This year marked the 25th annual incarnation of MTV's Video Music Awards—and lo these many years later, the show still managed to serve up at least a couple of firsts: After a decade away from Los Angeles it was the show's first time at Paramount Studios, not to mention Britney Spears's first V.M.A. win after 16 past nominations. British comedian Russell Brand assumed hosting duties for the occasion.
This year's performance-packed program followed a format similar to last year's critically panned event at the Palms casino in Las Vegas, where multiple areas on the property served different purposes during the broadcast. For last night's show, producers used seven areas at Paramount Studios: a main stage for the bulk of the presentation, the Paramount B-Tank for a viewing party, the back lot (also known as New York Street) for performances, and the historic Bronson Gate—a recognizable Hollywood landmark—for arrivals. MTV had a staff of more than 200 working on show production for the past two weeks to pull it all off.
Despite much back-and-forth buzz, Spears did not surprise the audience with a performance, but she did open the show in a comedy sketch with Superbad actor Jonah Hill. Then Rihanna took the stage for the first performance of the evening (her current single, “Disturbia"). Though no major production glitches made it onto TV, the rotating main stage was noticeably difficult for some presenters to navigate.
Spears was the big winner of the night, winning three Moon Men statuettes for Best Pop Video, Female Artist, and Video of the Year for “Piece of Me.” Other winners included Linkin Park, Tokio Hotel, and the Pussycat Dolls.
The show was filled with performances from a variety of musical acts. LL Cool J performed, appropriately, “Going Back to Cali.” The Jonas Brothers played to hordes of screaming fans, who ran onto the set on cue. Pink's theatrical performance on the New York street lot included the singer throwing an object through a plate glass window, resulting in an explosion. Paramore joined the broadcast from the stage at Paramount meant to evoke the look of the Whiskey, about five miles away in West Hollywood, and to trick viewers into thinking the satellite feed was coming from the nightclub. And Kanye West, who returned in spite of his much-publicized vow never to come back after coming up winless and performing in a Palms suite instead of on the main stage last year, closed the show.