By Michael Slezak
Updated June 16, 2006 at 12:00 PM EDT

I could take the easy route in discussing Matt Lauer’s interview with Britney Spears on NBC last night — pointing out the pop tart’s janky use of ”finger quotes,” the fact that she doesn’t know enough to spit out her gum before the cameras roll, or even the way that (by my count) NBC used 47 different shots of Britney in her former, sexier state during the 60-minute telecast (perhaps to provide contrast to her current badly styled, pregnant incarnation?). But I’m going to turn my patented brand of bitchery on a less obvious target — Mr. Lauer himself, who missed numerous opportunities to ask the right questions about Britney’s plea for a life free from paparazzi and tabloid judgment. Let’s roll the tape (and if you missed it, don’t forget NBC is replaying it tonight at 8 pm EDT):

1. Did anyone else notice the lack of followup after Lauer questioned Spears about the beginning of her relationship with husband Kevin Federline? Specifically, Lauer wanted to know if Britney ever thinks about the fact that when she hooked up with K.Fed, his then girlfriend, Shar Jackson, was raising Federline’s young child and several months pregnant with his second — almost exactly the same position Spears is in right now. Britney, missing the point completely, said she doesn’t “’cause we’re very happy together right now.” Why didn’t Lauer cut her off and get to the point, something like: “Britney, I’m not wondering if you’re worried Kevin is going to do the same thing to you. I’m wondering if you’ve ever put yourself in Shar’s shoes, ever considered that some of this negative press coverage may have been prompted by the fact that Kevin left his pregnant baby mama to hook up with you in the first place.”

2. When Spears complained about the escalating presence of the paparazzi in her life, why didn’t Lauer ask the obvious: Is Spears willing to take any responsibility for the fact that Britney and Kevin: Chaotic, the UPN reality series offering intimate details of her courtship and marriage, might have whet the public’s appetite for news of her personal life, and raised the stakes in tabloid coverage about her and Kevin?

3. It might have been interesting to hear Britney discuss whether or not she finds the paparazzi less upsetting when she has a new album or movie to promote.

4. Finally, what I’d like to know is this: If Britney really and truly wants to take some time out of the spotlight, why not pack up her brood and spend 6-12 months in a remote, rural part of her home state of Louisiana? Surely, the level of paparazzi intrusion would eventually and inevitably die down if she weren’t continually zipping between New York and Los Angeles?

Anyhow, that’s what I’d have done if I were in Lauer’s loafers. Of course, I’d have been wearing socks, too.