MTV Revives TRL and MTV Unplugged

Written by Sydney Hamilton


The past has returned to MTV in a big way. Over the summer, the network announced it would be bringing back its once beloved daily show TRL, as well as the popular concert series, MTV Unplugged. Both programs debuted (for the second time!) on the station this fall, returning with some all-new features.

Before the boom of reality television on MTV around the mid-2000s, the channel was still revered for being the place for all things music and pop culture. In 1998, they presented a new program that delivered both all within an hour and called it Total Request Live, or as it fondly known as, TRL. The title really says it all: it was a daily live show hosted in New York City by fresh-faced TV personality Carson Daly. Every day the show held a countdown of the top ten most requested music videos, as chosen by the viewers via phone or through the website. The show also featured a live audience and guest appearances from some of the most popular musicians at the time such as Britney Spears, *NSYNC, and Christina Aguilera. For 18 seasons, TRL had been catering to teens and young adults all over the nation, giving them the music they wanted. Then on the fateful day of November 16, 2008, the series celebrated its final broadcast with a special three-hour finale.


It’s been nine years since that day and the all-new TRL is going by a different set of rules. Since the premiere on October 2, the show has been finding new ways to interact and entertain a generation that has become much more absorbed with the wonderful world of technology. TRL now has a rotating system of hosts including popular internet comedian DC Young Fly, as well as social media correspondents like YouTubers Liza Koshy and Gigi Gorgeous. The traditional music countdown has been replaced with various engaging segments like live fan contests, celebrity interviews, and musical games. While it’s still in its baby steps, this new take on a classic may just prove to be worth the wait.


An even older blast from the past is the widely adored concert series, MTV Unplugged. The idea of the show when it first debuted in 1989 was famous artists playing acoustic, stripped-down versions of some of their most popular songs, hence the term “unplugged.” It was a chance for the fans to see their favorite musicians in a much more vulnerable, raw state and in many ways, allowed for a deeper connection between the audience and the performer. It seemed to help give new meaning and emotion to songs that were already playing on radios and Walkman’s across the country. In fact, many of the artists released these sessions as entire Unplugged albums and found commercial success, such as Eric Clapton, Nirvana, and Alicia Keys. The series even helped MTV win an Emmy for Best New Approach. The show reached its peak between 1989 and 1999; it continued throughout the 2000s, though it experienced much less success. As a result, MTV dissolved the idea as series and presented the sessions more sporadically on their website.


As of September 2017, MTV executives decided to the run the series once again, starting with singer Shawn Mendes. Unlike TRL, the show hasn’t strayed too far from the original and still uses its traditional format by creating a cozy environment that doesn’t create too much space between the artist and the audience. It’s still just as intimate as ever and shows potential to once again be a huge hit.

These two revivals mark MTV’s return to its roots, as it once again aims to give the fans what they want.


Edited by Jenna Caldwell