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2007 Best & Worst: Comebacks

By Deborah Netburn and Lora Victorio, Los Angeles Times Staff Writers

As the year rushes to a close, it’s time to sift through the mountainous kilobytes of pop culture detritus that have piled up on our computers and in our brains over the last 12 months. Let’s try to figure out what worked, what didn’t and what’s best forgotten by New Year’s Day.

Today we examine the best and worst comebacks of 2007. Which of our cultural icons were we glad to see back in the Google search zeitgeist, and which of them do we think were best left … unsearched. (Los Angeles Times / Getty Images / ABC / WireImage / AP)
Michelle Pfeiffer

Comeback vehicle: “Hairspray” (July), “Stardust” (August)

When we saw her last: For most of her career Pfeiffer kept up a busy work schedule, filming at least a movie a year since the late ‘70s (Jobina in “CHiPs” and Athena in “Fantasy Island” ring any bells?). But the last time we saw her on the big screen, she was starring as murder mom Ingrid Magnussen in 2002’s “White Oleander.”

Are we glad she’s back: Oh, yeah. While her performances as Velma von Tussle (“Hairspray”) and the evil witch Lamia (“Stardust”) were more solid than scene-stealing, nobody illuminates a red carpet like Pfeiffer. On the verge of 50 (she hits the half-century mark in April), she looks better than ever, and her back-to-back turns as evil wenches reminded us of just how great she was in George Miller’s “The Witches of Eastwick.”

Comeback rating: 8
FOR THE RECORD: A previous version of this caption misidentified Michelle Pfeiffer’s “White Oleander” character as frigid foster mom Ingrid Magnussen. Pfeiffer played Ingrid Magnussen, the birth mother of protagonist Astrid.
 (Chris Jackson / Getty Images)
Bionic Woman

Comeback vehicle: NBC’s “Bionic Woman,” starring Michelle Ryan

When we saw her last: Lindsay Wagner played the role in the ‘70s, and we enjoyed the slo-mo hair-flipping stunts and cool lo-fi sound effects.

Are we glad she’s back: No. In a world overflowing with Spider-Man and Batman sequels, it was good to hear that a woman with special powers might get some mass media attention again. But watching NBC’s remake was a letdown -- not just to us, but to the multitude of other viewers who had high hopes. After only a handful of episodes, many lost interest in the story line and ratings have continued to slide. Perhaps Wagner was the only Bionic Woman we needed.

Comeback rating: (Carol Segal / NBC Universal)
The Spice Girls

Comeback vehicle: 2007 Reunion Tour, “Greatest Hits” album

When we saw them last: The Spice Girls as a monolithic mainstream entertainment entity officially called it quits in 2000, but as individuals they have never completely gone away. Victoria Beckham has enjoyed Paris Hilton-esque celebrity status in Britain ever since marrying soccer star David Beckham, and the rest of the girls are regular characters in the celebutabs. Especially when they have out-of-wedlock children. Particularly with Eddie Murphy and paternity tests are involved.

Are we glad they’re back: Enh.The Spice Girls were never about great music, smart lyrics or awesome dancing. They were about spectacle and having fun, and from all accounts their new tour is lots of fun to look at, if less fun to actually listen to.

Comeback rating: 6/7 (PR News)
Scott Baio

Comeback vehicle: VH1’s “Scott Baio is 45 … and Single”

When we saw him last: Though he’s worked in TV and film in the last decade, he’s still most notable as the manny with the big heart in “Charles in Charge.” (If anyone over 30 is reading this, we know you still have those Dyn-o-mite! and Bananas issues packed up with your “Good Times” lunchbox.)

Are we glad he’s back: No. Seeing Scott Baio in a reality show touting his singleness is depressing and awkward for everyone involved. Sure, he’s having a midlife crisis, but does he have to have it on national television? We were hoping for something a little less sad-sack, a little more upbeat, Baio.

Comeback rating: (WireImage)
Christina Applegate

Comeback vehicle: ABC’s “Samantha Who?”

When we saw her last: Back in 2004 Christina Applegate had supporting roles in “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” and “Surviving Christmas” that reminded everyone just how funny Kelly Bundy really was. Since then, she’s made a couple of independent films but nothing that registered on the pop culture radar.

Are we glad she’s back: America is delighted. Her legitimately funny (at times obnoxious) sitcom “Samantha Who?” is the only new hit of the season.

Comeback rating: (ABC)
Britney Spears

Comeback vehicle: The MTV Video Music Awards, “Blackout,” the tabloids

When we saw her last: America hadn’t heard new Britney Spears material since 2003, when her album “In the Zone” hit record stores. In 2005, her record company Jive put out a remix album called “B in the Mix,” but Spears was apparently too busy slowly unraveling (and, let’s be fair, getting married, having children) to put out any music.

Are we glad she’s back: She’s entertained us with her daily paparazzi baiting, she’s raised the traffic on gossip websites around the Web, she’s kept a lot of photographers in business, and she’s sold lots of records. But no way, we’re not glad she’s back. In fact, we’d like her to go somewhere far, far away and get better before she permanently injures herself or someone else.

Comeback rating: (Dan Steinberg / AP)
The Police

Comeback vehicle: 2007 Reunion Tour

When we saw them last: The Police disbanded in the mid-80s and though they’ve occasionally come together to play an Amnesty International show here, or record a few more tracks for a Greatest Hits album there, they hadn’t been on the same stage together since 2003 when they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Are we glad they’re back? Our message in a bottle is “No.” We saw some of their stage show on the news when they came to L.A. and we thought it looked bo-ring. But America and the rest of the world appear to disagree. The band sold out Fenway Park and two shows in Madison Square Garden in 14 minutes. Apparently, one can never hear “Roxanne,” you know, that one about a man who falls in love with a prostitute, enough.

Comeback rating: (AP)
Marie Osmond and Jennie Garth

Comeback vehicle: “Dancing With the Stars” aka “The Comeback Machine”

When we saw them last: Marie Osmond hadn’t done much of anything that registered on the pop culture landscape since 1981 when her show “Marie” tanked. Jennie Garth’s decent run on “What I Like About You” playing Amanda Bynes’ older sister ended in 2006.

Are we glad they’re back? We wouldn’t call Marie Osmond’s comeback a success. She’s inserted herself squarely into the pop culture conversation thanks to the fainting spell, the weight loss and that crazy wind-up-doll finale. She may have a future as one of those kooky past-their-primetime ladies we occasionally like to check in on. As for Garth, she got more attention for her time on “DWTS” than she did for her years on “What I Like About You.” We can’t promise she’ll be back for long, but for now she’s riding high.

Comeback rating: (ABC)
Keri Russell

Comeback vehicle: “Waitress” (May), “August Rush” (November)

When we saw her last: Sure, she was featured in movies such as “Mission: Impossible III” and “The Upside of Anger,” but she hasn’t been the subject of watercooler conversation since her title role in “Felicity.”

Are we glad she’s back: Yes! Her performance in “Waitress” made us want to dig out our “Felicity” DVD to rewatch the Golden-Globe winning actress at work. Russell is back in a big way, taking meatier roles than ever, and we like it.

Comeback rating: (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
Billy Corgan has announced he’ll be releasing a new double LP, “AEGEA.”  (Richard Hartog / Los Angeles Times)