The show was created in 1997, at a time with MTV was being heavily criticized for showing fewer music videos than it had in the past. As a reaction, five shows were created: 12 Angry Viewers, MTV Live, Say What?, Artist's Cut and Total Request.
Viewers would vote at night for the videos they would like to see on the show, either calling a toll-free line or voting at MTV's web site. Carson Daly originally hosted the show, seemingly away from MTV's newly acquired studios in Times Square.
In 1998, the show was combined with MTV Live to create the former Total Request Live, commonly known as TRL which ended in 2008.