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Television Review

Timberlake, Rihanna rack 'em up in Las Vegas

Britney Spears performed at the MTV Video Music Awards last night. Britney Spears performed at the MTV Video Music Awards last night. (ROBERT GALBRAITH/REUTERS)

After lackluster years in Miami and New York, MTV went west this year to seek its fortune for the Video Music Awards at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas.

But like most Vegas gaming rooms, the VMAs were filled with dizzying lights, an air of heightened anticipation, and very infrequent payouts.

The plan was to shake things up, but unfortunately it felt like MTV shook a little too hard.

As usual, the telecast was technically impressive as cameras smash cut to a half-dozen performance spaces, including the main stage, the Rain nightclub, and four chaotic, fan-packed "fantasy suite" parties headlined by Kanye West, Foo Fighters, Fall Out Boy, and BFFs Timbaland and Justin Timberlake, respectively.

But the frenetic pace - there's 50 Cent rocking "Ayo Technology" with Justin and Tim! Look, Fall Out Boy is backing Rihanna on "Shut Up and Drive!" Hey, it's Adam Levine of Maroon 5 doing "Wake Up Call" with uber DJ Mark Ronson and the house band! - was disorienting, and worse, meant that there were very few whole performances. While the parties looked like loads of fun for the revelers, full performances would have been welcome from West, the Foos, and Common. Adding to the ADD-encouraging clutter were on-screen directives urging viewers to text their votes for best new artist or to check out more action online. Phew. Can't we just watch?

Oddly, the only person who appeared to check her adrenaline at the door was Britney Spears.

More tabloid victim than performer of late, Spears's breathlessly hyped "comeback" performance of her new single "Gimme More" was meant to refocus the attention on why we cared about her in the first place. Sadly, she came up snake eyes.

Clad in a black and silver glitter bikini, Spears trudged through her paces as if she were at a dress rehearsal as opposed to the actual show, teetering around on heels that seemed to make her nervous. When you have already writhed with a python and shown us your lady bits, a little bump and grind and sloppy lip synch to a monotone electro-pop number just isn't going to cut it.

And what happened to the much-ballyhooed Criss Angel "illusion" that was supposed to accompany this? Perhaps Sarah Silverman was right in her hit-and-miss monologue following Brit's lackluster opener: "She's 25 years old and already she's accomplished everything she's going to accomplish in her life." Ouch.

As for the handing out of moon men, Timberlake and Rihanna were the night's big winners, each collecting two awards.

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