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'Hey Paula!': Pulling up the rear of trainwreck TV

June 29, 2007 | 11:17 am

Paula_2 I'm just going to put it out there: I loved "Britney & Kevin: Chaotic."

Compiled from footage shot by the former marrieds themselves, it was possibly TV's most truly uncensored celebrity reality show.

And I'm a loyal "American Idol" watcher, too, so it goes without saying that I could get into a promised trainwreck like Bravo's "Hey Paula!" right?

The commercials have been priceless. There's Paula, glaring at her reflection, telling herself without so much as a smirk, "They beat me down...but I'm a warrior."

But it's just one fleeting, funny moment in an otherwise awkward-to-watch show.

While I'm sure "Hey Paula!" was pitched as a look at the former pop star's inner circle, it ends up being a sad expose of Paula as she is: an ambitious if somewhat insecure woman trying to extend some of the good will "Idol" affords her into the show's off-season.

"I'm just a regular girl," she explained in the voiceover that kicked off the episode.

The problem is, it's very clear she doesn't want to be a regular girl. She'd like to be kooky, not crazy. She'd like to be a legitimate businesswoman (via a line of QVC jewelry), not simply the loopy "Idol" judge who seemed drunk on the local news.

And she does know the difference. But knowing that is exactly why the show doesn't work. In "Chaotic," Britney Spears is completely oblivious to her own absurdity. On "Hey Paula!," Abdul spends hours carefully primping for the Grammys so as not to land on a Fashion Don't list "again," she said.

The truth is, Paula is working hard to succeed. Too hard. It reeks of desperation.

Worse still is her "family" of characters. Besides her troop of Chihuahuas, her friends include much younger assistants, a hair stylist and publicist -- none of whom seem eager or to do much of anything except Paula's bidding. Not a funny bone in the bunch.

Conflict is also minimal. Her assistants pack the wrong pants for Paula's flight to QVC headquarters. And the wrong shoes! The $29.99 necklace in her jewelry line isn't looking like the prototype she approved. The producers of the forthcoming "Bratz" movie may not be interested in the wardrobe Paula had designed for them. Using her own money!

Come to think of it, watching Paula is kind of like watching those heavily made up cartoon kids. Shocking to look at at first, and then just boring. Oh, but I'll keep watching. The commercials for next week have got me again.

-- Denise Martin

(Photo courtesy Bravo)