On Monday night’s episode of Jane the Virgin, the telenovela got toxic when the princess of pop Britney Spears popped by for a cameo. The result was… not that bad! Spears has notoriously been a little different since 2007 (when she took a liking to buzz cuts and using umbrellas as weapons), but in recent years, she’s gotten back some of her old self. So how did her visit to The Marbella compare to past Spears’ drive-bys on TV? Let’s dig in, from worst to best.
5- Glee: “Britney/Brittany”
It’s a pretty bad sign when the worst part of a tribute episode is when the star you’re paying respect to actually appears. But that was the case with Spears’ cameos in a 2010 episode of Glee. While the Glee kids had plenty of interesting things to do with her hit songs, the plotting was incoherent, and Spears herself just appeared in pointless dream sequences that did nothing but showcase her reticence in front of the camera.
4- How I Met Your Mother: “Ten Sessions” and “Everything Must Go”
The hit sitcom How I Met Your Mother scooped up Spears amidst her image recuperation period in 2008. Spears popped by for a pair of episodes, in which she played the hyper-sensitive and naive Abby, Dr. Stella Zinman’s secretary who develops a crush on Ted. It was too soon for Spears, as everything about it was strained, awkward and uncomfortable—yep, even more so than that recent “Pretty Girls” music video.
3- Jane the Virgin: “Chapter Twenty-Seven”
The folks over at Jane the Virgin clearly knew what iteration of Britney Spears they were working with, smartly employing the very technique the pop star uses in her current Vegas residency. As Spears’ ability (or interest) to move has waned, she’s kept the energy alive with a horde of quick-steppin’ dancers. Throughout Monday night’s episode, Spears was flanked by a posse of back-up dancers that moved in sync with her—to great comic effect. That made it easier to overlook Spears’ visible anxiety, marked by tight shoulders and a pained smile that said, “Is my conservatorship almost over?”
2- The Simpsons: “The Mansion Family”
As one does in their prime, Spears agreed to voice an animated version of herself on The Simpsons, back in 2000, far before the starlet gave up a vigorous pursuit of virginity. In the episode, she hosted the Springfield Pride Awards, accidentally killing the city’s oldest citizen, just as her smash singles have slayed many an unprepared listener.
1- Will & Grace: “Buy, Buy Baby”
In the year 2006, Britney Jean graced us with her greatest acting performance to date, appearing on an episode of Will & Grace’s eighth season. The accomplished character actress took on the role of conservative television host Amber-Louise, who joins Jack’s show Just Jack when right-wingers take over his network. Though Spears was robbed of a guest acting Emmy nomination that year, her impeccable sing-song Southern accent shall never be forgotten.