. Rapper and comedian DC Young Fly will be anchoring a “squad” of social media influencers, including Tamara Dhia, Amy Pham, Erik Zachary, Lawrence Jackson, Liza Koshy, and The Dolan Twins. Plus, DJ Kahled was just named "the Godfather" of TRL. He'll be on hand Monday to help launch the new series with DC Young Fly and Liza Koshy, and will be stopping by frequently to...do whatever it is a godfather is supposed to do.
2. On the guestlist
The show will launch Monday with guest appearances and performances by your problematic faves Ed Sheeran and Migos. Noah Cyrus, Playboi Carti, and boy band PRETTYMUCH are slated to appear on Tuesday’s show, with Demi Lovato and Lil Uzi Vert dropping by on Wednesday, Lil Yachty in the house on Thursday, and Travis Scott and Romeo Santos rounding out the premiere week on Friday.
3. The original TRL studio has been fully revamped
Back in the day, the kids used to gather outside MTV’s headquarters at 1515 Broadway in Times Square, holding up signs and hoping for a glimpse of their favorite celebs through the TRL studio’s second floor windows.
That same studio has been expanded and fully updated for the revival, creating a fully immersive experience. According to showrunner Albert Lewitinn, all 8,700 square feet of the studio will be camera-ready, giving the show a much looser, club house vibe compared to other live shows that film in the neighborhood. Unlike other shows, there’s no designated, off-camera audience seating. Fans will share floor space and sofas with celebs, or party while musical guests perform.
“It’s all open, the idea being that a fan can sit here and be two steps from Ed Sheeran or five steps from Migos,” Lewitinn says. “We have the flexibility and the versatility to do just about anything.” That means TRL can tailor any guest’s appearance to their particular style, from more intimate acoustic performances to wild shows. And those floor-to-ceiling windows are still there overlooking Broadway, reincorporating TRL into the LED circus of Times Square.
The return of the early '00s video countdown show is sure to bring back all of the feels.
4. It’s a 24/7 content machine
The new TRL will launch as an hour-long weekday show on MTV. But as Lewitinn points out, the studio doesn’t just disappear for the other 23 hours of the day. The plan is to utilize the space before, during, and after the live broadcast for digital and social content, putting the show’s social media stars and their talents to good use.
“If The Dolan Twins call me up and say, ‘Listen, I wanna do this in the studio,’ like, as long as we don’t kill anybody, I think we’re good,” says Lewitinn. The fun kicks off each day with a pre-show on Facebook, live segments pushed out to social media in real time during the broadcast, post-shows on Facebook and YouTube, daily streams on Live.ly and Musical.ly, and tons of original content throughout the day.
5. The “R” in TRL still stands for ‘Request”
Yes, you’ll be able to make requests on TRL. But the question remains: What will we be requesting?
“We’re bringing the music back to television!” says DC Young Fly. But, he says, “Ain’t no tellin’ what videos we might show. We might show the hottest video of the day, the best underground artist of the week. TRL is for the fans that’s listenin’ to music for real.”
While he’s cagey about whether the show will incorporate a countdown of some kind, Lewitinn does hint that we should probably broaden the scope of the kind of things we expect to request on TRL. “We live in a world where you can request a car service to take you home, a meal to come to your house, you can request anything. So the idea of the request, isn’t limited to music.” Your guess is as good as ours…
6. TRL is staying woke
Maybe the biggest headline to come out of this year’s MTV VMAs was the pervasiveness of politics on the show. TRL won’t shy away from political engagement, either. “TRL is the perfect show for that kind of thing. We’re live so we’re able to pivot in the moment when things happen,” Lewitinn says.
“We’re not gonna be the news every day,” says DC Young Fly, “But say something happens, like for example the hurricane. We will touch on it. We gon’ show the world that we are all affected by what’s goin’ on.”
TRL, Weekdays beginning Oct. 2, Live at 3:30/2:30c, MTV