For a few hours on Sunday, it felt like 1999 all over again. ‘N Sync members Justin Timberlake and J.C. Chasez waved to screaming fans, Carson Daly mugged for the camera, and MTV actually played a few music videos.
Then it was over, and with it the end of an era, as “Total Request Live,” the 10-year-old MTV video countdown program, aired its final show after years of slow decline.
Viewers seemed to eat up the nostalgia. The three-hour, star-studded special, starting at 8 p.m. Sunday, averaged 813,000 total viewers, 22 percent above the network’s primetime average of 667,000 last week.
It was more than triple the 250,000 viewers who watched the show’s penultimate episode on Thursday, airing in its regular 3:30 p.m. timeslot, merely enforcing that MTV made the right decision in ending the show.
During its peak in 1999 and 2000, “TRL” drew more than 700,000 viewers on weekday afternoons, with hundreds of screaming teenagers gathering outside MTV’s Times Square studio to see which celebrities would drop by.
Those viewers had dwindled in recent years, especially among teens 12-17, where “TRL’s” audience had fallen to fewer than 100,000, off from 200,000 at its peak.
The show became a relic after the network adopted a new focus. It stopped playing videos in primetime in favor of unscripted celebreality shows.
But “TRL” was also a victim of new technology. When it debuted, “TRL” invited fans to call in and then counted down the day’s top videos, which you couldn’t find elsewhere. That was back in the days when boy bands and Britney Spears were the hottest musical acts, and stopping by “TRL” was essential for any band with a new album or movie star promoting a new film.
These days, videos are available on YouTube, on-demand video outlets and even cell phones, eliminating the need for a daily countdown. At the same time, teens’ tastes have become more sophisticated, moving beyond bubblegum pop to artists who communicate directly with fans via their web sites, like Coldplay.
Still, Sunday’s finale was a heck of a show. In addition to Timberlake, Chasez and Daly, the show’s original host who’s since moved on to host a late-night show on NBC, the live finale featured performances by Beyonce, 50 Cent, Fall Out Boy and more.
Producer and performer Diddy made his record-breaking 39th appearance on the show, and scenes of crazy moments from “TRL’s” past were played. Across the internet, sites like EW.com live-blogged every minute of it.
And the show did one last countdown. Though she didn’t appear in the finale, Spears’ “…Baby One More Time” was named the top video of the decade.
Source: MediaLife, November 19, 2008