I’d have tuned in to VH1: Divas last night just for that show-closing Kelly Clarkson-Melissa Etheridge duet, but I was also curious to see how Paula Abdul would fare in her first high-profile gig since officially exiting American Idol. And, well, if I were in the role of “nurturing judge” right now, I guess I’d have to put it this way: “Paula, you looked beautiful last night. And Liza Minnelli was right: Your shoes were sensational.” Sad to say, however, I can’t say the same for the portions of the telecast where sound was coming out of Paula’s mouth, as each uncomfortable between-performance bit seemed to paint the “Promise of a New Day” singer as a doddering buffoon.
And I guess that’s the peril of hiring Paula Abdul for a hosting gig. The VH1: Divas writers certainly couldn’t ignore the wacky-loopy-unhinged reputation of their MC, and yet, with the way Paula struggled and stumbled and eye-popped through even the simplest on-stage banter, it often felt like everyone was in on the joke except her. (I think even the Teleprompter was suppressing an inappropriate chuckle on occasion.) Explaining her role in helping discover and nurture former Idol contestants and current Divas performers Kelly Clarkson, Jennifer Hudson, and Jordin Sparks, Paula suddenly blurted out, “Hell, I almost breast-fed ’em!” to nervous laughter from the audience. Later in the evening, she was dragged off the stage by a giant, glittery hook, after attempting to comically “run long” while introducing a presenter. And then, worst of all, Paula pretended not to know who Liza Minnelli was, for the sole purpose of setting up a decades-old “Liza with a Z” punch line. Note to Paula’s PR Team: It’s time to rethink your strategy when you’re purposely crafting a public persona that makes you look less lucid than Arrested Development‘s Lucille Austero.
Even Paula’s lip-synched greatest-hits medley had me howling in spots (and I say this as someone who proudly knows the words even to some of Ms. Abdul’s lesser-known singles: “It ain’t your Maseratti/ Your house on the hill”). I mean, if you’re going to play with the mic stand as part of your choreography, be sure it’s bounced back to you by the time your pre-recorded vocals kick in. Yikes!
The one segment that actually worked quite nicely — with Paula dressed as Ellen DeGeneres and doing the patented “Ellen dance” from the back of the Brooklyn Academy of Music all the way to a faux talk-show set on stage — was sullied by unnecessary dialog. “Why you all staring at me? Can’t a girl try out a new job?” Paula asked in her most deranged voice, and you could hear the audience gamely try to conjure up something aside from uncomfortable silence. I’m not sure what Paula’s next career move will or even should be, but I’m thinking something scripted, rather than a live event, might be her best bet.
What did you think of Paula’s VH1: Divas showing? Was there any part of her performance that worked? Or was it merely two hours of mockery and embarrassment? Share your thoughts in the comments section below! And if you want to keep up with all my Id0l-related articles, follow me on Twitter @EWMichaelSlezak.