It’s hard to remember now, but Bobby Brown used to be a big deal. Before he was old enough to drink legally (not that the law ever got in his way), he established himself as the King of New Jack Swing, a sound that brought hip-hop’s big beats and bigger attitude into the realm of ’80s R&B.

Brown should have spent his mid-20s enthralling the tender Ronis of America, instead of urinating in the back of police cars. But 500 career miscalculations later, he’s taken his place in the “What if” celebrity hall of fame, next to Mickey Rourke, Mindy McCready, and Sean Young.

Brown is so desperate for TV exposure he’ll giddily air his nasty laundry (Being Bobby Brown), or compete to make it as a country singer, as he’s doing on CMT’s upcoming series, Gone Country.

Brown’s fellow contestants on Gone Country include Dee Snider, Carnie Wilson, and Maureen McCormick (Marcia from The Brady Bunch), and they’re all so pathetic that this qualifies as a great gig for them. But Brown shouldn’t have to beg some dude from Big & Rich to let him put on a cowboy hat and pretend he’s Tim McGraw.

This sorry enterprise, however, underscores a key point: Country music is the last refuge of the terminally washed-up. It saved the careers of Jerry Lee Lewis, Conway Twitty, Kenny Rogers, and that sucky band Exile, who were too cheeseball for the post-punk rock crowd, but just cheeseball enough for Nashville. This could never work in the opposite direction. Can you imagine Lee Greenwood making a successful transition to the R&B charts?

As for Bobby Brown, he will almost certainly make a buffoon of himself on Gone Country, but, after all, self-ridicule has become his art form. And, as he once put it, that’s his

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