Having exposed us to the inner lives of Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston and shared Kathy Griffin's "Life on the D List," Bravo presents a glancing documentary look at the public, professional and private sides of Paul Abdul, the "nice" judge on America's favorite prime-time show, "American Idol."
You learn to take these extroverted series with a grain of salt. But I'm hoping that the series "Hey Paula" (9 p.m., Bravo), which debuted last week, is a complete put-on. Because if it is even remotely representative of Abdul's real life, then the genre has careened from farce to tragedy.
As on Griffin's "D-List," we get to spend a lot of time with Abdul's coterie of young personal assistants, hair dressers, stylists and publicists. But 10 minutes into the show, it becomes pathetically apparent that we're not going to meet anybody else.
Brown and Houston had children to act inappropriately in front of. Griffin uses her dotty parents as punchlines. KISS vulgarian Gene Simmons and wrestler Hulk Hogan have a home and family to return to. Ozzie had his Osbournes. Abdul seems surrounded only by pets and people on her payroll.
On "Hey," Abdul shows us how she crams 48 hours of work into every day. She shoots like a rocket to a stint at the Grammy Awards, where she cowers in fright at the thought that Joan Rivers might trash her outfit. Then it's on to QVC, where she has to sell a line of signature jewelry at 1 a.m. How does the star of the most popular show on broadcast television get such a D-list slot on the cable schedule? She chides the QVC folks for selling jewelry that is not quite up to her specifications. But it has her name on it. Did she show similar scrutiny with the Bravo people? After all, this show has her life on it.
Most of "Hey" consists of Abdul bossing around "Team Paula." Somebody doesn't pack the right jeans for her flight. Someone forgot her sweat pants. Somebody has to pick up the dog's "business." Actually, there are four little dogs. One of them eats some QVC jewelry during the first episode.
In vintage movies, a rich character who talked only to her dogs and to her servants and staff would be considered slightly sad and worthy of rescue. But Paula soldiers on with a life that consists only of work, work, work. In fact, she's working on a movie. It's about dolls.
Tonight's other highlights
¢ Julie Chen acts as den mother and pajama-party hostess for the eighth season of "Big Brother" (7 p.m., CBS).
¢ Betty charms a coveted photographer with her outer-borough personality on "Ugly Betty" (7 p.m., ABC).
¢ "Ultimate Factories" (7 p.m., National Geographic) visits the Harley-Davidson plant. Followed by "Ferrari" (8 p.m.) and "John Deere" (9 p.m.).
¢ Liz learns to let go on "30 Rock" (7:30 p.m., NBC).
¢ Richard's announced retirement sparks a power struggle on "Grey's Anatomy" (8 p.m., ABC).
¢ Michael discovers that his mother's house has been bugged on "Burn Notice" (9 p.m., USA).
¢ A hit in Britain, the adult series "Shameless" (10 p.m., Sundance) takes a frank and funny look at love and family.