Friday, February 15, 2008


Arrived/Departed: 10:30/1:45
Audience warm up: Standing in line, walking through metal detectors
Seating: Long, painted benches

Taping: January 29, 2008
Air date: January 31, 2008

Oh my God. The bright, multicolored lights, the music. Total sensory overload. It's candy.
Pure sugar. A quick rush, without any substance, rapidly gobbled by kids and utterly garish to adults. This is Total Request Live--TRL, MTV's red herring to pretend it's still music television. The show doesn't show full music videos, just clips. It also represents youth culture for many. That's a harbinger, surely.

I'm a white male in his twenties who considers his music tastes discerning. I am no way the target demographic for this show. So it's hardly fair for me to hate here.

Fortunately, life is also not fair. And similarity to life has nothing to do with television. I don't know where this analogy is going, but let me be clear: TRL is terrible in every way, and the kids these days are disgusting and immoral, and their role models are smut peddlers and scum.

I arrived late because my train was stuck underground for half an hour. I didn't realize it at the time, but this was the highlight of my day. Like with many shows, we waited outside for a while. And after that, we waited inside for a while. The show is advertised as for people 16-24 and you need ID to prove you're in that range. I was not checked, and neither was anyone else I saw. Most seemed about fourteen. This is relevant. No kids said anything to me, but I can't imagine my thick beard and mild bald spot went unnoticed.

If I actually arrived on time for the show, I would have waited about an hour and forty-five minutes around before even being seated. I learned two things while waiting:
  1. The kids today do not respect my personal space.
  2. The kids today still state falsehoods to their friends, then, as said friends are sufficiently hoodwinked, yell "psych!"
When you're an audience member, those in charge of the show don't give you much respect, and this was even more apparent with TRL. The Audience Coordinator had a palpable contempt for her clients. It's very high school: Empty your pockets for the metal detector. Stand in line. Shh! Stop talking! Sit down there. Scoot down. Stand up. Sit down. Yell wooo when I say. Stop yelling wooo.

TRL is shot three-quarters in the round, which I guess is impressive. That mostly meant that kids had to keep scooting one way or the other to fill the background of a given shot. In case you caught the episode I attended, I'm sitting next to the heavyset guy in a yellow t-shirt who whooo-ed even louder than the rest, always with his fists raised triumphantly above his head.

This episode was "10 Influential Music Videos" in anticipation of Missy Elliott's latest, Ching-A-Ling, which is in 3-D and therefore may prove influential. Our host is Damien Fahey. He's a perfectly affable jackass and perfect successor to Carson Daly. He's opposite of a Colbert or Montel in that I probably wouldn't mind hanging out with him in real life, but he's a total tool to watch. He was helped by a Lyndsey Rodrigues, an Australian whose job was apparently to smile and be tall and pretty and occasionally speak in her charming accent. She was perfectly cast. Halfway through the show, the Aussie said announced to the cameras,

"Karen from Kansas writes,
'Dear TRL. My boyfriend has a great body, but mine could use some work. I'd like to get some exercise but he won't work out with me. What do I do?'

Karen, you are oh-so-lucky. Because today we have the queen of erotic aerobic workouts, Carmen Electra!"

They cut to commercial.
Don't think the show is live; taped shows frequently stop for roughly the amount of time as commercials. Some TRL staff came out, rearranged some of the kids sitting in one corner, and placed a cheesy, heart-shaped bed.

The Aussie gestured to the bed and leered at Carmen: "So, Carmen, would you mind showing us an erotic aerobic dance? Woooo!"

And Carmen Electra seemed genuinely surprised by this request. Was she not earlier informed earlier than this that she would be "dancing"? Did the bed in the middle of the stage not raise a red flag? What about the fact that, besides a meager acting career (in fairness, she stars in the recent "Meet the Spartans"), most of her post-Singled Out and Dennis Rodman notoriety come from these videos?

(Disclaimer: I hate to be a prude about this. But look at who's sitting behind Carmen in this picture. This is the target audience for her Aerobic Striptease DVDs?)

"Gosh," Carmen said disingenuously, suggestively, and sadly. "I'm wearing this short little dress. I'll give these people behind me a show."

At this, most of the guys commenced hooting and hollering. The fists of the guy beside me became ever-more triumphant.

"Well," she said coyly, "I guess I can give a little demonstration."

Then, this is what she did:

She flopped on the bed.

She rolled around a little.

She grabbed a pillow.

She threw the pillow a foot and a half in the air.

The pillow landed near her head.

She slowly waved her arms in a a way that was less effeminate, more freakishly weak.

She giggled.

She stood, finished with her routine, and giggled.

"I guess the real workout is what comes after."

Everyone applauded. Boys hooted.

Fists triumphed.

America worsened.

Next week: Letterman

1 comment:

K said...

Ah, Carmen Electra, always there to add a scintillating dash of class and refinery.