Forget "reality shows." If you really want a sense of how life is lived on television, the best place to look would have been last night's MTV Video Music Awards.
Granted, it's an awards show, with all the trappings viewers expect - lame celebrity introductions, big production numbers and technical glitches. But unlike most awards shows, where the stars are on their best behavior, the MTV winners and presenters let it all hang out.
In some cases, literally.
Take, for example, the performance by Best Male Video winner Eminem. Starting out outside Manhattan's Radio City Music Hall, he launched into "The Real Slim Shady" while inspecting a small army of blond-haired look-alikes, then shook hands with MTV VJ Carson Daly while rhyming about, well, something we can't really discuss in a daily paper.
Then he announced, "Here's a song for my critics," and launched into a heavily bleeped version of "I Am Whatever You Say I Am."
A class act? Of course not. In fact, it was just barely airable. But it perfectly suited MTV's Video Music Awards. After all, how many major award shows find one of the hosts mooning the camera?
This one did. And that wasn't the half of it.
Where other shows do their best to ensure that even the densest viewer understands exactly what's going on, the folks at MTV pitched their show at such a level that if you didn't have a program, you probably weren't able to follow what was going on.
Start with the fact that hosts Shawn and Marlon Wayans never bothered to introduce themselves, so if you didn't know who was who at the start of the show, you were just as confused by the end of the show. And when Jim Carrey joked, "Thank you Keenan and Damon - I still think you're the most talented ones," no doubt there were some viewers who stared at the screen and asked, "What?"
Yeah, well, get used to it. If you aren't part of the TRL Nation (that is, viewers of "Total Request Live"), you're obviously too old for MTV.
Then again, what would you expect from a show where rock's "old guard" is represented by U2's Bono and Larry Mullen?
Many of the evening's honorees - such as Best Dance Video winner Jennifer Lopez and Best Group Video victor Blink-182 - were only one album into their careers. Even the veterans - in this case, artists like Baltimorean Sisqo and 'N Sync - were still just fans in the early '90s.
Not that who won and who didn't mattered all that much. What really got the viewers going was the between-awards stuff, like when Rage Against the Machine's Tim C. perched, seemingly waiting to jump, in a nook above the stage while Limp Bizkit accepted the trophy for Best Rock Video.
But that was nothing compared to the Wayans' parody of Macy Gray's Best New Artist-winning video, "I Try." This being a family newspaper, we can't get into details, but let's just say their parody emphasized the warm and fuzzy side of Gray's image, without spending a lot of time on "warm."
There were the extreme fashion moments. Toni Braxton joined 98 Degrees to announce the international video winners, but apparently left her blouse in the dressing room. Jennifer Lopez accepted her award for Best Dance Video in what appeared to be her workout clothes. And Aaliyah and MTV VJ Ananda Lewis appeared to be engaged in a Battle of Cleavage.
There was also quite a bit of topical humor. Although there were a few references to the presidential race (Moby, before announcing Dr. Dre and Eminem's win for Best Rap Video, pasted a Gore/Lieberman bumpersticker to the podium), there were many more to the Napster controversy.
Daly brought Napster creator Shawn Fanning out to introduce a performance by Britney Spears. Fanning hit the stage wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the name Metallica, a none-too-subtle reference to his most determined music industry opponent. "You like it?"asked Fanning. "A friend of mine shared it with me."
Out in the audience, Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich ostentatiously snoozed. But he got back at Napster in a skit in which he turned up at a college kid's dorm room and announced that it was take-back time. As he and his buddies ransacked the kid's room, an off-screen announcer intoned, "Napster: Sharing's only fun when it's not your stuff."
Still, what would an awards show be without an ambitiously wrong-minded production number? And for that, we could thank Britney Spears, who lip-synched "Satisfaction" in a black bowler and man's suit that overtly evoked Madonna.
Had she stopped there, it wouldn't have been so bad. But, of course, she didn't. In the final chorus, Brit tore those Madonna clothes off, and unveiled an outfit that seemed better suited to a strip club. As she jiggled her way through a club-style version of "Oops! I Did It Again," the line that most stood out is "I'm not that innocent."
"Girl, that went from the Mickey Mouse Club to the strip club," joked Shawn Wayans afterward.
Top MTV Awards winners
Here are the winners in the top categories from last night's MTV Awards presentation.
Video of the Year: Eminem, "The Real Slim Shady."
Male video: Eminem, "The Real Slim Shady."
Female video: Aaliyah, "Try Again."
Group video: Blink-182, "All The Small Things"
Viewer's choice: 'N Sync, "Bye, Bye, Bye"
MTV Award winners
Here are the winners of the Music Video Awards for 2000:
Video of the Year: Eminem, "The Real Slim Shady"
Best Male Video: Eminem, "The Real Slim Shady"
Best Female Video: Aaliyah, "Try Again"
Best Group Video: Blink-182, "All The Small Things"
Viewer's Choice: 'N Sync, "Bye, Bye, Bye"
Best Rap Video: Dr. Dre & Eminem, "Forgot About Dre"
Best R&B; Video: Destiny's Child, "Say My Name"
Best Hip-Hop Video: Sisqo, "Thong Song"
Best Dance Video: Jennifer Lopez, "Waiting For Tonight"
Best Rock Video: Limp Bizkit, "Break Stuff'"
Best Pop Video: 'N Sync, "Bye, Bye, Bye"
Best New Artist in a Video: Macy Gray, "I Try"
Best Video from a Film: Aaliyah, "Try Again" ("Romeo Must Die")
Breakthrough Video: Bjork, "All Is Full of Love"
Video Vanguard Award: Red Hot Chili Peppers
Best Direction In A Video: Jonathon Dayton and Valerie Faris for Red Hot Chili Peppers,"Californication"