The Kardashians, Caitlyn Jenner and the female wrestlers of “Total Divas” will welcome a new neighbor to the E! lineup later this year: singer Mariah Carey.
Carey will be the star of a new eight-part documentary series, “Mariah’s World,” which will follow her as she goes on a tour in Europe and South Africa that began Tuesday, and plans her wedding to her billionaire fiancé, which is to take place this spring. (No date has been set yet.)
But whatever you do, don’t use the R-word when discussing the series with Carey.
“I refuse to call it a reality show,” she said in a telephone interview. The series, she said, is all about getting to know her better and not, as she put it, “Here I am, getting my nails done.”
”I thought it would be a good opportunity to kind of, like, show my personality and who I am, even though I feel like my real fans have an idea of who I am,” she explained. “A lot of people have misperceptions about this and that.”
The show began filming two weeks ago, as Carey wrapped up a Las Vegas concert series, and will move to her international tour with members of her entourage — including singers, dancers and her manager serving as co-stars.
The series (each episode will be an hour long) is expected to debut later this year, possibly by late summer.
E! is positively giddy at the prospect of showcasing someone with Carey’s celebrity status, and expressed hope that this will be the first season of a continuing series. “We haven’t seen a star of her level and her history” appear on television quite this way, Jeff Olde, E!’s executive vice president for program development, said.
Carey’s life has, at times, played out like a soap opera. Her romances over the years, whether with Tommy Mottola or Nick Cannon (both of whom she married) or Derek Jeter, have been prime tabloid fodder.
But even if there are questions about her voice, and her continued ability to sell albums, she remains a genuine global superstar. She has sold about 64 million albums in the United States, according to the Recording Industry Association of America, and maintains a huge international following.
Still, forays into television by major musicians over the years have been bumpy experiments. Whitney Houston’s appearance on “Being Bobby Brown” and Paula Abdul’s one-year Bravo show didn’t exactly provide the sort of exposure that helps album sales or burnishes Hall of Fame reputations, which might be partly why Carey is reluctant to call hers a reality show.
She also stressed that she has veto power over material she doesn’t want filmed or broadcast. (Producers for the show suggested that it would be a collaboration.) And some things are strictly off limits: her 4-year-old twins, for instance.
“I don’t want to do anything that’s exploitative,” she said. “They haven’t been filmed at all yet. There might be a couple of moments, but it’s not about making them the stars of the show. They’re too young to make that decision.”
Similarly, Carey said that her fiancé, Australian James Packer, does not want to be filmed. “He’s a legit businessman,” she said. “It’s not really his thing to be, like, traipsing all over Europe and hanging out with all my crew and dancers and singers.”
The show is being produced by Bunim/Murray Productions, the same group behind “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” “I Am Cait” and “The Real World.” Jeff Jenkins, executive vice president for programming and development at Bunim/Murray, said that “Mariah’s World” would be shot differently from the company’s other shows.
“Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” for example, is shot in the spirit of a soap opera, with rapid cuts, wall-to-wall music and in-studio interviews, but “Mariah’s World” will adhere a few degrees closer to the standards of a documentary, he said.
Jenkins also said he was interested in breaking the fourth wall and blending his production crew into the television show. He referred to a scene in Madonna’s famous documentary, “Truth or Dare.”
”Remember when Madonna’s getting a chiropractic adjustment,” Jenkins recalled, and noticed that the director was following her. “And she says, ‘You’re following me into the adjustment?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, we’re shooting everything, remember?’ And she says, ‘Not my adjustment!’ He said, ‘Yeah, we’re shooting everything,’ and she says, ‘OK.’ That’s kind of where I’m at right now with Mariah.”
In 2002 Carey showed off her TriBeCa penthouse in the MTV show “Cribs”; since then the episode has gained a kind of cult status. In it, Carey’s occasional antics were on full display, including when she showed off a walk-in lingerie closet and dropped into a bathtub wearing little more than a towel.
A new generation of fans has written love letters to the segment: A 2014 BuzzFeed post called it “legendary,” and an MTV post last year called it “transcendental.”
When asked if fans of that segment would be pleased with Carey’s new show, Jenkins didn’t hesitate.
“I don’t think they’ll be disappointed,” he said.
Indeed, Carey began a recent interview by declaring that she was “really tired” because she had just awakened. It was a little after 5 p.m. in Los Angeles. She admitted that she was a “night owl” and that she had spent the better part of the previous night rehearsing.
E! thinks this is the sort of stuff to be found in her new show.
“She cannot speak the day before a performance,” Olde said. “She knows exactly what she wants but she has to communicate through writing or sign language, and it’s a sort of a joke within her group, because she has to preserve her voice.”
E! has seen solid ratings gains this year, but this project will be important for the network: Despite high hopes, “I Am Cait” opened to mediocre ratings, and the premiere episode of the second season last week set a low for the show. E! has said it airs the series for several reasons, chief among them support for transgender issues, not just for ratings.
Asked if she would welcome future seasons of “Mariah’s World,” Carey said it was an open question.
“I don’t know,” she said. “We’ll see how long I can tolerate being around cameras that much.”