It’s been seven years since Total Request Live aka TRL left the airwaves, leaving an entire generation of tweens and teenagers bereft of a post-school outlet to watch Carson Daly hobnob with the reigning musical royalty of the day in between screenings of music videos… you know, those things you watch on YouTube and Vevo. Clearly, comedian, podcaster, and pop culture junkie Paul Scheer misses that era as much as we do, because he’s dedicated himself to recreating classic TRL moments with his new web series, Scheer-RL. Whether you were still on training wheels when the show was on the air or are just feeling nostalgic for the early ‘00s, the series brings those moments back to life, albeit in a slightly different form than you might remember.
Scheer himself presides over each five-minute clip as Carson Daly, best known to contemporary teenagers as that dude who routinely interrupts Adam Levine and Blake Shelton on The Voice. His guests, meanwhile, represent a cross-section of the best comedians and scene-stealers around, all of whom impersonate musical acts that were at the top of their game ten years ago. Not only have you got Silicon Valley’s Kumail Nanjiani re-enacting Mariah Carey’s infamous on-air meltdown in 2001, you can also see Fresh Off the Boat’s Randall Park and Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Joe Lo Truglio square off as Eminem and Mark Wahlberg respectively, replicating their tense 1999 encounter when the former Funky Bunch member called Slim Shady an “a–hole” on the air. Best of all is former Happy Endings star Casey Wilson out-diva-ing eternal diva Celine Dion’s chilly, hot dog-obsessed 1999 appearance.
Scheer-RL’s versions may not always stick to the TRL script (that happens when you’re working with gifted improvisers), but they do capture the peculiar charm of that dearly-departed show. Even at the time, we secretly knew that TRL was pre-fab entertainment — carefully orchestrated and stage-managed to appear spontaneous — but almost nowhere else on television could you see such a range of personalities so nakedly appealing to the teenage fanbase. And Scheer’s subdued impersonation of Daly gives you a renewed appreciation for how he handled his job as TRL’s master of ceremonies: He always deflected attention onto the star and found graceful ways to deal with super-strange behavior. (Consider him forgiven for the whole Tara Reid thing.)
Bonus tip: Once you’re through with Scheer-RL, go back and watch Scheer’s earlier foray into nostalgic recreation, The ArScheerio Paul Show, featuring hilarious re-enactments of vintage Arsenio Hall Show interviews with Nick Kroll as Jean-Claude Van Damme and Alison Brie as Madonna, among others. Here’s our pitch for his next target: Coming in 2016… The Scheerbert Report!