Cast members Josh Radnor,from left, Neil Patrick Harris, Jason Segel, Alyson Hannigan, and Cobie Smulders are seen while taping an episode of "How I Met Your Mother" in Los Angeles on Thursday, April 3, 2008. (AP Photo/Matt Sayles)
NEW YORK - "How I Met Your Mother" star Neil Patrick Harris wants to set the record straight: "Britney did a great job on the show."
"In fact, we are all hoping that she returns rather soon to reprise her role," he said in a statement to Entertainment Weekly's web site about Spears' cameo on the show.
Harris was responding to a story featuring earlier comments he made to The Associated Press. Asked in that interview, "why does such a gem of a show need Britney to get any attention," he responded, "I'm in the minority that our show does not need stunt casting in order to succeed.
"We've done a good three and three-quarter seasons with guest stars that we feel like are exactly perfect for the characters that (were) written ... by the crack writing staff," Harris told a reporter visiting the set of the Monday night CBS sitcom. "I worry that if they start 'Will and Gracing' us too much, that the show will suffer. And we're all really proud of the content of the show. I mean viewership is not our game. It's the network and the studio's game, you know. It's the promotion department's game. We wish we weren't opposite an awkward reality dancing competition. But we have no say about that. I just am a real fan of our content. I think we have a great show going and I hope it's not screwed up by the desire for 700,000 more viewers."
In his statement Friday, Harris said that "a writer took some quotes of mine and speculated an opinion about their intent."
The original AP story stated that Harris believed Spears should not appear on the program any more.
"I am just very protective of our show, and its content. I have a high standard of quality, and hope to maintain it on every level. Television is big business, I understand that. I have great faith in our casting department, as well as (Twentieth Century Fox Television) and CBS, to find the appropriate person for every role on our show. I was remiss in speculating otherwise."
Spears has been the most high-profile guest star on "Mother," following appearances by Mandy Moore, Enrique Iglesias and Heidi Klum. Her well-reviewed March 24 cameo as a bubbly receptionist drew 10.6 million viewers, up 1 million from the previous week. The show has averaged 8 million viewers per episode this season, including reruns.
The show concluded with Spears' secretary flirting with Barney, the scene-stealing womanizer played by Harris.
Could she return? If so, Harris is fine with that.
"My job description is to act," his statement said, "and I should really do just that."