Britney Spears’ Monday night guest appearance on the CBS sitcom How I Met Your Mother was very good for Britney, who looked good (thereby passing test #1) and acted passably and almost sweetly (thereby passing test #2). Once the ratings are tabulated, How I Met Your Mother ought to pass its own test – and gain enough network support to receive a long-overdue renewal for fall.
The sitcom’s plot had Britney playing Abby, the meek receptionist at the waiting room of a tattoo removal parlor. The doctor, Stella, was played by another guest star, Sarah Chalke from Scrubs. Previously, Chalke had begun playing daughter Becky on Roseanne in 1993, the same year Britney made her first appearance on The All New Mickey Mouse Club.
On How I Met Your Mother, Chalke had more screen time, as well as the “A” plot line (involving the efforts of Josh Radnor’s Ted, a tattoo-removal patient, to woo Stella). She also had, by far, the most demanding part. The climax of the show was Ted’s successful attempt to take Stella on a two-minute date – somehow including two taxi rides, two meals, a movie and a goodnight kiss, all on the same city block – and it was filmed in one unbroken camera move, requiring a lot of timing and concentration from both Chalke and Radnor.
Britney, however, had a total of 10 scenes, adding up to between four and five minutes of screen time. She had some funny lines, and a solid closing-credits scene with Neil Patrick Harris’ Barney – and while she never made you forget she was Britney Spears, she brought no traces of shaved-head, ambulance-driven, downward-spiralling Britney.
As career reclamation moves go, she couldn’t have done much better for a first step. As journey of a million miles has to begin somewhere, and this sitcom role, insubstantial as it was, definitely was on the right path.