In the end, all that buzz for the 2008 MTV Video Music Awards was more or less for naught.
And in between the edgy banter and star-studded performances, a few awards were even handed out along the way.
Most of which seemed to go to Spears, the night's official comeback kid.
"Thank you so much," she said, taking the stage at the show's start to a standing ovation from the much-more-pared-down-than-usual audience.
"Thank you for all the love. I'm here tonight to celebrate a very important birthday, the 25th anniversary of the VMAs."
While the songbird clearly made good on her promise to open the VMAs—doing so in seemingly record time and on the briefest of cue-card-reading technicalities—she did not end up performing. But she did manage to score redemption in another way, taking home her first-ever Moonman statues.
A spiffed and toned-up Spears bagged three awards over the course of the night: Best Female Video, Best Pop Video and the top prize, Video of the Year, for her single "Piece of Me."
"I first wanna thank God for blessing me like this," she said of her first win, before dedicating the award to her fans. "This is for you."
She was equally succinct in her Video of the Year Award acceptance speech.
"Wow. I'm in shock right now. I was not expecting this!"
To kick off the show, Spears appeared in a pretaped segment with Superbad's super-randy Jonah Hill, who, as coincidence would have it, is preparing to costar alongside host Brand in a sequel to Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
Hopefully that appearance goes down slightly better than tonight's.
In his opening monologue, the no-holds-barred British comic threw his ineligible vote behind Barack Obama, ripped into President George Bush, calling him a "retarded country fella" who "wouldn't be trusted with a pair of scissors" in his native England and, for the sake of equal opportunity offense, called the British royal family "inbred nitwits."
The dig that apparently dug a bit too far, however, was a jab at purity rings, most famously worn by the Jonas Brothers, who later performed.
Another celibate and proud celeb, former American Idol Jordin Sparks, defended her and her fellow pop stars' honor while presenting an award later in the night.
"I just wanna say, it's not bad to wear a promise ring, because not every guy and girl wants to be a slut, OK?" she said.
Seeing the potential error of his ways, Brand later appeared back onstage and apologized, somewhat, for his slight.
"I didn't mean to take it lightly," he said of the virginity vow. "I don't want to piss off teenage fans. Promise rings, I'm well up for it. [But] a bit of sex, it never hurt anybody."
Meanwhile, the awards show was chock-a-block with performances, including a stripped-down set by the brothers Jonas themselves, who performed "Love Bug" on a street-scene backdrop before being joined onstage at the song's end by a throng of adoring fans.
Rihanna had the distinction of being the night's opening act, launching into "Disturbia" moments after Spears' brief comments, with dancers paying homage to "Thriller," while Leona Lewis, Lil Wayne and T-Pain performed an unexpected medley together later in the show.
Pink, T.I., Katy Perry and Kid Rock, again with Wayne, were also among the show's performers, as was Christina Aguilera, who debuted her new single, "Keeps Gettin' Better," in a medley with "Genie in a Bottle."
In addition to Spears, other big winners included Chris Brown, whose "With You" was named Best Male Video; Linkin Park, who took home Best Rock Video for "Shadow of the Day"; and Lil Wayne, who nabbed the award for Best Hip-Hop Video for "Lollipop."
Here's the complete list of winners for the 2008 MTV Video Music Awards: