“I’ve got the Grammy Awards tonight,” says Paula Abdul in Hey Paula’s pilot. “And as soon as they end, I have to run, get in a limo, drive to LAX and catch a red-eye to Philly, and once I land, I have to go directly to QVC to plan for my 1am show. Most people’s days are 24 hours. Mine are 48.”
That would be a decent jumping-off point for an unscripted series—provided it didn’t insist that its rich, famous heroine is just a regular gal, and if it let her exist outside the standard reality-show personality spectrum, which ranges from “inspirational visionary” to “stressed-out sweetie pie.” Abdul, unlike Gene Simmons or Kathy Griffin, is not a riveting-enough screen presence to shatter the confines of this superstale genre, with its mandatory split screens, jumpy edits and circa-1992 nightclub-music score. When Abdul is dropping non sequiturs on American Idol and slurring through interviews, she’s a rubbernecker’s delight; Hey Paula, alas, mostly keeps that stuff out of view. With a few exceptions (notably any scene involving her four tiny dogs), it paints her as blandly ambitious, another overscheduled celebrity ringed by cronies with blinding smiles.
When the producers of the dreaded live-action Bratz movie, for which Abdul designed costumes, request her proposals ASAP, Abdul and her people say they submitted them two months earlier but the filmmakers never returned their calls. The makers of Hey Paula wouldn’t dream of asking the movie’s producers for their version of events, so when Abdul grouses, “I put way more thought and care into it than anyone else ever possibly could!,” we have to accept her point of view as gospel. Abdul on YouTube is much livelier.