”Hey Paula”: More slow-motion career suicide
Watching the fourth episode of Bravo’s celebritastrophe Hey Paula got me thinking about that old expression ”Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” One question remains, however: Who’s guilty of acting daft — the show’s titular star, who conducts her life like a grown-up version of one of those petulant, discipline-hungry kids from Supernanny, then whines when no one takes her seriously? Or maybe the show’s viewers, who slow down every Thursday night at the intersection of Depressing and Delusional, foolishly expecting to be entertained?
Make no mistake, the entertaining bits of Hey Paula are transitory at best — like that moment where a QVC jewelry model tried to hide her bewilderment as the American Idol judge asked her, on air, whether she’d been inspired by her ”flying without strings” psychobabble. So while Hey Paula is less about enjoyment and more about endurance, it also serves as a fascinating portrait of human dysfunction.
Indeed, Paula Abdul (or at least her on-camera persona, ”Paula Abdul”) appears to be a woman without a single significant human relationship. (Devoted as they may be, her pint-size pooches do not make the cut.) The optimist in me wonders if maybe Paula’s family and friends are all really, really shy. Perhaps, once Bravo’s camera crews head home for the night, they emerge under cover of darkness to offer emotional support to the onetime pop star. But how can I ignore the sad footage before my eyes? The way Paula’s blank-faced staffers ignored her pained expressions as they planned to ship her out for a dreary whirlwind publicity tour, they might as well have been packing up a desk lamp in a crate full of Styrofoam peanuts. Except, in the latter case, they might’ve cared if the merchandise ended up broken.
Then again, feeling sympathetic toward Paula isn’t easy, either. True, her seemingly endless and interchangeable roster of assistants, stylists, publicists, business partners, interns, and hangers-on seems collectively to have about as much insight to offer as a vocal critique by Randy Jackson on American Idol, but ultimately, Paula is responsible for her own actions. I mean, just when her sobbing reprimand of lead assistant Pam (over misplaced phone messages) started to seem reasonable, Paula went and ruined it by expressing her horror over having to break in a new aide during her trip east, especially that pleading ”Who’s gonna train her to take care of me? Me?” I mean, how about taking care of yourself, lady?
Or how about Paula’s meltdown after realizing her merchandising rep hadn’t set aside any freebies before her entire QVC jewelry collection had sold out. Talk about an imbalance in the indignation-to-indignity ratio! ”I’m tired of people not treating me like the gift that I am,” said Paula. ”It’s hurtful, and it stinks, and it takes everything out of me to smile and be jovial when I’m being screwed.” Okay, so she didn’t have a bag of crappy pendants to bring to the Idol finalists in L.A.: Does she really think any of us believe that all she got from the QVC deal was ”another life lesson”? How much do you want to bet Paula’s share of the jewelry profits exceeded the average annual income of most folks reading this column? It’s all I can do to suppress my inner therapist. Or at least my inner mom.
In fact, why suppress them at all? Paula, you need some tough love, so if you’re reading this, here are your self-help homework assignments for the week ahead:
1. Recognize your strengths Bring back that old classic, ”Straight Up,” during the opening credits of Hey Paula, and nix the overproduced, ”inspirational” pap you tried to force-feed us this week.
2. Beware of dogs Don’t let a strange canine lick your face for a prolonged period of time — especially when you’re on the red carpet. It’s unseemly.
3. Discover the food pyramid Because not even a fourth grader would choose to subsist on a diet consisting solely of Panda Express, Starbucks, Red Bull, and Cheez-Its.
4. Visit the ATM You can’t always rely on your hairdresser to provide you with pocket change, and you shouldn’t even think about asking that favor of total strangers. Then again, your lightning-fast shuffle step to try to rustle up some coins near the airport vending machine was a throwback to your ”Cold Hearted” days. (Fancy footwork!) Which brings us back to rule No. 1: Recognize your strengths. And even if you begin to recognize that the reality-show genre isn’t one of ’em, not to worry: You’ve only got three more episodes till (hopefully) Bravo will let the show die.
What do you think, readers? How did tonight’s Hey Paula compare with the first three episodes? Did you enjoy her admission that her ”Opposites Attract” ponytail was ”so ugly”? And do you think Paula killed her chances to write a Chicken Soup for the Soul book intro by losing her cool on camera?