Date of Award



Edward Cahill

Second Advisor

Amy Aronson


Because television succeeds or fails based on its ability to attract an audience large enough to entice advertisers, this project will operate under the assumption that popular television conveys some important cultural attributes of both its creators and its audience. American Bandstand and Total Request Live (TRL) each presented the most popular music of the day in ways that drew massive audiences from America’s youth, between 1952-1989 (Bandstand) and 1998-2008 (TRL.) I will treat these and related shows as venues through which to view American youth culture. The music itself adds an exciting component to the project: as music changed, and reflected cultural truths, how did the shows change to remain relevant?
In the fifty-plus-year time span addressed in this project, some program attributes remain consistent but some, including treatment of race and gender, shift in very important ways. Tensions certainly emerged when dance show producers essentially had to choose between integration and cancellation, and very noteworthy narratives are told throughout the transition from live dancers to music video. This evolution presents an opportunity to explore the identities of the creators, musicians, and audience members involved in the production and distribution of each show. I pursued my research by directly studying the programs themselves, by consulting relevant existing scholarship, and by conducting interviews. I hope that the resulting project illuminates youth culture as it is reflected by youth-directed music media and as it relates to greater social trends in the United States.