My guess is that it’s pretty hard to put on an MTV Video Music Awards broadcast. I’m not doubting that. Performances. Egos. Awards. Tributes. Crowds. Interviews. “Twilight” clips deemed “exclusive.” It takes all these things to produce one, tiny awards program, and it would be idiotic to claim that countless hours of work and preparation don’tgo into such a production.
But, man … what the hell was that?
The 2012 Video Music Awards are now in the books, and much like we did last year, TV Without A TV is going to take a look at five categories while breaking down whatever it was this year’s VMAs turned out to be. Once a can’t-miss spectacle, MTV’s Video Music Awards ceremonies have been on a downward tilt in recent years and it’s not just my receding hairline and embarrassingly close proximity to the age of 30 saying that. As the brilliant Lisa De Moraes pointed out Friday, this year’s trophy show pulled in its worst numbers since 2006 (6.1 million viewers). Yes, that number has something to do with the DNC putting a cap on convention season, but even so, it wouldn’t be completely crazy to think that this year’s numbers suffered because of how unwatchable the show proved to be at times. “Oh, let’s see how the VMAs are doing,” somebody said to someone. “Wait. Why is Chris Brown’s hair blue? And wait. Why is Chris Brown actually winning something?” someone responded to somebody.
Rinse. Substitute names. Repeat.
The most applicable criticism is something a category won’t address, yet is imperative to discuss here and now: MTV’s stream of the show is quite literally the worst thing that has ever happened to Internet television. Not only are you forced to sit through 12 trailers for “Looper,” but the network’s insistence on breaking after every single shot makes the thing completely — again, COMPLETELY — impossible to watch. Commercials are added between introductions and performances. Commercials are added between award-winning speeches and award-giving presenters. And commercials are added between 30 second cutaways and the two correspondents the network had working the thing. Honestly — if MTV keeps this up, no one, and I mean no one, will seek out the network’s website to try and catch up on anything. Ever.
Again: Watching the replay online is beyond frustrating. So much so, that nobody has even invented a word for exactly how infuriating the stream is. So much so, that I went two paragraphs long while explaining my anger toward it. So much so, that anyone who works in a web department at MTV should have been fired by 5 p.m. Friday. So much so … all right. I’m done. Let’s get this thing over with …
1. Host: F-
Well, that was easy (again). Last year, the show didn’t have a host, yet it threw poor Kevin Hart out there to entertain the masses as the show opened. This year, this show did have a host, and that host’s name was Kevin Hart. Last year — with no host, mind you — the grade was an F. This year — with a host named Kevin Hart, mind you — the grade is an F-. He’s just not funny. His monologue was borderline embarrassing to watch. His attempt at bringing out Dwight Howard certainly didn’t win him any fans (it’s like, really, dude — you’re going to bring out one of the most hated and annoying stars in the NBA as a symbol for how connected and hip you are? Where was LeBron James?). And most of all, Rihanna looked like she wanted to kill him in one of the very, very few honest and entertaining moments of the night as she accepted her Video Of The Year award (that look on her face as he’s obnoxiously screaming is utterly priceless). Think about it — this guy wasn’t good enough to be named an official host at last year’s ceremony, yet we are supposed to believe that he could carry the show this time around? Nope. Watching uncut grass move in the wind would have given us more — or, at the very least, just as many — laughs than Kevin Hart did last week. Go get yourself a proper host next year, MTV. The improvement could do wonders.
2. Performances: D
The one thing that the VMAs have become well-known for over the years has been its wide array of memorable performances. This year? Yuck. At least last year’s show had Jay-Z, Kanye West and Adele. This year, we got this …
…. And that’s about as good as it got — Taylor Swift performing “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” (alternate title: “Dear Jake”), marking the very second contemporary country music died. Even One Direction, who should have stole the show with a performance of one of the best pop songs in years, “What Makes You Beautiful,” opted against that gem for the slightly less-as-great “One Thing.” Green Day, playing the role of The Band That’s Not Coldplay Or Foo Fighters, didn’t offer up a memorable performance, as their let’s-go-into-the-crowd schtick turned out to be more of a mess than anything else. And even though anyone who’s known me personally for a long time knows that you can’t find a single bigger Alicia Keys fan in the world than me, her “Girl On Fire” was … ugh. You’re screaming, sweetie. Screaming. Start singing. Stop dancing. And please, please get away from this stadium rock vibe that more and more R&B artists seem to be incorporating into their music. You’re better than that. Let Rihanna awkwardly use that approach with the type of pretend anger that seems to be creeping into her songs these days. Get back to “You Don’t Know My Name.” Seriously, though — I’d like to be able to find a lost diamond in this rough, but unfortunately, the dirt from everyone who sang Thursday night is piled up too high.
3. Awards: F+
Giving Chris Brown anything anymore automatically starts you out at a D, so keep that in mind as we shuffle through this category. That said, it was great to see how genuinely surprised and somewhat honored One Direction was to win the two awards they were called on stage to accept. That type of enthusiasm and gratitude was fairly refreshing in a room filled with egocentric people who had egocentric entourages filled with egocentric entourages of their own. The one problem that may go unnoticed? The network should actually reserve more time for the awards. I know they had to go an hour shorter because of the president’s speech, but why was Best Rock Video left out of the broadcast? I mean, they always throw rock music a bone by featuring a performance from … you guessed it … Green Day, Foo Fighters or Coldplay, but this year, it seemed that the genre was abnormally underrepresented. It’s hard to argue with a list that includes M.I.A. twice, but when you want to honor a set of people for their work in the past year with awards, and you want to put on a show featuring the act of giving out those awards, it’s probably a good idea to show some of those awards being doled out. This year, that was missing more than usual.
4. Stage: F
I know this all seems like a broken record, but the stage was actually an aspect of this that really did ruin the evening, and that doesn’t happen every year. Why did it ruin the evening, the disembodied voice asks? It’s simple — forcing artists and award-winners to sit on the side of it so energy-drink-riddled fans can pretend to care about who wins the award for best editing is a move that proves detrimental each time trophy shows do this. In an off-beat way, it throws the presentation off. Panning to members of the “Jersey Shore” cast lined up three rows up from Taylor Swift was … odd, if only because of the aesthetically awkward vision of the rows becoming higher in altitude as they increase in quantity. Do we really want to see Alicia Keys’ husband looking down on P!ink because he’s sitting four rows behind her? It messes with the continuity of the show, and in an inexplicable way, it cheapens the awards given out. Put the celebs on the floor, people. It’s not hard, and it makes a world of difference.
5. Presenters: D+
So … Demi Lovato, who once starred on a Disney television show, toured with the Jonas Brothers, spent time in rehab and now plays Robin to Britney Spears’ Batman on “The X Factor,” is going to give an award to a guy who clearly has destructible anger issues that once resulted in not only one of the biggest Grammy-night controversies in the last decade, but also a trashed “Good Morning America” dressing room and a beaten-down pop star? Something about that is off-putting. On the flip side of that, Emma Watson showed up to promote the movie adaptation of “The Perks Of Being A Wallflower,” so that’s got to count for something, right? Also conspicuous: No Ms. Stewart when the cast of “Twilight” went on stage to claim that people still care about “Twilight.” This category gets an added plus for the short-lived Adam Yauch tribute.
OK. This was rough, wasn’t it? Honestly — I mean, I don’t mean to be mean … but I guess I mean to be mean. There is simply no other way to break down this year’s Video Music Awards ceremony. Not only was it one of the worst VMAs in recent memory, but it also provided the single most infuriating attempt at providing a product to watch online ever, and that’s not an overstatement.
Here’s hoping someone turns to somebody and says “How can we make this better?” before next August rolls around (here’s a hint: Go back to New York). As for now, we push on to the Emmys. Oh, awards season. How we’ve missed you so.