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Let's play dress-up

The awards show where the awards don't matter

By Todd Leopold

Chris Rock
Chris Rock hosts the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards.

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"Eye on Entertainment" talks about the weekend's happenings on CNN's "Live Today,"  between 10 a.m. and noon EDT Thursday.

(CNN) -- The entertainment world is overwhelmed with awards shows. There are the Oscars, Emmys, Grammys and Tonys; the People's Choice Awards, American Music Awards and the Golden Globes; the ESPYs, Razzies and Doozies.

(OK, I made the last one up.)

But there's one awards show in which the awards are not only secondary, but completely beside the point: the MTV Video Music Awards.

The MTV awards are pure spectacle. They don't become the subject of trivia questions, like the Oscars, nor do they provide handicapping for other awards shows, like the Golden Globes.

Perhaps there are some video directors who treasure their metallic spaceman trophies, but in general, the VMAs are all about giving celebrities attention: What is she wearing? Is Britney really dancing with a snake? What is Madonna doing now?

This week the awards that Rolling Stone magazine, in its snarkier days, once called "the Emptys" celebrate 20 years. They kick off a Labor Day weekend Eye on Entertainment.


An awards show that has featured a writhing, wedding-dress-clad Madonna and a stripping Britney Spears has a lot to live up to.

There may be some performers who will tread the line between stupid and clever. Christina Aguilera is scheduled to perform, as is Metallica and 50 Cent. Presenters include Mya, Jay-Z, DMX and Britney, as well as some folks with more than one name.

But the awards may get an unexpected dose of gravitas from an unlikely source: Johnny Cash. The Man in Black, who may not have shot a man in Reno just to watch him die -- but sure as heck made you believe he did -- is up for six VMAs, including video of the year for his cover of the Nine Inch Nails song, "Hurt."

Indeed, the VMAs highlight an MTV irony: the network that made its name with music videos doesn't show many music videos anymore. Cash producer Rick Rubin said he's heard "Hurt" was played all of six times. It's likely zero of those plays occurred during "Total Request Live."

The VMAs are scheduled to air Thursday night at 8 p.m. ET on MTV. If you miss it, don't worry; MTV will rerun it. And rerun it again.

On screen

• Did I say last week that late August isn't Hollywood's finest hour? There's only one movie premiering in wide release this weekend: "Jeepers Creepers 2." No comment.

• However, if you missed it back in May and June, now is a good time to see "The Italian Job." The Mini film that could won critical praise and was enough of a sleeper hit to prompt its studio to bring it back before the next onslaught of film releases hit. "Job," a remake of a 1969 Michael Caine film, stars Mark Wahlberg and Charlize Theron.

On the tube

• When I was a kid, I always hoped that once -- just once -- Charlie Brown would kick Lucy to Kingdom Come when she pulled the football away from him. It never happened, and he never booted her off the baseball team, either -- despite her predilection for dropping the ball. But maybe this is the time: there's a new special, "Lucy Must Be Traded, Charlie Brown," airing Friday, 9 p.m. ET, on ABC.

• The characters in "City Slickers" had nothing on the six city dwellers who are entering "Cowboy U." The new series puts the people through their paces to win the coveted title of "cowboy." Friday, 9 p.m., CMT.

Sound waves

• The Raveonettes offer up another platter of roots rock on "Chain Gang of Love" (Sony), due Tuesday.

• Bjork's new album, "Gling-Glo" (One Little Indian), is due Tuesday.

Paging readers

• "Passages" author Gail Sheehy looked at how a New Jersey town coped with September 11 in her new book, "Middletown, America" (Random House). Due Tuesday.

Video center

• The twists and turns of one of television's most twisty and turn-y series, "Alias," hit video on Tuesday when "Alias: The Complete First Season" hits shelves.

• Another work of twists and turns, the spring film "Identity" with John Cusack and Ray Liotta, also comes out on video Tuesday.

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