BOTH SLIM AND SHADY, ONCE AGAIN: The bar has been lowered every one of the last four years, but I think we can say it again now- 2003 was the least satisfying MTV Video Music Awards ever. I actually started out doing a Sports Guy-style diary, but after less than an hour realized that if the writers of the show couldn’t come up with any passable material, why should I?
The biggest disapointment was the non-starter performance of host Chris Rock, making a not-so-triumphant return to stand-up after essentially sitting it out since the ’99 VMAs and his subsequent “Bigger and Blacker” HBO special. Rock was supposedly assisted in the writing by comedian and Friars Club mainstay Jeffrey Ross, though the delightfully nasty wit that’s characteristic of both men was next to absent from the show. Rock in particular was much more “Down to Earth” than “Bring the Pain.”
Rock opened with a seven-minute monologue that fell almost totally flat, up until three zingers at the end (including a priceless Olsen Twins/R. Kelly joke) before he likened co-presenters LeBron James and Ashanti to “Kobe and his victim.” It was, unfortunately, all downhill from there.
There probably wasn’t a single musical performance the entire evening that I was looking forward to prior to the show, especially after Johnny Cash dropped out for health reasons, but the only one that came close to memorable was the four-way number featuring Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Madonna, and Missy Elliott that opened the show. And while I’m no big admirerer of any of the quartet, the song produced two memorable moments- a bizarre kiss between Madonna and Britney, and a camera pan to Mary J. Blige in the audience, who flashed a look of sheer horror after Christina appeared, from which the camera immediately panned away. That was funny.
Other than that, it was three hours of ho-hum- nearly all awards going to the same four “artists” (Justin Timberlake, Missy Elliott, 50 Cent and Beyonce), no Triumph the Insult Comic Dog (but lots of pointless, unfunny “Crank Yankers” cameos), and lots of white presenters making lame “fo shizzle my niizzle” jokes, although both Rock and Snoop Dogg neglected to make a “Mr. Deeds’ Nutz” joke when Snoop and Adam Sandler appeared together. There were also quite a lot of “technical difficulties”- the microphones seemed to miss half of what the winners said (not that that’s a bad thing), and a video package on honorees Duran Duran (?) failed to run when the sound on the “jumbotron” failed. The show ended, mercifully, with a dumb, 2-minute “medley,” by Metallica, of “rock songs through the years,” followed by some weak new song by the long-past-their-prime erstwhile rock gods. Really, James Hetfield these days doesn’t look that much younger than Johnny Cash.
Just an amateurish effort all around- if it weren’t for plenty of my fiance, Beyonce (“Crazy in Love” ran in every bumper, every commercial, and then she performed it), I’d have considered the evening a total waste.
And most eggregiously, the best music video of the year, “The Super Bowl is Gay,” was not mentioned a single time the entire evening.

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