Jack Black arrives at the MTV Video Music Awards on Sunday Sept. 13, 2009 in New York.
The MTV Video Music Awards are known for kicking off with the kind of zaniness that has come to define the show, from a dazed Britney Spears to a disgraced Pee-wee Herman.
But on Sunday, it is expected to have a somber start with a musical tribute to Michael Jackson, led by his sister Janet. Madonna will introduce the segment with a speech, according to persons familiar with the production of the show who asked that their names not be used because they were not authorized to reveal details of the show.
Jackson died a drug-induced death in Los Angeles on June 25 at age 50. The medical examiner's office has labeled the death a homicide, and prosecutors are still investigating.
Jackson was not only an integral part of MTV's history — his legendary videos changed the way music clips were made and he was the first black artist whose work was aired on the fledgling network — but he also provided the VMAs with some of its most memorable moments, including his infamous smooch with then-wife Lisa Marie Presley, in 1994.
The Jackson tribute won't be the only moment where Jackson's presence will be felt. The network is also airing the premiere of the trailer for "This Is It," the documentary about Jackson's preparations for his comeback concerts that were to be held in London. The film is due to come out in October.
Both the trailer and the tribute are sure to spark some sad emotions, but with a show to be hosted by British comedian Russell Brand and featuring acts ranging from Lady Gaga to Pink, those bittersweet moments won't last for long. Last year, Brand made his debut as host by poking fun at the Jonas Brothers' vow of purity, among other ribald moments.
There were plenty of colorful moments before the show began, as celebrities including Pink and Buzz Aldrin mingled in front of the cameras at Radio City Music Hall.