It was a fitting farewell for a show that ran for ten years, aired more than 2,500 episodes and launched countless careers: Beyoncé, Fall Out Boy and 50 Cent performed live. Taylor Swift, Justin Timberlake and Miley Cyrus were in attendance to toast “TRL’s” legacy. Eminem and Christina Aguilera showed up via satellite. And there were more former VJs wandering the studio than we could possibly count.
It was a wild and unpredictable night — 50 palled around with Kid Rock backstage (and took a couple shots at Kanye West), Pete Wentz got parenthood advice from the dudes in Good Charlotte, etc. — a perfect tribute to a show that prided itself in being both of those things, not to mention the kind of celebratory goodbye most of MTV’s biggest programs of the era (“Jackass,” “Beavis and Butt-head,” “The Osbournes”) never actually got. Which was nice, considering “TRL” was essentially MTV’s flagship show, a haven for celebs and fans that reimagined the concept of live television and, whether you realize it or not, probably came to define a generation.
And so, on the five-year anniversary of the “TRL” finale, we’re bringing you five of the most memorable moments from that night, when the stars converged on Times Square to say goodbye to a truly iconic show.
Beyoncé Brings It
First, she kicked off the live broadcast by striding into the “TRL” studio and declaring “Total Finale Live stars now!” Then, backed by her all-girl band, Queen Bey graced Times Square with a regal performance that included a medley of her biggest hits: The soulful “If I Were A Boy” somehow segued into the strutting “Single Ladies,” and with the audience firmly in the palm of her hand, Beyoncé switched to the classic “Crazy In Love,” which nearly tore the roof off the place. As far as opening acts go, you can’t go much better than royalty.
JT And JC Reminisce
By 2008, “TRL” faves ‘N Sync were a distant memory, though that didn’t stop two of its members — Justin Timberlake and JC Chasez — from showing up at the finale to share their memories of the time when boy bands ruled. “This is like a big high school reunion; I feel like we all grew up together,” Timberlake told host Carson Daly. “‘TRL’ was so integral to our careers; it’s really trippy and awesome to be here.” Sure, N’Sync would officially reunite five years later at the 2013 VMAs, but this was the first dry run.
Miley Mugs For The Camera
Any “TRL” fanatic can tell you that the show’s in-studio photo booth was one of its most memorable features; over 10 seasons, more than 200 celebs — everyone from John McCain and Muhammed Ali to Sisqo and Insane Clown Posse — posed for pictures there, and the best were collected in a coffee table book. On this night, it was rising star Miley Cyrus who manned the booth, mastering the art of the selfie before selfies were even a thing. One weird thing though: No tongue.
Taylor Swift — Superfan
On the night of the “TRL” finale, Taylor Swift has just released the album that would make her a megastar: Fearless But the true effects of celebrity had yet to take hold, so she spent the majority of the night backstage starstruck, posing for pictures with guys like Diddy and collecting autographs in her official “TRL” book. Awww, she was so little back then!
Jesse Camp Was There!
Back in 1998, “TRL” held the first “Wanna be a VJ” contest, wherein one lucky contestant would win a talent contract with the network and, presumably, go on to become a huge star. The winner was Jesse Camp, a beanpole “street kid” with live-wire hair and Big Bird voice. He quickly became a cult favorite — eventually landing his own show, the short-lived “Lunch With Jesse”and scoring a record contract — before basically disappearing from the public eye (in 2006, he was reportedly working at a Los Angeles pet store). But despite that, he made his triumphant return to “TRL” on the finale, sharing the spotlight with “Wanna be a VJ” runner-up Dave Holmes … then got caught on camera ordering 8 balls at the official after party.