tv review

Mariah’s World Turns Exactly the Way You’d Imagine

Mariah's World - Season 1
Mariah Carey. Photo: E! Entertainment/Ian Gavan/E! Entertainment

Mariah’s World is, beat for beat and moment by moment, exactly what you’d expect from an E! reality show about Mariah Carey.

The first episode, which premieres Sunday at nine, has what SNL’s Stefon would breathlessly refer to as the Mariah Carey version of everything: Carey speaking about her humble upbringing while hanging out on a posh yacht; an appearance by the pop star’s long-standing nemesis and/or alter ego Bianca Storm, who is just Carey in a straight brunette wig; adorable cameos from the singer’s twin children, Moroccan and Monroe, who are referred to as Roc and Ro; a sycophantic manager named Stella who’s always concerned about keeping Carey’s stress level down; supposedly candid conversations in which Carey speaks directly to the camera while lounging on a settee and wearing a corset; and many, many shots of Carey’s cleavage. If there is an Emmy Award for Outstanding Commitment to Display of Cleavage, honestly, there is no show that deserves the honor more than Mariah’s World.

This pseudo-docuseries may aim to follow Carey as she embarks on a tour of Europe following the postponement of her wedding to Australian businessman James Packer (they’ve since split for good), but, really, it’s just an extended advertisement for the brand that is Mariah. It’s the sort of real but clearly calculated work of television that’s only worth investing time in if you’re a hardcore, since the “Vision of Love” days, Team Mariah post-divorce from Nick Cannon type of fan. Even as guilty-pleasure reality TV that provides the opportunity to titter at unself-aware, divalike behavior, Mariah’s World is only semi-satisfying at best, partly because even the unself-aware moments come across as fairly aware.

“I never wanted to do this documentary and be followed by cameras,” Carey says in an eye-roller of a moment. She’s then shown being pushed in an office chair because she can’t be bothered to walk in her extreme heels. Carey knows viewers will think she’s a high-maintenance, preening narcissist, so she beats them to the punch by calling herself that, to her own face. It’s like she’s preemptively hate-tweeting her own show.

Actually, if Carey did weird shit like that throughout the whole first episode, the only one E! provided in advance, I might be inclined to recommend Mariah’s World. The premiere’s biggest sin is that it’s just like every other celebrity-aggrandizing reality show that’s ever existed. The famous subject acts as the glorified, gorgeously photographed nucleus of the television atom. Problems that are relatively minor are pumped up to seem like crises. Possible dramas — a flirtation with a backup dancer, a disagreement over choreography — arise in ways that seem totally orchestrated. When Stella, the manager, hires a young woman named Molly to act as a personal assistant to Carey during her tour, Stella tells the new employee that she’s not allowed to have a boyfriend during her first year of working for the singer and that she’s never allowed to cry in Stella’s office. So on her first day on the job, when Molly is unable to get Carey’s Apple TV properly hooked up in her hotel room — the Glitter star can’t sleep without an Apple TV on, apparently — Molly immediately starts crying. And you just go: Of course this is what’s happening. The person most likely to break down at the slightest provocation is what will make for the best TV.

But with so much TV to watch right now, surely you can do better than this. The world is big, my friends, and there’s a lot more to explore in it than Mariah Carey doing her best attempt at a Keeping Up With the Kardashians knock-off.

Mariah’s World Turns Exactly How You’d Imagine