When we heard the news that MTV mainstay TRL was headed for that great cancellation box in the sky, we decided to get some inside scoop from one of the people who knew it best: former MTV VJ Dave Holmes. The music buff first appeared on the channel as the runner-up to Jesse Camp on MTV's 1998 Wanna Be a VJ contest, but he outlasted the offbeat Camp and hosted multiple shows on MTV, eventually ascending to his own major place in the TRL firmament. So what does Holmes make of the cancellation — and the current state of MTV in general? Lauren Conrad, you've been warned:DEFAMER: How did you hear that TRL was going off the air? DAVE: I think I saw it on, like, Huffington Post or something. There wasn't a 3am phone call or anything like that. DEFAMER: How did you feel when you heard the news? DAVE: I hadn't watched [TRL] in a long time, but it was kind of a bummer, you know? It was a funny show where a lot of people who I still work with got their start. It'll be missed. DEFAMER: Had you heard any rumors about its demise? Did you see this coming? DAVE: I'm a little bit out of their demographic right now, so I hadn't heard anything. I check in every now and then, but I don't recognize a soul who's on it anymore. Damien [Fahey] does an awesome job, but I have no idea who the artists are at all. Like, I don't get Tokio Hotel. I don't understand why they're trying so hard to get them into them in the running. But yeah, I kind of thought that it might be coming. In 1999, 2000, there were a few huge stars. Now, there are a ton of semi-big stars. There's nobody that every thirteen-year-old girl can agree that they love, that they'd skip school and hop on the train and stand in Times Square to look at through a window. DEFAMER: But what about a show like 106 & Park, which I think is still BET's highest-rated show? How can a music video show like that succeed while TRL is cancelled? DAVE: Yeah, I don't understand how it doesn't make sense to at least keep it on. I mean, it's MTV's last music show, it's like their little clubhouse. It seems like the kind of thing they would want to keep going on forever, but then, what do I know? I mean, I just saw my first episode of The Hills last night, so what the fuck do I know? DEFAMER: How had you managed to avoid it all this time? DAVE: You know, it was just total, willful avoidance. I never saw Laguna Beach, either. It's almost more entertaining to watch people try to explain The Hills to you than to watch The Hills, because they don't know why they watch it. They talk about the people like they know them. It really is more fun to watch a grown man or woman defend their position as a Hills watcher. DEFAMER: Is that indicative of how MTV has changed? We did a feature a few weeks ago called "7 MTV-Defining Stars Who Wouldn't Be Allowed on MTV Anymore"... DAVE: ...Yeah, I read that! DEFAMER: So do you agree with our premise that there's no niche there anymore for the sorts of people who put the network on the map? DAVE: Yeah, I definitely agree. This is, like, a whole big conspiracy thing, but the way the Nielsen system works doesn't reward things like MTV used to put on. You know what I mean? Like, any music video show, you'd tune in for five minutes and if something came on that you didn't like, you'd change the channel. So ratings would be really low for some of the interesting programming that MTV used to put on. Now they do these things that aren't really challenging, but you're almost beat into submission in the first five minutes, like, "I guess I should see how this ends." You don't remember it when it's over, but you've watched it and that's all that matters. And it's a business! Unfortunately, they have to sell advertising. DEFAMER: Was MTV always that ruthless about programming, though? DAVE: You know, even the lowest-rated shows when I was there, people would talk about. Years later, they would remember it. So anecdotally, you know that people are actually watching, but the ratings never really bore that out. DEFAMER: Is there anything on MTV you still watch? DAVE: Listen, I will watch The Real World/Road Rules Challenge until the day I die. Big, hot dudes with their shirts off yelling at each other and getting drunk? For some reason, that never gets old. Like, I will watch CT take his shirt off and yell at somebody all fucking day. If there was a channel that was just that, I would watch it. But yeah, I don't love The Hills. Every single Dance Crew looks exactly the same to me. A lot of people I love still work there and the ratings are really good and people are still talking about it, but I'm 37 years old. DEFAMER: But MTV used to be at least a little countercultural, didn't it? Even when they were programming shows like Singled Out, there'd be something like Tabitha Soren... DAVE: And even things like Singled Out had Chris Hardwick, who's hilarious, and Jenny McCarthy, who's hilarious. They were sort of in on the joke a little bit, and right now, there's a lot of stuff that maybe takes itself too seriously. Like, Lauren Conrad probably has demands of what she will and won't do, and that's ridiculous... I wish that MTV2 would sort of take on that mantle of, "Here's our programming and here's people who love music," but it just seems like it's reruns of The Hills. DEFAMER: When we posted about the TRL cancellation, some of our commenters started posting some old YouTube videos of their favorite moments... DAVE: Oh, no way! DEFAMER: ...so what would your favorite moment have been, if you could post it? DAVE: You know, the really funny shit happened behind the scenes. My favorite thing I saw in probably the whole time I worked for MTV was there was this whole hour devoted to Prince, which of course he showed up fifty minutes late for. He flew in with this huge phalanx of guards, hot chicks with their tits out, and one of the biggest of the big dudes who was around him had this big jar with a posted note on it that said "Swear Jar." If you swore around Prince, since he was a Jehovah's Witness, you had to put in a dollar. That didn't make it to the air, but I just thought, "Man, that's funny stuff!"
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