As more shows make their post-strike comebacks this week, some are resorting to stunt casting to pull in viewers. This week, we get to see two celebrities better known for not wearing pants try their hands at acting. Last night, Britney Spears appeared on How I Met Your Mother. Later this week, Paris Hilton will play herself in a dream sequence on My Name is Earl. Although casting big-name celebrities certainly has the potential to deliver ratings, stunt casting that doesn't serve the story has the potential to alienate loyal viewers. I'm an occasional How I Met Your Mother viewer, but I was a diehard Buffy fan, and I remember how disgusted I was when I heard that Britney was supposed to appear in a guest spot on that show. Fortunately, her busy schedule got in the way. (This was back before her schedule consisted entirely of drinking frozen coffee beverages and traffic violations.)
Surprisingly, reports from the cast and crew of How I Met Your Mother were all very positive about Britney's performance and professionalism. She played a flirty receptionist at Ted's dermatologist's office. I'm surprised to find myself saying this, but she was actually kind of funny. She looked pretty good, too (meaning that she looked like she'd showered and wasn't wearing flip flops or sweats with writing across the butt). It was a gamble for Britney to do a sitcom guest appearance, and I think it paid off. It gave the public a chance to see her doing something other than get chased around by the paparazzi, which she definitely needs if she is ever going to make a comeback. Although Britney actually did a good job, the role was one that anybody could have played, but HIMYM can be forgiven for trying to reel in a few more viewers. It's one of the few good 30-minute sitcoms on right now, and it's on the bubble for renewal. The Britney boost might just buy a fourth season.
Paris Hilton, on the other hand, decided to play it safe by playing herself. I am of the opinion that Paris Hilton plays Paris Hilton every day. There's no way anybody could actually be like that all the time. At least I hope there isn't. Actually, I'm not sure which thought is scarier, the idea that that might honestly be her real personality or that she thinks that putting on such a vapid front is so appealing to so many people ... and she's right. I really do think she's a lot smarter than she lets on, which is infuriating to me. She'll appear in newly comatose Earl's fantasy of a perfect life with Alyssa Milano (who is not playing herself, but Earl's crush Billie). However the heiress fits into that fantasy, you can bet that she will flip her extensions around, say That's hot! and do little else entertaining or of substance. You know, her usual. (Unless she's getting grilled by David Letterman, and his antipathy towards NBC sadly rules out any chance that he will also be in the dream sequence.)
Sitcoms aren't the only shows resorting to stunt casting this spring. Robin Williams will appear on Law & Order: SVU's 200th episode on April 29. Is it me, or is there a ton of potential for creepitude with that combination of actor and show?
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Amy Kane spends as much quality time with her television as possible, when she's not busy at her day job as a cube dweller.