I won’t judge a book by its cover, but I will give it its first five pages – not including forwards or introductions – to convince me to read the rest. This is a principle that I have adopted when evaluating any time-consuming activity so that I may save myself – and those subject to my subsequent whining – said time.

With this in mind, I was fairly generous with last week’s MTV Video Music Awards. I gave the wannabe Grammy alternative a third-of-an-hour of my life to prove its worth to me. In honor of its 25th year, the once-meaningful event was jointly sponsored by Britney Spears’ publicity and psychiatric-health teams, so I gave the monstrosity until its first commercial break to make me care about modern mainstream music.

I tune in at nine and find the perverted perpetual-teenager Jonah Hill in pre-show banter with a surprisingly coherent Spears. She is such a horrible actress that instead of noticing her comeback in action, all I can think about is the cost of her weave.

Two minutes down.

The show hits the proverbial road, and when it’s time for the sweeping panorama shot of the host venue’s interior – normally used to impress upon viewers the sheer scale of what is occurring – I am, instead, met with an anti-climatic image of what might be a private high school’s graduation ceremony.

The neon advertising – and elephant-featuring promos – was already the show’s highlight, over the let down that is the uneasy emptiness of the Paramount Picture Studios locale (even if it is quickly filling up with spastic zombies wielding light sabers).

Seven minutes in.

Rihanna – with clothes too feminine and hair too butch – and her “Thriller”-themed opening number samples the White Stripes and wakes the dancing undead so that they violently gyrate around her. Host Russell Brand wastes five minutes taking potshots at the Jonas Brothers’ virginities and telling all 100 people in the room to “please vote for Barack Obama” before bombing with a Madonna/A-Rod joke and introducing Jamie Foxx to the sound of dissonant claps.

The lack of enthusiasm for anything in that room is palpable from my couch. Obligated record industry executives and well-paid seat fillers watch in awe as Spears’ buyout pays off and she wins the night’s first Moonman for Best Female Video.

Nevermind that the video is horrible – it is – or that it may have been filmed earlier in the week – the state of her expensive weave indicates, yes, it was – but her signature brand of crap acting reeks of “shenanigans.” She thanks God, her parents and her “two beautiful sons,” and I realize that the entire charade of the Video Music Awards – and, thus, the history of pop music – continued solely so that Britney’s sensitive ego (after last year’s botched comeback) could have a decent acceptance speech to play on repeat as a self-help tape during future breakdowns and conjugal visits with her kids.

Minute 19. Barf.

As the first commercial break becomes imminent – and my time efficiency experiment comes to an end – former Blink 182 drummer Travis Barker and questionably famous DJ AM bust into a live Oasis remix, while the merits of sponsors Taco Bell and TAG Body Spray are discussed and the warped beats of the Gallagher brothers bounce off the empty walls of a Paramount soundstage.

I gave this year’s VMAs ample time to do something awesome, but the results were dismal. No Lil’ Kim partial nudity. No Axl Rose dreadlock debuts. No mobs of Eminem clones. Not even a Michael Jackson sympathy tribute award. Just Britney Spears finally off of her prescription medications and an empty room full of Disney Channel pop stars.

The future of music is bleak, and I want my 20 minutes back.