Mar. 25, 2008— -- Critics say Britney Spears' appearance last night on the television sitcom "How I Met Your Mother" may finally signal a long-awaited comeback for the troubled star.
Once the reigning queen of pop, the singer has recently become a popular punch line.
Fans first anticipated a Spears comeback at the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards, but her performance was widely-received as an embarrassing mess.
But Spears, 26, appeared to turn the tables last night when she had the audience laughing with her once again.
"Oh, Ted I love the stash," Spears said, playing the role of Abby the receptionist, who has a crush on Ted, the lead character, played by Josh Radnor. "You are like a young Tom Selleck, only a million times handsomer."
Spears was apparently a fan of the show, and asked to be considered for a role.
Insiders say Spears was as good off camera as she was on.
"She showed up on time, knew her lines, was a good comedian and was able to do improvs," said Bruce Fretts, editor-at-large for TV Guide. "The cast really liked her … the crew really liked her."
Instead of showing up with a big entourage, Spears appeared to be accompanied on set only by one stylist, and her mom and her dad.
Spears has endured a very public breakdown in the past year, including the loss of custody of her children and multiple hospital stays. Her recent display of professionalism comes as a welcome surprise following a year filled with images of her shaving her head, stints in rehabs and a new paparazzo boyfriend.
"This is a step in the right direction for her," TV Guide's Fretts said. "This is the first thing we have seen her do in a while that seems like a smart move … that she's in charge and that she's trying to do something positive for a change."
Spears was a hit with both cast and crew, and may even be asked back on the show for another episode. Other celebrities who've made appearances on "How I Met Your Mother" include Heidi Klum, Enrique Iglesias and Mandy Moore.
There was a time when everything the teen touched turned to platinum. She's credited with selling more than 80 million records in less than a decade, and has racked up seven number-one hits, including "Hit Me Baby One More Time."
Even before she rocked pigtails, Spears donned Mickey Mouse ears and was known for her sweet and innocent image. Viewers say they saw Spears go back to her roots last night.
"Playing this character who is a little bit geeky, who has a crush on Josh Radnor's character; it just evokes a different image from her then what we had gotten used to seeing recently," Fretts said. "I think time will tell whether this is really the beginning of a new trend in her life and it really is her taking control of her life."