Sunday, July 1, 2007

The Paula Abdul Reality Show: Rush, Rush to Change the Channel

I like Paula Abdul, I really do. I mean, who doesn’t? Between the irresistible hooks of her hits from the ‘80s, and her consistently positive attitude on “American Idol,” she’s hard not to like. Nevertheless, due to her increasingly bizarre on-air behavior, Abdul’s received more than her share of bad press recently. So it’s no surprise that her team greenlit a reality show about her life, in order to show the “truth” behind the whispers. The only problem is that Bravo’s resulting “Hey Paula” does little to serve that purpose.

Keep in mind that the primary appeal of the celebrity reality show is the chance for fans to gain insight into who the celebrity truly is behind the public fa├žade. However with the premiere episode of “Hey Paula,” most of Abdul’s dialogue seems to have been written for her (“I’m just like everyone else, I have good days and bad days,”) even her jokes, (“The last time I had a hit record, Bill and Hillary were having sex.”) Instead of showing viewers her reality, the show has Abdul playing to the camera, such as in a segment where she walks the streets in a Valentino gown, looking for her purportedly “lost” limo as fans call out to her. Or when she summons her maid into the room for a hug and kiss and tells her that she loves her. Of course, with any “reality” show, a fair portion of what airs is at least somewhat scripted, but when the action is so obviously made-to-order, it gets tiresome.

During the rare moments when the show doesn’t appear to be overly fabricated, Abdul is painted as a hard-working, dramatic diva, who’s kind to her fans, and tough on her well-meaning but disorganized assistants. A fair amount of the first episode is spent detailing the drama around her assistants’ unacceptable packing job for a flight to Philadelphia. Abdul is flying there for a 1:00 a.m. appearance on QVC to hawk her jewelry collection, and she needs to sleep. In order to do so, she requires comfortable sweat pants and white tennis shoes. Unfortunately, the assistants have packed tight jeans and black tennis shoes, resulting in an exasperated Abdul asking, “Why these pants?” She then directs a frustrated “Can you freakin’ believe this?” to the camera. Once at QVC, Abdul is unsatisfied with the jewelry designs, as they don’t match the examples she was shown earlier. “This is exhausting,” she tells the camera. Yeah. Life is hard.

But okay, let’s give Paula a break. She’s a celebrity, and, like most, she has a team of sycophants praising her every move. So I can excuse some diva-like behavior, because she probably knows nothing else. However, what I can’t excuse is a boring reality show, which is what we have here. Besides the riveting packing drama, the most interesting moment of the premiere is when one of Abdul’s four Chihuahuas almost makes off with a diamond ring in its mouth. (I’m sure the jeweler who lent the piece really enjoyed that bit.) Almost comically, during the commercial breaks, Bravo plugged special unseen footage of “personal Paula moments.” These turned out to be literally yawn-inducing. Let’s watch Paula jokingly complain to the cameraman in the limo that he’s shaking the camera. Fascinating. Can I re-watch that on the Bravo web site?

Overall, “Hey Paula” is a show that had a tremendous amount of potential. A likeable public figure that fans are curious about is ideal reality show fodder. However, when the scenarios that are chosen for air are super-dull, and unguarded moments are few and far between, straight up I’ve got to tell you this doesn’t make the grade.