”Hey Paula”: Slezak phones it in
INTERIOR: CASA SLEZAK. Somewhere around 11:50 p.m., Thursday, July 26, 2007. Michael Slezak sits at his computer, his head in his hands, frustrated. He suddenly looks up, pensive, reaches for his cell phone, and hits No. 3 on his speed-dial function. At the other end of the line, his conscience groggily answers the phone.
Michael’s Conscience: Uh, um, uh, hello.
Michael: Are you there, Conscience? It’s me, Michael.
Michael’s Conscience: Huh? Wha? [Testily] Do you realize what time it is?
Michael: Yes, I know. It’s really late. I’m sorry.
Michael’s Conscience: Is everything okay? Are you in some kind of legal trouble?
Michael: No, no, of course not.
Michael’s Conscience: Have you been drinking?
Michael: A little — but it’s not like that. I swear!
Michael’s Conscience: Okay, so what’s going on?
Michael: Well, the thing is, I’m writing a TV Watch for the sixth episode of Hey Paula, and essentially, it wasn’t any different from the previous five episodes. Paula talks about her hectic schedule while getting ready for an event. Paula experiences a self-induced crisis. Paula has a sobbing breakdown, and attributes her woes to a poor diet/lack of sleep/preexisting medical condition. And at the last minute, Paula overcomes the odds and has a triumphant moment that seems completely and totally staged.
Michael’s Conscience: Yikes. Sounds dreadful. But I’m not exactly sure what you want from me. You know I don’t approve of reality television, right?
Michael: Not even Idol? Or Project Runway?
Michael’s Conscience: Maybe the latter. Carry on!
Michael: So here’s my dilemma: I have no clue what to write for this TV Watch. Can I just phone this one in?
Michael’s Conscience: MICHAEL ANTHONY SLEZAK!
Michael: What? It’s just one stupid column! About a show that nobody’s watching! Did you realize Bravo switched its time slot to 8:30 this week? Not a good sign.
Michael’s Conscience: You know what else is not a good sign? Your pathetic scheme to do a half-assed job on your TV Watch.
Michael: But I’m stumped!
Michael’s Conscience: Dude, you get paid to watch television. No one wants to hear you complain.
Michael: Okay, fair enough, but where do I start?
Michael’s Conscience: C’mon, something interesting must’ve happened on tonight’s show.
Michael: Well, now that you mention it, Paula was planning some renovations on her house, so she decided to rent temporary digs, then hire a decorator to furnish the place.
Michael’s Conscience: She must make pretty good money from spouting those ”you made it your own” platitudes.
Michael: I didn’t think you watched Idol.
Michael’s Conscience: Touché.
Michael: Anyhow, Paula got so wrapped up visiting an Oscar-week gifting suite with her two gal-pals — whom she mostly ignored while yapping on her cell phone, I might add — that she missed her appointment with the decorator. And then Paula’s hairdresser/best friend, Daniel, who has a questionable taste level when it comes to his own tresses and wardrobe, ended up signing off on the decorator’s ideas.
Michael’s Conscience: Wait, this is the interesting part? And what the hell is a gifting suite?
Michael: No, the interesting part was that when Paula finally showed up at the rental house — with a band of tiny dogs! — she started making all these facial expressions straight out of Mommie Dearest. I was waiting for her to beat down one of her staffers — I kid you not.
Michael’s Conscience: No! Wire! Hangers! Ever!
Michael: For reals.
Michael’s Conscience: So how bad was the décor?
Michael: That’s the crazy part: It was totally acceptable. Yes, Paula had a point that the empty white birdcage in her bedroom was a little disconcerting, but otherwise, the whole house looked pretty good — especially for rental furniture. And it wasn’t all that incongruous with Paula’s personal style. That’s what bugs me so much about this show. Whenever I start to feel a little sympathy for Paula — because she truly does seem isolated from reality, because her money and fame don’t seem to bring her the happiness she’s so desperate to attain — she goes and behaves like a Fameosaurus Rex. She actually had the nerve to call up the decorator, complain about not getting a face-to-face meeting with her, then demand that ”everything” be removed from the house.
Michael’s Conscience: So how is it again that you end up sympathizing with this woman on occasion?
Michael: Well, they spent about a third of the episode discussing Paula’s medical woes. She went to some place called the Lifewellness Institute, in full battle hair and makeup no less, where they poked, prodded, and X-rayed her. And the doctor’s solution to Paula’s dance injuries, sleep woes and rheumatoid arthritis? Resetting her biological clock! His words, not mine!
Michael’s Conscience: What is that supposed to mean?
Michael: I don’t know. But I’ll tell you this: Paula Abdul is a cottage industry. In this episode alone, we saw her lead assistant, her hairdesser, her interior designer and said designer’s assistant, her massage therapist, her physical therapist, her doctor, her exercise physiologist, her consultant/swami, and her office assistant. And I think there were some furniture movers and other assorted hangers on peppered throughout the half-hour, too.
Michael’s Conscience: Sheesh. How many people do you think she employed back in the ”Cold Hearted” era?
Michael: Even crazier, as I keep saying every week, most of her staffers are useless. Except maybe the massage therapist, who actually hugged Paula after giving her a painful injection of her rheumatoid arthritis drug.
Michael’s Conscience: That’s sweet.
Michael: It totally was. [Awkward pause]
Michael’s Conscience: So anyway…
Michael: I could use a hug right about now.
Michael’s Conscience: I don’t get paid for that sort of thing.
Michael: Well I don’t want a hug from you if you don’t really want to give me one.
Michael’s Conscience: Good, then I’m going back to bed.
Michael: Hello? Conscience? [Long pause] You there? Conscience? Darn it! You didn’t tell me whether or not I could phone in my column!
What did you think of this week’s episode? Are you glad next week is the season (or maybe series) finale? Did Paula have a right to go ballistic on her decorator? And was it just me, or did that whole sob-sister scene involving the radio executive greenlighting the concept for a weekly Paula show seem completely staged — especially considering that voiceover noting Paula later shelved the idea for future consideration?