Britney Spears special kicks it up a notch

Special to The Times

Has Britney lost it? After watching promotional footage for her Showtime concert special, a better question may be: Does anybody want her to find it?

Spears’ fans are fascinated by her antics. They care about the marriage that had a shorter shelf life than dairy products. And some young ones might be allowed to stay up late to watch “Britney Spears Live From Miami” on Sunday.

The rest of the population may wonder why a pop singer who the New York Times says lip-synched a performance continues to have cachet. Yet there’s no denying she does. Walk by a newsstand and her blond hair and barely covered breasts are on display month after month.


Although Spears’ behavior over the last year could be endlessly psychoanalyzed, clearly she is trying to expand her audience beyond the squealing girls and adolescents who made her a star. The evidence is in “The Black Onyx Tour,” which kicked off in early March in San Diego.

Parents of her young fans should be warned. For years, Spears has appealed to giggling preteens, who festoon their pink and purple rooms with her posters, sing along to “Oops, I Did It Again” and fight their mothers over wearing belly-bearing shirts.

Those days look positively innocent compared to what Spears dishes up in this latest show. Parents whose children watch R-rated movies may be comfortable with the content. Others will consider it tantamount to corrupting the morals of a minor.

Spears’ handlers only permitted Showtime to provide a small amount of material for review, but what is shown is extremely suggestive. In her video for “Toxic,” she appears as a stewardess -- forget flight attendant because that implies a trained professional -- in a throwback to the days of “Coffee? Tea? Or me?” Spears wears a blue uniform that reveals far more than it covers.

She pushes a drink cart up the aisle, shaking her barely covered bon-bon, and spills a drink onto an inept fat man. She takes this passenger into the airplane bathroom to induct him into the mile-high club. As they start to kiss, she pulls off his ugly face and a handsome young hunk appears as she grinds against him. When they are finished, she takes his wallet.

Let it not be said that Spears is without talent. She can grind with the best of them, as she repeatedly illustrates.


In a brief electronic press kit, Spears answers a few softball questions. She says the title of her tour was chosen because “the onyx stone is kind of symbolic of what guides me in my life.” She does not elaborate on how the gemstone imparts wisdom, but there it is.

The next question is how this tour is different. “This tour will be a little older,” she says, explaining she performs four or five songs from past albums.

Reviews of the live show say a lot of the tour is from her current compact disc, “In the Zone.” The ballad “Everytime,” about her breakup with Justin Timberlake, is “about the first true love, [which] a lot of people can relate to,” she says. Although Spears promises that the special, taped live from American Airlines Arena, “will be a different performance,” she describes it in the next breath as “pretty much the same show as the show I’m doing on tour.”

Usually when a major star does a show for TV, that star grants interviews to promote it. Spears had agreed to an interview, but canceled. She later agreed to release the transcript of an interview with Showtime. Her managers then changed their minds. Finally, her people offered to have her answer 10 questions via e-mail. She blew it again by not responding.

Spears does not owe journalists anything, but it is curious when someone who seeks the spotlight with such fervor runs from it. Lucky for her, she arguably is the loveliest woman to jiggle and high-kick across a stage in a rubberlike cat suit. And this probably will be enough for her devoted fans.

Jacqueline Cutler writes for Tribune Media Services.

“Britney Spears Live From Miami” airs at 9 p.m. Sunday on Showtime. The network has rated it TV-14-LD (may be unsuitable for children younger than 14, with advisories for coarse language and suggestive dialogue).


Cover photograph by Matt York.