‘How I Met Your Mother’ Was Saved By Britney Spears

How I Met Your Mother was a popular CBS sitcom that had a long run on network TV. The show got by on its hilarious premise, a strong cast, and sharp writing. But at one point in the show’s run, its ultimate success wasn’t assured. It was a timely cameo from a superstar from the world of music that helped save it. Here’s the story of how Britney Spears saved this sitcom from the brink of extinction, clearing the path for a lengthy run on CBS. 

The premise of ‘How I Met Your Mother’

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The premise of the show was simple and reflected in the title: How I Met Your Mother was the story of a man telling his children how he met their mother. Voiced by Bob Saget, the show was framed as a father narrating the events of his life to his two children through flashbacks, telling them the story of how he and their mother came to meet.

In the show’s primary timeline, the man (named Ted Mosby) was played by Josh Radnor. He was joined by his friends, Robin (Cobie Smulders), Lily (Allyson Hannigan), Barney (Neil Patrick Harris), and Marshall (Jason Segel). Marshall and Lily are married, Barney is an unrepentant womanizer, and Robin and Ted have a romantic tension they sometimes act on during the show’s run.  

According to IMDb, the show ran from 2005-2014. In the show’s finale, it’s revealed that the children’s mother had passed away, and Ted’s kids urge him to go after their “Aunt” Robin. Those two characters end up together. 

The show featured multiple cameos throughout its tenure, including one featuring the Hit Me Baby One More Time singer. 

Britney Spears’ cameo on ‘How I Met Your Mother’

According to an interview with E! Online, series co-creator Carter Bays said Spears requested a role on the show. She ended up playing a character named Abby. Here’s how it went down according to the man himself: 

“We got a call a few weeks after the writers’ strike ended saying that Britney Spears wanted to be on our show. And she specifically wanted to be in the episode “Ten Sessions,” which sent a chill down our spines, because that’s the one where we meet Stella.”

Bays went on to say that he wasn’t immediately sold on the idea, wanting to choose a more seasoned actor: 

“I immediately imagined Britney playing Stella and had a minor panic attack, because it’s such a big role and needed an proven, experienced actress like Sarah Chalke. But to her credit, Britney liked the character of Abby, and wanted to play that part. So we said sure!”

Spears did more than just appear on the show, however. She may have saved it. 

How Britney Spears saved ‘How I Met Your Mother’

Britney Spears smiling in front of a blue and white background
Britney Spears | Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images

At the time of Spears’ appearance on the show, she was still a megastar. The show was only a few seasons into its run on the air and wasn’t quite the ratings powerhouse it would become.

It was also a tenuous time for most of the shows on TV, as the 2008 Writers Guild Strike had created uncertainty for many shows. While Spears wasn’t an experienced actor (her Mickey Mouse Club experience notwithstanding), she showed up and did a great job on the show.

She also helped attract viewers and interest, as associating her brand with the show helped drive attention to the program. According to Bays, Spears played a big role in making the show more popular. 

“And by golly she put our show on the map. It can’t be overstated. Britney Spears rescued us from ever being on the bubble again. Thanks Britney!”

It’s interesting that Spears’ appearance went from being a source of anxiety for the show’s creative team to something that helped drive the series into extreme popularity.