I thought I'd return from vacation by joining the multitudes of bloggers live-blogging the retooled MTV Video Music Awards. The thing has been completely overhauled, with new categories, a shorter running time, a new location (the Palms Casino in Las Vegas) and most prominently features Britney Spears' comeback performance to kick off the show.

Let's join the action as the pre-show kicks off...

I thought I'd return from vacation by joining the multitudes of bloggers live-blogging the retooled MTV Video Music Awards. The thing has been completely overhauled, with new categories, a shorter running time, a new location (the Palms Casino in Las Vegas) and most prominently features Britney Spears' comeback performance to kick off the show.

Let's join the action as the pre-show kicks off...

8:01 What happened to John Norris?! He looks like Jared Leto’s exhumed corpse circa 2087!

8:02 SuChin Pak is interviewing T.I. and Megan Fox from Transformers together. Not sure why they are being paired when Fox doesn't even seem to know T.I. or how old he is. Then again, neither does he. Dude is not “like 21,” he’s “like 26 or 27.”

8:05 Our fawning, effeminate interviewer coaxes this information from Pete Wentz: the Fall Out Boy bassist/starf***er loves to play “My Love” and “Don’t Stop Believin’” when he DJs.

8:06 Rihanna has been famous for two years already, huh? And why does she have skunk hair?

8:07 I remember the VMAs being on Thursday night. I guess MTV figures more people will stay home to watch TV on Sunday night than on Thirsty Thursday. Then again, most of MTV’s audience probably isn’t old enough to go out for Thirsty Thursday.

8:12 I’m sure they’re really keeping Chris Brown and Lil Mama away from the slot machines. By the way, Mama is dressed in a baby bonnet because “this is the birth of hip-hop.”

8:14 Alicia Keys is charismatic enough to hype her album’s release date without sounding sleazy. And she thinks her new single is influenced by the Police.

8:15 Nelly Furtado’s metamorphasis improved her music immeasurably, but it also made her look and sound like a total tramp.

8:17 The girls of The Hills are being interviewed. But—WTF?—no Heidi! (Yes, I've seen enough of that show to know who Heidi is. But not the other ones, I swear!)

8:22 Somehow I don't think Mary J. Blige gives a f*** about Britney Spears.

8:24 Hayden Panettiere is pretty much devoid of personality, I think. I wish I would have participated in that teleconference with her a few weeks back so I could confirm or deny. I do know from this appearance that she thought the Maroon 5/Robin Thicke show last night was "pretty rad."

8:25 If I were Common, I wouldn't want Sway reminding people I was in Smokin' Aces. I'm happy for him, but it's still crazy that his album debuted at No. 1. I had no idea he was that popular.

8:26 Boys Like Girls are "without question one of this year's breakout bands." And unlike Panettiere, they smartly went to see Kanye West with T-Pain last night. They're also the first people to make me say "Who the hell are they?"

8:28 Tonight's awards show is happening live, "once and only once." So no reruns, I guess. They're really going out of their way to make sure people watch this year.

8:31 There's 50 Cent. Still no Kanye sighting though. 50 would like to see Britney do good. Oh! He and Kanye are presenting an award together.

8:32 Oh wow, my buddy Lindsey in DC informs me that the girl who poorly interviewed Hayden Panettiere was Kim (aka "Kim the lesbian") from a past season of America's Next Top Model. Having watched hours and hours of Top Model when Lindsey and I were dating, I know who Kim the lesbian is, but I didn't recognize her at all.

8:33 Really looking forward to seeing what happens with this Lil Wayne/Nicole Scherzinger performance. The Lil Wayne part, I mean. And in case you're wondering, Scherzinger is the singer from the Pussycat Dolls.

8:34 Oh no, Scherzinger banter! Anybody remember when the Pussycat Dolls were in Columbus and she tried to do "O-H!" and instead she kept saying "H-O!" A defining moment in her career, I'm sure.

8:35 "Surprise, surprise, it's Weezy F. Baby."

8:38 I tend to think of Wayne like he's only famous to blog-surfing music geeks like most of the artists I listen to, so it's weird for me to see him in a situation like this one, surrounded by legitimate celebrities.

8:40 This new Taco Bell commercial where the melty cheese is hanging out of everybody's mouth grosses me out. No Fourth Meal for me tonight.

8:41 Gym Class Heroes are here, and they had better enjoy it while they still can.

8:42 Whoa, Paris Hilton actually looks really classy! And kind of hot! (I normally think she's pretty nasty.)

8:43 Ludacris and SuChin agree: Virgos rule the world. Also, he hosted "Luda Day Weekend" in Atlanta last weekend.

8:44 First Kanye sighting! Nice tux, Yeezy. I love how he freely admits that his beef with 50 is "purely a marketing scheme."

8:46 Jennifer Garner is wearing too much makeup, but she looks utterly stunning anyway. Also, The Kingdom, her new movie with Jamie Foxx, looks pretty sweet. Looking forward to checking that out.

8:50 Oh wow, Lil Mama has a pacifier too.

8:51 I don't usually use the term "MILF," but that's what Paris looks like. And she's not even a mom.

8:52 Panic! At the Disco is still famous? Well, crap.

8:53 Pharrell is kickin' it with Clipse and Kenna. I'm glad he constantly pushes his talented friends on the masses.

8:57 Foo Fighters are singing a Dead Kennedys song tonight with the dude from System of a Down? And a Motorhead song? And Mastadon is playing with them? And Queens of the Stone Age? And Cee-Lo? Say what you want about Dave Grohl (and I will: he hasn't put out a good song in a long time), but he is still way cooler than the average rock star. Also, he is probably older than every celebrity there except maybe the movie stars.

8:59 Ha! Grohl is encouraging kids to drop out of high school just like him.

9:00 The show is about to begin.

9:01 SuChin: "You can hear the blogs a buzzing right now." Its Britney, bitch!

9:02 ...And she can't lip-synch for sh**. Nor can she dance. She looks out of her element, which is strange considering she has been doing this since the womb. Or rather, as Lindsey points out, she looks like she isn't even trying.

9:06 Sarah Silverman... not funny. And not as hot as people say she is.

9:07 Wow, awkward silence.

9:08 Still not funny. Lindsey: "She needs to stop."

9:09 OK, that Cee-Lo/Kanye joke was pretty good.

9:10 Mark Ronson is leading the house band. Why is he famous again?

9:10 Ummmm, awkward silence again. This time Alicia Keys is the culprit.

9:11 I wish they would just flip betweem Kanye's party, the Foo Fighters' party and Timbaland/Timberlake's party instead of this stupid awards show. And forget the Fall Out Boy party.

9:13 First weirdo category: Monster Single of the Year, a celebration of ubiquity. Way too many nominees! My vote goes to T-Pain, but I'll accept a win for "Umbrella," which is just what happened.

9:15 OK, so they're just going to intersperse highlights from these parties instead of doing traditional awards show performances? That could be kind of cool if it means we get to see all the zany Foo Fighters guests.

9:19 Seriously Taco Bell, it looks like cheese boogers.

9:22 Akon is rockin' out "Smack That" with the house band. I'm actually enjoying the way they're switching things up for this show.

9:23 Hey, it's Bill Hader and Seth Rogen to introduce the viewer voting for Best New Artist! And they made the first funny jokes of the night other than Sarah Silverman's racism bit.

9:24 Robin Thicke is such a strange person to be a celebrity. He's Alan Thicke's son, for God's sake! And, along with Jennifer Hudson, he is presenting the award for Best Quadruple Threat. The award honors celebs who excel in no less than four categories (e.g. singer, actor, fashion designer, philanthropist), Justin Timberlake is the completely arbitrary but certainly deserving winner.

9:25 Justin just called out MTV for not playing videos. Hell yeah! Lindsey: "Is he drunk?"

9:26 No wonder Pete Wentz doesn't let the chubby cheeks singer dude talk in interviews. Show us the Foo Fighters party!

9:27 My sister just IMed me: "My love continues to grow for Justin."

9:28 Wait, Lil Wayne is performing with Fall Out Boy? I know he's a whore, but this is going too far.

9:32 This new Foo Fighters song is better than most of their recent output. But I need more special guests.

9:33 Cool that they're letting this go on for so long. (And sad that allowing half the song to play constitutes a long time on MTV.) Hey, is that Pat Smear?

9:34 Kanye and 50 are presenting for Most Earth-Shattering Collaboration. I would have to say in terms of cultural impact, the JT/Timbaland collaboration has to win. Dudes are everywhere, and "SexyBack" is where it all started.

9:35 But instead the award goes to Beyonce and Shakira, which is just weird.

9:36 Lindsey just pointed out how unflattering Beyonce's dress is.

9:37 Maroon 5 dude is up with the house band now.

9:39 Architecture in Helsinki must be making big bank on this new Sprint commercial.

9:40 Hayden comes off pretty spunky in these Nutrogena commercials.

9:41 OK, I just decided the "various parties" theme is not working for me. Here's why: The appeal of these awards shows is having all the famous people together in one place. Now, they're split up, and we have to choose. If MTV is smart, they will re-air each party in its entirety.

9:42 Still, it's pretty fun to watch everybody rocking their various parties. Now T.I. is over at the Timber/Timba party doing "Big Things Poppin'."

9:43 Oh, Rosario Dawson just informed us that the action from the suites will be viewable at mtv.com, so there you go. It's designed to drive traffic to their website, and damn it if I'm not going to play into their little scheme.

9:44 Wait, Chris Brown wasn't famous two years ago? When the hell did "Run It" come out?

9:45 Brown is performing as Charlie Chaplin. Isn't this minstrelsy of some sort?

9:46 Lindsey is enjoying that this is an actual performance and not part of the parties in the suites. And hey, there's Rihanna to do "Umbrella," but luckily not the remix where Brown sings "You could be my Cinderella."

9:48 Lindsey informs me Brown is friends with Michael Jackson, which is kind of creepy. It also explains why he is moonwalking to "Billie Jean" right now. "Now those dance moves are creepy. Michael ruined them."

9:50 "I like how he uses the little kid dancers; always a nice touch. Though a little creepy with the Michael Jackson reference."

9:51 I like how MTV has to specify that Kaya is its new "scripted drama."

9:56 Hader and Rogen are still asking you to select the loser for Best New Artist. I guess there's not much chance Peter Bjorn and John will win since this is based on text messages.

9:57 Here come the Hills girls again. They're presenting Male Artist of the Year. Robin Thicke does not deserve to be on the list with the rest of those dudes. Lindsey: "Which Hills girl will Akon assault if he wins?"

9:58 Justin wins again! Good for him. And he's bringing Timbaland on stage with him.

9:59 Justin just called out MTV again, right after rightfully proclaiming that music is benefitting from people like himself and Kanye following their muse. Totally sweet. And yeah, he just might be plastered.

10:00 Cee-Lo is singing with Foo Fighters right now. Neeeext.

10:03 This new Tila Tequila show might be a new low for MTV—quite an acheivement.

10:04 Celebrity Rap Superstar, on the other hand, could be good. As for the other commercials, that Beowulf movie is a total wild card. Before I knew what it was, I thought "Hasn't Angelina Jolie graduated beyond garbage like this?"

10:06 JT and Timbaland are back at their party to do "Ayo Technology" with 50.

10:07 Shia LaBeouf needs to lose the Killers mustache stat. After telling us the name of the new Indiana Jones movie (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull), he presents the Best Female Artist award to...

10:08 Fergie. Blech. Except she's not there, so Shia thinks Ludacris is coming up to accept for her (I guess because he was on "Glamorous"?), and when Luda doesn't budge, Shia decides to keep the award for himself. Seems like he might be drunk too.

10:10 This Kanye/T-Pain song is my favorite thing on Graduation. I'm putting it on every party mix for the next year.

10:13 Obviously MTV knows how good it is too because they let it go on for a long time.

10:18 The long commercial break is finally over. Lil Wayne is rapping over "This Ain't a Scene, It's an Arms Race," and he is rapping about how he doesn't know what the stupid song is about, referencing Kanye's remix verse where he said the same thing. I love how all the rappers who collaborate with Fall Out Boy slam Wentz's stupid lyrics in their guest verses.

10:19 Also, Patrick Stump (FOB's singer) is absolutely slaughtering the chorus.

10:21 Not sure what's happening with Timbaland and Linkin Park right now because one of my roommates engaged me in a conversation about the appearance of Megan Fox, who introduced the song.

10:23 Chester Bennington can't sing either. His voice is always a little weird, but dude sounds like he has strep throat or something.

10:24 Kevin Connelly (E from Entourage) has a strange tan-in-a-bottle look going on. He and Adrian Grenier are there to introduce Best Group. (Get it? Because they roll in an entourage? Get it? They made sure you got it.)

10:25 Fall Out Boy wins. Wentz wants to thank all the real music fans out there, and I'm going to avoid cracking jokes about that quip, at least for now.

10:27 Ha! They're not going to show much of Serj Tankian and Foo Fighters covering "Holiday in Cambodia." Probably for the best—the Dead Kennedys and MTV don't exactly go together.

10:31 Fall Out Boy is playing "Shut Up and Drive" with Rihanna. I still don't get why she of all people sings that song. And is the "Blue Monday" ripoff supposed to be an homage or something?

10:34 Did Nelly mention that Alicia Keys is lovely and talented? She's performing her new single that supposedly sounds like the Police.

10:35 OK, I've flipped again. Since they added in a few performances on the main stage, I like the way they put this show together. It certainly has scrambled up the typical awards show formula. (Show still sucks, though.)

10:36 Alicia Keys' new song sounds a lot more like "No Woman No Cry" than anything the Police ever did.

10:39 I can't believe they let her perform for five minutes. It was quite good, though. She has gotten a lot better since that "Fallin'" tripe.

10:44 No more Fall Out Boy, please. I fear that when all is said and done, they will be our Beatles.

10:45 Jamie Foxx: "Stop all this white on white crime." He is insinuating that Tommy Lee and Kid Rock got into a fight, which I would certainly pay to see.

10:47 Foxx and Garner are presenting Best New Artist and bantering quite a bit more than I bet MTV wants them to.

10:48 The absolute worst choice, Gym Class Heroes, wins.

10:49 I love "In Da Club," but 50 is succeeding in making it suck right now.

10:50 Miss South Carolina Teen USA! Doing a self-effacing monologue! I like that she is taking her stupidity in stride.

10:51 Lindsey informs me that Miss South Carolina goes to Appalachian State, the school whose football team beat Michigan last week in the greatest college football upset of all time: "Appalachian State is having like the biggest month of her life."

10:55 Too many commercials. So glad this is about to be over.

10:56 I was wrong about Dave Grohl. Mary J. Blige might actually be older than him. Mary J. is here to introduce "the most incredible producer of our time." And it's Dr. Dre! Hell yeah!

10:58 Musclebound Dre is presenting Video of the Year. Nominees: Beyonce's "Irreplaceable," Justice's "D.A.N.C.E.," Rihanna's "Umbrella," Justin's "What Goes Around (Comes Around)," Kanye's "Stronger" and Amy Winehouse's "Rehab."

10:59 Winner: "Umbrella." I understand why that would win the most ubiquitous award, but best video? Really? Better than Kanye's video? I'm ready for him to storm the stage.

11:00 Diddy also seems to be insinuating that Kid Rock and Tommy Lee got in a fight, and that Kid Rock has been ejected from the premises. Awesome!

11:01 This isn't over til Diddy and Yung Joc say it's over.

11:02 Mastodon and Josh Homme are performing at the end of the VMAs. Throw up some devil horns, people!

11:06 Turns out the rockers aren't closing us down. Last song, as introduced by Diddy, Nelly and co., is a medley by Nelly Furtado, JT, Timbaland and more.

11:07 Furtado looks really strange, and this song is wack.

11:08 This is supposed to be over by now.

11:09 I wish this was over by now.

11:10 Thank God Justin is saving this medley from utterly tanking. He is VMA MVP.

11:11 This JT dance breakdown is sick! And here comes the big finish...

11:12 ..."Give It To Me." This is really a fitting way to round up the year in pop, with the crew that dominated the last 12 months (especially considering they started the show with perhaps the biggest punchline of the year). Nice symmetry, though, since both the opener and closers were clearly going through the motions.

11:13 And with that, we're through. What did you think, folks?

11:14 By the way, watch the afterparty? Are they serious? I need to get off my couch. See y'all tomorrow.