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Photos: Chris Brown

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  1. Two stars for one

    R&B singer Chris Brown poses in the media room at the BET Awards 2011 held at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on June 26, 2011. (Jason Merritt / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A start in street art

    Brown visits Art in the Streets the first major U.S. museum survey of graffiti and street art at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA in Los Angeles on May 26, 2011. (Frazer Harrison / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Smiles in court

    Brown appears in court with his attorney Mark Geragos for a probation progress report hearing in Los Angeles on Jan. 28, 2011. Brown pleaded guilty to assaulting his then-girlfriend, singer Rihanna, after a pre-Grammy Awards party in 2009. He was given a sentence of five years probation and ordered to complete 180 days of community labor and a year of domestic violence counseling. (David Mcnew / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. His idol

    Brown peforms a Michael Jackson tribute at the BET Awards in Los Angeles on June 27, 2010. (Matt Sayles / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. On the big screen

    Brown arrives at the premiere of the film "Takers" at Arclight Cinema Cinerama Dome in Hollywood, Calif., on Aug. 4, 2010. (Frazer Harrison / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. For the record ...

    Larry King, left, speaks with Brown as his mother Joyce Hawkins, center, wipes her eye during an interview Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2009, on the "Larry King Live" show in Los Angeles, his first public interview since his arrest in February for assaulting Rihanna. (Peter "Hopper" Stone / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Receiving his sentence

    Brown stands next to Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies during his sentencing hearing on Aug. 5 in Los Angeles. The singer received 5 years probation and 180 days of community labor, as the result of a plea deal, after he was charged with two felonies for assault on Rihanna. (Rick Loomis / Pool via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Remembering Michael

    Chris Brown attends the Michael Jackson public memorial service at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Tuesday, July 7, 2009. (Kevin Mazur / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Avoiding jail

    Brown heads into court in Los Angeles for a preliminary hearing on Monday, June 22, 2009. Moments before the hearing was set to begin, an announcement was made that a plea deal had been reached in the singer's felony assault case. (Mario Anzuoni / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Magic moment

    On the same night as Rihanna, Brown attends the NBA Finals matchup between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Orlando Magic on Thursday, June 11, 2009, at Amway Arena in Orlando, Fla. (Elsa / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Not guilty plea

    Brown, right, stands next to his attorney as he appears for his arraignment on two felony charges in Los Angeles Superior Court on Monday, April 6, 2009. The R&B singer plead not guilty to charges stemming from an attack on Rihanna. (Damian Dovarganes / Pool via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Happier times

    Brown and Rihanna perform during the Z100 Jingle Ball in New York on Dec. 13, 2008. Brown, 19, one of the fastest rising stars of the last two years, was freed on $50,000 bail after being arrested in Los Angeles for allegedly assaulting Rihanna, whose rise to fame equals his. The incident occurred in Brown's car early Feb. 9, several hours before the two were to appear at the Grammy Awards. (Lucas Jackson / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. The voice

    Brown performs during a concert in Amsterdam on Jan. 16. Brown rose to fame as a sweet-faced, 16-year-old with an engaging voice and amazing dance skills with the 2005 smash hit "Run It!" (Marcel Antonisse / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Year's best

    Brown accepts the artist of the year award at the American Music Awards in Los Angeles on Sunday, Nov. 23, 2008. (Matt Sayles / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Full of promise

    Brown performs during the Z100 Jingle Ball in New York on Dec. 12, 2008. The singer has been featured in movies such as dance flick "Stomp the Yard," had top-selling tours and a string of hits, including "Forever" and "No Air" with Jordin Sparks, for which he was nominated for a Grammy in 2009. (Lucas Jackson / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Crowd appeal

    The audience reaches out to touch Brown during an appearance on the TODAY show in New York's Rockefeller Center. (Richard Drew / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Moonman

    Brown poses backstage with his award for best male video at the 2008 MTV Video Music Awards held at Paramount Pictures Studio Lot on Sunday, Sept. 7, 2008, in Los Angeles. (Chris Pizzello / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Orange crushed

    Brown arrives at the 21st Annual Kids' Choice Awards in Los Angeles, on Saturday, March 29, 2008. There was immediate fallout from Brown's arrest Feb. 9, 2009, with Wrigley stopping all ad and marketing campaigns tied to Brown, who had been their Doublemint gum pitchman. (Chris Pizzello / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. The moves

    Brown performs on the TODAY show in New York's Rockefeller Center on Friday, June 6, 2008. (Richard Drew / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. What next?

    Brown performs on TODAY on Aug. 31, 2007. At the times of his arrest, Brown was near the end of promoting his platinum-selling "Exclusive" CD and was concentrating on filming movies. (Brendan Mcdermid / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Before the fall

    Rihanna and Brown are seen at the MTV Movie Awards on Sunday, June 1, 2008, in Los Angeles. (Matt Sayles / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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By
msnbc.com
updated 7/27/2009 9:20:40 AM ET 2009-07-27T13:20:40

The course of celebrity, more than halfway through the year, has been unprecedentedly unpredictable and turbulent. It would take a team of Sullys to navigate a safe landing for some of the year’s unlikely A-listers.

Which makes grading the major players, as we do here in our midyear report card for movies, TV, and celebrities, even more difficult. For example, what bell curve can possibly apply to all reality show stars, when some of the resulting “celebrities” know the game, and others are sad victims?

Tough call, which is why it’s a good thing this is a year-long course. Unlike real school, apparently there’s opportunity to tear up an old exam and start over. There’s a lot of time for things to change before the bell rings in 2010.

Cutest couple gone sour: Chris Brown and Rihanna
From golden couple to golden gloves, Chris Brown’s assault on then-girlfriend Rihanna has been a case study in how not to handle a terrible situation. Although theirs is a deeply personal problem, it played out under the umbrella of fame and the publicity machine that made the singers superstars in the first place. That means the rules change; now you don’t get to just navigate your own crisis, you do it with new obligations because kids look up to you.

Instead of turning this into an opportunity to teach her fans what it means to be the beaten young woman in a wrongly leaked photo, Rihanna made confounding choices. She reunited with Brown for a weekend at Diddy’s almost immediately after the assault. Now she’s rumored to have reunited with him in New York City over the weekend.

In the case of Brown, he had to be dragged away from the glare of his own ego, pulling out of the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice awards only once the public pressure demanded it. Just last week he issued a You Tube apology that had all the depth of a kiddie pool.

Maybe Chris and Rihanna are just kids. Since they grew up with handlers more present than parents, they never learned to be adults, and perhaps that should count for something. And it’s possible Brown really is sorry, but I’m not sorry to say that they all but failed this one.
Grade: D. An F would make one want to give up, and I hope they both realize that there’s still opportunity to set an example for their young fans.

Worst trend: Regular people meet reality shows
Exam question: Heidi and Spencer Pratt, Jon & Kate Gosselin, Susan Boyle: One of these units is not like the other. Which one?

Slideshow: Celebrity scandals of 2009

Heidi and Spencer
If you answered Heidi and Spencer, you were correct. Out of the lot, only the “Hills” veterans know how to play the celebrity game. They are conscientiously complicit in every photo op, sound bite and scandal they’re connected with.
Grade: A, for getting exactly what they sought, fame at all costs.

The Gosselins and Boyle, however, don’t know what hit them. The left the house with an umbrella when what they really needed was an ark, and a holy spirit to watch over them. Instead, the public is watching, and their attempts to convince us that everything’s going to be all right are about as convincing as it would be to see Joe Jackson lead a seminar on parenting.

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Susan Boyle
This is especially so in the case of “Britain's Got Talent” runner-up Boyle, who wears fame the same way as she wears her new designer clothes: uncomfortably.
Grade: Pass. For Boyle, I suspect this is going to be a pass/fail situation. For now she’s passing, but barely.

Jon and Kate Gosselin
And Gosselins: I’ve asked you nicely to leave once already, and soon, the choice might not be yours. When “Jon & Kate Plus 8” returns to TLC on Aug. 3, we’ll know within minutes if Jon's been working through the pain of his impending divorce by hitting up a yacht in St. Tropez, going to watch polo in the Hamptons, and then kicked back at Andre Balazs’ Sunset Beach on Shelter Island.

If that's the case, “Jon & Kate” might not be the family-friendly fare that attracted the show’s original fans. The “Plus 8” has a heavy burden: This is a group project and it’s clear not everyone’s pulling their weight. The kids have to be really, really cute to erase the memory of Jon’s recent past.
Grade: Incomplete for now. Let’s revisit when the ratings come in.


Celebrity magazines
Three years ago, things couldn’t have been better for celebrity weeklies. A good economy and a record number of titles meant, for a time, that everyone could have a piece of the dishy, star-studded pie. Times have changed. And not just because there are fewer dollars to go around, but because of TMZ.com, which increased the pace for reporting.

Above the fray: People magazine. But that’s no surprise. They’ve been in the gifted program since day one. Us Weekly gets an A for seeing Jon & Kate’s split as a celebrity topic before the rest of us, and so does Janice Min. Min, the editor in chief who just resigned, steered the ship and realized first that reality sells. Not to mention, she’s leaving while still pretty much on top, a tough lesson to teach in the celebrity world. Well done.
Grade: C+. If the only weeklies we were judging were People and Us, the grade would be  higher. But as they say, a few bad apples…

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