Nostalgia is bad. Capitalism is bad. Allow me to demonstrate: MTV brought back TRL on Monday. A favorite for those who grew up in the ‘90s, Total Request Live was the must-watch show to catch interviews with your favorite boy band, teen pop star, or incredibly awkward rappers, right after school.
TRL was a show based on the at-the-time novel idea that you could call in to the show’s host and request that they play your favorite video. Nine years since the last episode aired, that very idea is extremely dated, and the reboot appears to be getting off to a rocky start. The show is still in its first week (full disclosure: I worked at MTV News last year), but initial reviews haven’t been too kind. Below are some of the worst.
Dee Lockett of Vulture raised excruciating nine questions about the new TRL, but her first one (“Why does this show exist?”) cut the deepest:
“It’s fair to argue that MTV knows it forgot about the ‘M’ in its name, and is therefore making up for lost time. But that would imply that the TRL reboot has anything to do with music. No, the new TRL is music-adjacent: There are musicians and sometimes music gets performed and briefly played by a DJ, but that’s where the similarities stop. Not a single music video was shown during the reboot’s debut.”
No music videos on TRL does feel a bit odd. Darren Franich of EW, who gave the show a D+, said:
“The general style had less in common with the original TRL than with the recent editions of the Video Music Awards. The modern VMAs always have multiple stages and outdoor performances and various humans with microphones scattered frontstage and backstage. The show seems to get worse at managing its hugeness every year, though.”
Kevin Fallon of the Daily Beast also pointed out numerous technical difficulties:
“In fact, there were at least four times when the cameras weren’t in the right place, guests weren’t ready to come out, hosts didn’t have microphones, and these young VJs stood staring at the camera like deers in headlights. Heeding driver’s safety protocol when it comes to deer collisions, the barrelling mess of an episode ran right over them.”
“A friend described the performance to me as someone who was walking out of a karaoke room right as their song came on and then felt obligated to go through with it even though everyone can tell their mind and heart is not really in it. And, really, the performance does sound like Carti doing karaoke to his own song but then realizing 30 seconds in that he didn’t remember the verses as well as he thought.”
Who needs to know the words to their own song? Minor details. Personally the moment that stuck out the most to me this week was when one of the show’s many hosts, DC Young Fly, kept mispronouncing of Cardi B’s name as “Cardi’s B.” One YouTube user couldn’t ignore this.
Sadly, we’re all cringing through this moment of misplaced nostalgia.