Circling The Drain

A friend of mine expressed excitement at seeing Britney Spears open the VMAs tonight - not in a "hey, it’s going to be fantastic” sort of way, of course, but more a “it’s going to be terrible, I can’t wait to see her fail” sort of way. “She’s circling the drain,” she noted, making a looping motion in the air with her finger. It sounds harsh – it is harsh – but then, my friend is a girl, and like virtually all girls, loathes Britney to the very core of her being; and like virtually all girls, rejoices to see her fail.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before (and you’ve heard this before), but until Lindsay Lohan stole her crown a year ago, there hasn’t been anyone in the past five years as perpetually in the spotlight as Spears, and (until Lindsay) no one has wilted as quickly or as badly. And so somewhere, deep down, I was hoping that Britney would do well tonight. There’s something heartbreaking about how wretched all her life has become, and even the most callous of us, on some level, have to feel a little sorry for her. Let me go search through some gossip columns and confirm that.

Hang on…

Okay, I’m back. I was lying, I’m the only person in the world who seems to feel sorry for her.

But why not? Britney’s performance tonight was the stuff of superstar flameout legend. She half-heartedly stumbled through her show-opening number, out of shape, barely lip-synching, even looking somewhat like she’d been drugged, frankly. I’m not a conspiracy theory man (though I have substantive evidence that the automobile industry might have it out for me), but I truly think MTV set her up to fail. Shot from every unattractive angle possible, the song started with a close-up on the back of her head, hair extensions clearly visible even to those of us not personally acquainted with such details, the whole set-up seemed staged for maximum embarrassment. Hell, the song was choreographed by Criss Angel, who is qualified for such a task because he’s weird, and he’s got his own TV show, and featured a good bit of awkwardly staged faux-humping (now that is a good name for an album title: “It wasn’t until the group released their double-platinum rocker, Awkwardly Stage Faux-Humping, that their career really took off”). And then the ignominy of having Sarah Silverman arrive on stage right after Britney left it to rub salt in her wounds with about two minutes of “you’re a failure” and vagina jokes. A classy evening all around.

Frankly, though, the whole event felt more than a little forced: joining bands playing tiny shows at their “hotel room parties,” cutting to presenters hanging out in the middle of the crowd with guests peering over their shoulder, having most the performers playing their songs in the hotel’s event rooms (guys, we know you’re at The Palms, but all of these rooms look the same. Its like seeing famous bands playing at a succession of poorly-lit proms).

Thanks for re-inventing your crappy awards ceremony into something even less interesting, MTV. At least you’ve promised to not play this one over and over again, for once. It means we get to watch re-runs of The Hills and Life of Ryan over and over again, instead, which is of course what we always wanted.

I’ll look forward to reading lots of “that was a disaster – MTV has lost its touch!” articles in USA Today and Entertainment Weekly and similar publications in the coming days. If the negative hype keeps rolling, I might even get to see Anderson Cooper, looking very grave, explaining all of the network’s troubles on CNN in a day or two. There’s nothing like a good post-mortem to make everyone feel glad they watched such a train wreck. Let’s see how you guys fare.