I Sez: The Sun Will Rise in CBS
Posted by Andrew Unterberger on March 14, 2008
I need a hit, baby gimme it
Well, if you haven’t heard, everyone’s favorite former pop star and current nutso umbrella assailant is going to be making a guest stint on that sole justification for CBS’s existence, How I Met Your Mother. It’s Britney, Bitch will be appearing as the mild-mannered receptionist for Ted’s dermatologist, who falls for Ted while he falls for his doctor. This will be IBB’s second TV appearance and first in her current incarnation (she appeared on a Will & Grace episode back in the Brit days), though many will no doubt forever associate her with her lone film starring role in Crossroads, back when she was just Britney.
The more I think about this move, the more it seems almost exactly analogous to the Phoenix Suns trading for Shaquille O’Neal earlier this season. Both moves introduce one-time all-stars who are far, far past their prime, but can still produce a fair amount on a smaller, less ambitious scale (decreased minutes for O’Neal, a short mid-season arc for IBB), and both of whom are still guaranteed to draw a crowd. Both moves threaten to damage the fragile equilibrium of very smooth-operating systems, and both result in painfully damaging casualties for the team (the Suns lost Shawn Marion, an eight-year vet and four-time all-star for the team, HIMYM lost a guest arc from Alicia Silverstone, who allegedly balked at the prospect of sharing court time with IBB). And needless to say, both moves court a fair amount of controversy, and cries of Jumping the Shark.
However, in both cases, the argument could just as easily be made that both needed to make such a move. Despite strong regular-season runs the past few years, the (current) Suns never made it past the Conference Finals, and with contracts expiring and their core of players getting older every year, the clock is ticking on that championship run. Similarly, despite an incredibly strong first two seasons and a devoted cult following, How I Met Your Mother has still yet to pick up the necessary popular audience or the necessary critical respect to be considered an established show, and with the first round of season renewals passing it by, it could be make or break time for the gang. Not to mention how with the already-strong Western Conference stockpiling arms and with the third season of HIMYM beginning to feel a little stale, neither was probably going to make it as is.
But lest we forget, both stars needed a lift just as depserately as their respective units did. Shaq’s stats at Miami weren’t nearly as terrible as you’d think–plenty of teams would kill for a veteran big guy that averaged 14 points and eight boards–but he was unhealthy and dispirited, watching him play like a shadow of his former self on the worst team in the NBA was a truly miserable experience, part of a practical NBA Seniors’ Ward on the bench with Penny Hardaway and Alonzo Mourning. Similarly, Britney’s career actually wasn’t technically that terribly off–“Gimme More” was her biggest chart hit since “Baby One More Time,” and Blackout debuted at #2 and has since sold over 2 mil–not a blockbuster, but pretty good numbers these days. But as an icon her status couldn’t be more in jeopardy, as the sweet, virginal-bordering-on-curious Britney America fell in love with had been replaced by an overweight, oversexed, and horribly overexposed lunatic, who showed no remorse and no self-consciousness about her disturbing transformation. Shaq needed the Suns to remind him why he should still care about playing, Britney needs HIMYM to remind her (and everyone else, I suppose) that she is still a human being.
So now that Shaq has (probablymaybearguably) appeared to have started to carve a niche down in Phoenix, does that mean that the Britney revival is similarly eminent? Well, to be fair, the analogy isn’t a perfect one, and as I see it, there are three areas where this doesn’t translate so well. The first, and most unfortunate, is that TV stars don’t really get to do press conferences (or at least, not nationally televised and endlessly re-run press conferences), which means that we probably won’t ever get to see a smiling Britney holding up an Urban Outfitters wardrobe for the cameras while spouting sound bytes like “You just don’t really wanna get me upset. When I’m upset I’m known to do certain things–like win Video Music Awards.” The second, and arguably more pressing one, is that regardless of her past or present musical prowess, Britney isn’t exactly the Shaq of the acting world, and unless it’s a meek receptionist that has nightclub singing and dancing aspirations, she’ll be headed into relatively uncharted waters here.
But the third and perhaps most important difference is that it remains to be seen whether the public really wants Britney back. Regardless of his sub-par days with the Heat as of late, and regardless of how badly most people predicted trading Marion for him would turn out for the Suns, I think most people still were essentially rooting for Shaq to succeed–he does one press conference, turns a couple phrases, and the NBA-viewing public is putty in his hands once more. But with Britney, the territory’s a little murkier–she’s burned a lot of bridges over the last few years, disappointed a lot of people a couple times too many, and might have come so far in her It’s Britney Bitch mutation that the public might not really want her back anymore. Can the people accept the notion of IBB as just a regular New York girl?
In any event, I can’t wait to see how it plays out–be sure to watch on March 24th for her auspicious beginnings. Good call scoring Sarah Chalke for a one-episode buffer zone, too.