MTV may have been attempting to apologize for embarrassing Britney Spears at last year’s panned Video Music Awards by showering the pop star with her first three moon men at last night’s 2008 V.M.A.s and giving her the opportunity to showcase her newfound lucidity during the broadcast's opening moments. In turn, the media seems to be apologizing to viewers today for enduring what most regard as another disappointing show.
The Los Angeles Times called the V.M.A.s the “most unrepentantly contrived of awards shows,” and suggested the choice of Paramount Studios may have been a frugal move, as both MTV and Paramount fall under the umbrella of Viacom. The paper also noted that MTV plied the unusually small audience with free champagne throughout the night, with many already three glasses in just 20 minutes shy of the start. No one was carded.
Calling Spears “both a punch line and audience bait” for MTV, The New York Times acknowledged that the awards themselves are “red herrings in what has actually been, for 25 years, a reality show.” Jon Pareles also blew off talk of a Spears-centric night by noting that she was upstaged by Rihanna as soon as her opening comments had concluded.
Chicago Tribune TV critic Maureen Ryan seems to be the only member of the press to notice the similarities between Kanye West’s closing number and the Chinese drumming from the Olympic Opening Ceremony. She otherwise found the whole show underwhelming and was particularly confused over host Russell Brand’s ill-received monologue, in which he made obscene jokes about the Jonas Brothers, made a plea for Americans to vote for Barack Obama, and referred to President George W. Bush as a “retarded cowboy.”
Associate editor of Variety Phil Gallo didn’t think the incorporation of back lot sets into the performances panned out, but notes that Pink “made the most out of it.” She and fellow V.M.A. mainstays Kanye West and Christina Aguilera fared much better in his eyes than newcomers the Jonas Brothers or Kid Rock—who apparently bored everyone in attendance.
Per usual, MTV’s most generous critic was the network itself. For a look back at the ceremony through rose-tinted glasses, MTV.com posted more than 1,500 words of hyperbolic recap within an hour of the show’s conclusion.