We’ve Finally Reached Britney Saturation

Britney Jean, Album CoverRCA Records

Somebody over at E! decided to devote a couple of hours of the network’s holiday schedule to a shiny new documentary on Britney Spears and her preparations for her “Piece of Me” Vegas residency. Somebody is getting fired.

The two-hour special, I Am Britney Jean, only pulled 706,000 viewers in Sunday primetime on Dec. 22. Its heaviest competition was Sunday Night Football — not exactly the same audience. It’s more likely that the viewers E! expected to tune in clicked over to a rerun of NBC’s Sound of Music, Live! instead. All the while, Britney’s new album, Britney Jean, was dropping like a rock out of the Billboard Top 20. It only sold 107,000 copies in its first week. Dark days for the money-printing machine that was Britney’s heavily influenced image.

It’s too late for a veil-lifting documentary. The veil has already been lifted and we know this ain’t what’s underneath. Whatever joy America gets from watching Housewives dump glasses of wine on each other or Miley Cyrus grinding on a teddy bear does not extend to seeing a young woman go through the motions that her publicists and managers dictate while looking like she’s taking Walter Mitty-style trips in her head just to escape. Give us a hot mess who’s in on the joke and we’ll gleefully eat it up. But we don’t want to watch Britney get ready to install herself as complementary high-roller benefit when she looks like she’d rather be anywhere else.

No one buys that she has the kind of artistic power that Britney’s shown wielding in this special. And while she’s polite, warm, and actually quite open, those qualities make E!’s tacky production all the more wince-inducing. Maybe viewers checked out after the first few minutes of the documentary, when the producers chose to leave in a joke that Britney makes comparing her on/off-stage personas to bipolar disorder, one which some believe she actually suffers from.