WHAT IT’S ABOUT In early 2016, as Mariah Carey preps for her Sweet Sweet Fantasy tour — which wrapped just last week — the cameras follow her as she preps for an even bigger event, her impending marriage to James Packer. This series — and Carey — promise an inside view of a singular career at an especially busy moment. Her children, Monroe and Moroccan, also appear, while former husband Nick Cannon is expected in later episodes.
MY SAY For some Carey watchers, the pop star might not even be the single most compelling reason to watch this eight-parter. These fans may already know — confirmed here, by the way — what they’re going to get anyway: the grand diva herself, reclining in her signature chaise lounge, directing her minions, deflecting the cameras when they become too intrusive.
But what about Stella?
“Stella” is Stella Bulochnikov, Carey’s new manager, who by proximity to the world’s biggest female pop star is something of a celebrity, too. The tabloid press, however, has been unkind. Portrayed in some corners as a Svengali who has decimated Carey’s inner circle, Bulochnikov is also reputed to be the force behind “Mariah’s World.” But Svengali or not, she certainly knows her way around this kind of product. As a veteran TV producer, she’s launched reality series or stand-alone docs on Master P, Nicki Minaj, Paris Hilton, 50 Cent and T.I.
Bulochnikov knows the drill: Find some drama, push it hard, and make certain the star comes out looking good.
Bulochnikov is a big part of this particular show. In the pilot episode, she’s seen pressuring Carey ever so gently to postpone her wedding extravaganza to Australian billionaire Packer — who’s seen on screen in passing, when he hops over to her opulent yacht from his more opulent one. Bulochnikov argues that Carey can’t balance both the tour and wedding. That’s reasonable enough, but why that wouldn’t have been immediately apparent to all parties concerned is never made clear.
What is clear is that a cloud settles over Carey by the end of the first episode. As those who have not been living in a cave now know, Carey and Packer broke off their engagement in mid-November.
Beyond this intrigue, “Mariah’s World” proceeds as expected. You’ll meet Stella and Carey’s remaining staff, some of whom do look over their shoulder.
But other than that fleeting look of gloom, you probably won’t meet Mariah. Carey knows the drill, too: She’s one of the savviest veterans in the music industry and can handle herself pretty well in the TV one. She’s been on TV hundreds of times since the rocket took off in the late ’80s. She knows exactly where the camera is, and knows exactly what to give it, nothing more.
The result here is a fast-cut stream of images — and she does look fabulous on those chaises — along with a few quips that all add up to almost exactly what you’d expect: a superstar who works constantly, remorselessly, and who professes a dedication to her fans, her music and her children.
Actual insights arrive by accident. Carey admits, “I never wanted to do this documentary,” then tries to convince viewers — or herself? — that “it’ll be something I treasure.” A new assistant, Molly, breaks down in tears when she can’t figure out how to connect Carey’s Apple TV, without which Carey is unable to fall asleep or stay asleep. You’re not sure whom to feel sorrier for.
Meanwhile, Stella gets the most interesting line, or the most ominous. Still pressuring Carey to postpone the wedding, she says to no one in particular, “I’ve been dealing with this prenup and it’s not the most romantic thing I’ve ever read.”
BOTTOM LINE There’s a fascinating sideshow here — Carey’s tough manager — otherwise this is a by-the-book celebrity reality series that just happens to star one of the world’s biggest celebrities.