I was 15 years old, and just coming off my pre-pubescent reliance on “Total Request Live” — as we all did — in assuming music lived and died by Carson Daly’s word. I started to like “obscure” and “meaningful” music. In New York City, as part of an English seminar excursion, I was to discover true art and culture.
Somehow, amid an NBC studios tour, our group was offered a rare chance to be part of the live audience on “TRL.” It seemed preposterous. Conan, or even Dateline, it was not. Hell, even one of our colleagues was so self-conscious of the idea that he refused to participate. This was “TRL” for God’s sake.
We were not told who’d be hosting, or who the special guests would be. Dicey, seeing as it could’ve been an Osbourne kid or a WB star, and what good would that be? Yet, there was no reason not to go on. I just tried to think of it as “Bozo’s Grand Prize Game” for my generation.
So who winds up being the host for the day? Carson freakin’ Daly. The musical guest? Good Charlotte.
OK, so that’s not the most engaging or insightful group of people to watch. I fiddled, fidgeted and freaked before the end of the taping. Arms folded in disdain, I sat in my seat and glared at the middle-aged security officer demanding we scream for the show. If we didn’t? Banishment from the audience. And shots of dancing patrons would be minimal, likely to avoid the acne and awkwardness that was ever-present.
Daly kept pacing around, working on one-liners, while Good Charlotte made sure their mohawks looked good on TV. Their first single was kind of catchy. (I didn’t say it was good.) And the giggling Gap, Mossimo and Polo-clad youths of the audience ate up every bit of it.
But it was fun. Maybe it’s the cancellation, or six years to think about the whole ordeal, but “TRL,” in actuality, was important. Like the “American Band Stand” of our generation, Daly gave big names their hype, while even pushing the lesser-known artists into higher rankings. “TRL” was a unifying pop cultural phenomenon. I wouldn’t exchange that experience for anything.