Never fear, Britney is going to "get help". It may not be the kind of help she was expecting, but in a world of "Celebrity Rehab", we can only assume that all of this will turn out to be a great career move on her part. Jeff Conaway? He's fifty-seven and seven or eight years removed from his most recent significant role (Babylon 5). He's milking this thing for all it's worth in order to keep himself viable. But Brit? She's all of twenty-six, and only a few months past what was supposed to be her return to greatness. Oops, she did it again.
It's hard to recall a more twisted version of the celebrity mosh pit. I can't say that I was ever a big fan, but I recall when Britney, Christina and Madonna all got together at the 2003 Video Music Awards in an attempt to pass some sort of metaphorical torch. It was as if the Queen of Image was leaning down from her throne and laid a big wet one on her heirs apparent. When a reporter on Entertainment Tonight asked Britney after the show "What does it feel like to be kissed by Madonna?" Spears responded that "this is something I've dreamt about since I was a little girl. I cannot believe this just like freakin' happened. I am on a major high right now. I feel very cool."
It would be easy to point to that moment as the literal "kiss of death" for Britney's career, but Christina Aguilera shared the same intimate (unless you count the millions watching at home) exchange and has yet to come apart at the seams. On the contrary, since that time the two ex-Mousketeers have followed very different trajectories. Conventional wisdom has always had Britney on the "pop" side, with Christina holding all the talent cards. I confess that they were all but indistinguishable to me until my wife began to take notice of the video for "Candyman". That's from the past year or so, and I've only been able to wince lightly at Ms. Spear's scattershot warblings that have accompanied her deranged personal appearances.
Britney's marriages have been punch lines. Her kids have been pawns in an ugly chess match called celebrity custody. Christina may never be forgiven for dating Carson Daly, but her marriage to music marketing executive Jordan Bratman has officially lapped her competition's, culminating in the birth of her son, Max.
To be fair: It would be nothing short of impossible to grow up in the public's view. I'm happy that most of my vocal performances have been stored away for the ages, with only a chorus or two of "Happy Birthday" when I am truly inspired. My point, and I promise I'm almost there, is that the help that Britney really needs is to be left alone. Not every ugly duckling turns out to be a swan, and even some of those swans can get a little mangy after a few tough winters. It's one thing to make bad choices, but it's something very different to do it in front of TV cameras. Turn them off and go home. The show is over and we're not helping anymore. The future may hold an album of railroad songs by B. Spears, back from an extended sabbatical and fresh from the hell created for her here on earth, but not now. Turn them off and let her go home.