Finally, my first personal entry of the year and it comes as MTV has announced that the venerable music video countdown, TRL will go off the air sometime on a Saturday afternoon in November. The countdown has been a staple of MTV’s programming for the past 10 years and in recent years, the only thing that was music about MTV, which has become a pool of reality shows, reality shows, and a dance show designed to keep Mario Lopez relevant past Dancing With the Stars. Yes, the reality shows have become vehicles for indie and emerging acts to hawk their wares in exchange for commercial appeal (hint hint, The Academy Is), but TRL remained the stone that kept MTV from becoming “Reality TV”.
In a way, I am saddened by the retiring of TRL even though in recent years, the countdown;s formula has morphed into some kind of complex quadratic equation (there’s my math skills…) rather than focus on what makes music tick, the fans. Why am I saddened? TRL remained the only visible bridge between what MTV once was and is now (highlighting a quick fall from music television to…reality television). It is the show that has launched careers, most notably Carson Daly and One Tree Hill’s Hilarie Burton…and maybe Vanessa Minnillo, but that’s up for debate and for another day. TRL helped make the music fan on the go digest the top videos they should be watching every day and every week, and helped put the teen music world up on the top of the mountain when it debuted in 1998 with the Backstreet Boys, ‘NSYNC, and Britney Spears are claiming a piece of the pie. From then until now, it was a vehicle for a lot of musicians and bands to promote themselves and for actors and actresses to promote their upcoming movies.
On some level, I will miss TRL not just for being such a mainstay, but for the fact it did inspire the launch of our own music video countdown, The Count, which averages somewhere between 60,000-110,000 votes a week and is a music fan-only driven music video countdown, much like what TRL once was before they switched to a formula that weighted other factors such as downloads and radio airplay over what counted the most, the fans voting two years ago.
So come November, let us lay to rest one of MTV’s last enduring music and pop culture shows that actually meant something to the music industry and television because you won’t find another enduring symbol ever on music television.