MTV Video Music Awards offer disturbingly normal show

Friday, September 1, 2006

NEW YORK -- Where are Eminem and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog when you need them?

Despite Shakira's ever-gyrating hips, Justin Timberlake's "SexyBack" and the obscured image of a naked midget, the first hour of the annual MTV Video Music Awards had about as much spontaneity as an episode of "Cribs."

"This show has been lame farts for the past 20 years," host Jack Black said before he took the stage Thursday night for his opening sketch. "And I'm going to light the match!"

Instead, Black continued a trend.

After a perfunctory performance by Timberlake to kick off the show, Black had a promising bit that poked fun at the show's increasingly staid reputation. Painting himself as the man to inject life back into the VMAs, he took to the stage in a moonman outfit -- which caught fire.

But Black's shtick quickly got old. Even Lil' Kim, who once appeared at the VMAs wearing a pasty on one breast, failed to get the party started. Recently released from prison after serving time for perjury, she stripped off an orange jail suit to reveal ... something that resembled a funky business suit. Hillary Clinton has worn more revealing outfits.

Though the MTV Awards have never lacked star power -- last year, Diddy acted as host and stars ranging from Eva Longoria to Jessica Simpson and then-hubby Nick Lachey squeezed themselves into the spotlight -- that trademark water-cooler MTV moment hasn't materialized recently (like Eminem punching out a puppet).

This year, the disturbing trend of normalcy continued. Shakira and Wyclef Jean performed a colorful but rote performance of her smash "Hips Don't Lie"; Ludacris and Pharrell posed their way through "Showstopper."

There was just one profanity-laced acceptance speech, courtesy of the rock group AFI, whose frontman accepted the award for best group video by saying: "We just won a moonman -- I am getting so trashed tonight!"

The lack of outrageousness was a far cry from the days when Michael Jackson was making out with Lisa Marie Presley -- that was creepy, but at least it kept everyone talking.

Beyonce got some points for at least trying to do something that resembled a show-stopper. Singing her call-to-arms, the anti-cheating single "Ring the Alarm," she appeared on stage wearing a sexy trench coat and a searing gaze.

But while her voice was in perfect form, the performance was disjointed, and the out-of-place dance number in the middle seemed to rip off the choreography from Janet Jackson's "Rhythm Nation" almost 20 years earlier.

Still, she managed to keep things interesting -- which could hardly be said for the rest of the evening. At one point, the crew from the MTV grossout show "Jackass" gave one of its members an electric shock, jolting his system. If only they could delivered a similar dose to the whole telecast.

Oh yeah -- the awards.

In the early going, Best Male Video went to James Blunt for "You're Beautiful" and Best Hip-Hop Video went to the Black Eyed Peas for "My Humps." Kelly Clarkson was not on hand to accept Best Female Video for "Because of You," but all six Pussycat Dolls accepted the Best Dance Video award for "Buttons."

Pink took Best Pop Video with "Stupid Girl." Best Direction went to Gnarls Barkley for "Crazy," and Best New Artist was Avenged Sevenfold and "Bat Country."

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