NEW YORK — It was like old times in MTV’s Times Square studio. There were superstars everywhere you looked, frantic stagehands darting about, and down below — packed against police barricades — screaming kids … lots of screaming kids.
On Sunday night (November 16), after 10 years and more than 2,500 episodes, MTV’s legendary “TRL” bid adieu to the airwaves with “Total Finale Live,” a positively packed three-hour party that was as much about celebrating memories from the past as it was creating ones for the future.
It was a livewire, unpredictable and — fittingly — star-studded send-off for a show that prided itself in being all those things. It was a night full of big-time performances, big-name guest stars and nostalgic trips down memory lane. It was the kind of proper, celebratory goodbye that most of MTV’s biggest programs (be it “Jackass” or “Beavis and Butt-head” or even “The Osbournes”) don’t actually get, which sort of makes sense, considering that “TRL” launched the careers of today’s biggest stars, reimagined the concept of live television and, whether you realize it or not, probably defined a generation.
A who’s who of “TRL” alumni rocked stages both inside and out of the studio, starting with Beyoncé, who, backed by a cracking live band, poured her heart and soul into “If I Were a Boy” and then flipped the switch and tore through muscled up versions of “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” and “Crazy in Love.” Fall Out Boy (sans bassist Pete Wentz, who was with his wife Ashlee Simpson as she reportedly went into labor) followed her, braving the chilly New York night to shred on a flatbed truck parked in the heart of Times Square. Wentz even got some new-dad advice from Good Charlotte’s Joel Madden on the show.
Later in the night, a trio of hip-hop heavyweights — Ludacris, Nelly and Snoop Dogg — performed their greatest “TRL” hits, then joined forces on the Doggfather’s “Drop It Like It’s Hot.” Former “TRL” mainstays the Backstreet Boys took a nostalgic run at “I Want It That Way,” and 50 Cent — who, in true Fiddy fashion, kept show producers waiting until the very last minute — pounded his way through “In Da Club” and his current hit, “Get Up.” (Backstage, he had some choice words for Kanye West and Donald Trump. )
And though they didn’t perform, tons of other stars stopped by to pay their respects. Justin Timberlake chuckled as clips of his frosted-tipped ’NSYNC past played on flat-screen TVs in the studio. Taylor Swift clutched a “TRL” yearbook that she got signed by everyone in attendance. Diddy — who appeared on the show more than anyone else — did a bit of hosting, a bit of joking and (of course) a bit of plugging for his new fragrance, I Am King, and the upcoming Notorious B.I.G. biopic “Notorious.” And, in a move that could only happen on live television, Kid Rock wandered around with a stogie and a glass of beer, then greeted a female admirer in the audience with: “Hi, baby, you’re much too young for me.”
There were phoned-in congrats from Eminem and Christina Aguilera. Miley Cyrus geeking out in the “TRL” photo booth. More former VJs than you could shake a stick at. And plenty of video packages that recounted the most memorable moments from the show’s 10-year history — everything from Mariah Carey’s wacko striptease to Rudy Guiliani’s appearance on the show’s first broadcast post-9/11 — and goofy glimpses at your favorite stars’ first appearances on the show (a barely legal Xtina, a super-slim Slim Shady, a giggly Britney Spears, to name just a few). There were on-air bleeps and teary pre-teens and even a few “Oh wait, what?!?” moments — you know, the stuff “TRL” was known for.
And, appropriately, there was also one last video countdown. Hosts Carson Daly and Damien Fahey guided viewers (and the screaming fans inside the studio) through the 10 most iconic clips in “TRL” history — everything from Outkast’s “Hey Ya!” and ’NSYNC’s “Bye Bye Bye” to Kid Rock’s “Bawitdaba” — a list topped with Britney Spears’ ” … Baby One More Time” (sadly, Brit Brit was not on hand to accept the accolades). The fact that all of this played out before a packed (and really squealy) studio audience — and on a massive screen outside in Times Square — only seemed right.
And then, as 11 p.m. drew close on the East Coast, it was time bring the show to a close. Surrounded by friends, fans and the famous, Daly and Fahey raised champagne glasses and attempted to sum up the show’s 10-year run in a few sentences. Not surprisingly, this proved rather tough (and Kid Rock and Snoop’s “pass the dutchie” antics didn’t help matters much), but it was Daly who perhaps did it best, thanking everyone who’s ever appeared or worked on the show for a decade’s worth of memories, then turning to the camera, raising his glass high and asking, appropriately: “Why are we stopping this show?”
Good question, dude.
For everything on “Total Finale Live,” including bonus performances, behind-the-scenes action and more, head to TRL.MTV.com. Plus, check out our stage-door interviews with 50 Cent, Taylor Swift, Ludacris and many more superstars at the big show.