As if aware that her musical talent is limited, Britney Spears has learned to use her private life to stay in the limelight. She has become a glutton for the tabloid lens, manufacturing personal dramas to keep the paparazzi and the public interested. Hoping to follow Madonna's example, the now-pregnant Spears is desperately trying to cultivate a Warholian celebrity that will transcend the ups and downs of her performing career. Soon enough, she must be hoping, she'll be famous simply for being famous.
Last night on Channel 38, the 23-year-old singer introduced her latest bit of showy self-exploitation, a reality project called ''Britney and Kevin: Chaotic." The six-episode UPN series is little more than a pastiche of home movies about Spears's life on the road, her longing for love, and her growing relationship with now-husband Kevin Federline. Not surprisingly, there's nothing creative or original about it, as it follows the overused blueprint of MTV's ''Newlyweds: Nick & Jessica." Like Madonna's own ''Madonna: Truth or Dare," a 1991 big-screen pioneer of today's celeb-reality craze, it's just a tedious public exercise in self-importance and striptease. As Spears tells us that ''the sex is really good" with Federline, she brings new meaning to the phrase ''too much information."
The footage is primarily from Spears's own ''Britney cam," which she frequently turns on herself in the back of her limo, or in her lavish hotel rooms, to film her own funny faces. She films members of her entourage -- her hair stylist, her dancers, her assistant, Felicia, who carries her own ''Felicia cam" -- as they suffer silly questions about love and sex. She films the photographers who wait outside her hotel room. And, after she flies Federline to Europe to join her on tour, she films him clowning around and laying in the sun. She also films him in the shower.
At one point, the smooth Federline claims that he's ''camera shy." As if. Indeed, we can probably assume there are Britney-Kevin sex clips in someone's safe or on someone's computer, just waiting to be leaked onto the Internet at a strategic moment.
All the show's rough footage is punctuated with more recent ''confessional" interviews with Spears, in which she narrates her story. But the story is really more of an aimless and clueless ramble, providing nothing more valuable than a glimpse of how pampered pop stars really live on the road. Spears tells us she's making the series to reveal to the world that she's not just a public figure, that she's human. At one point she boldly challenges our willingness to see beyond her media image: ''Can you handle my truth?" she asks. The answer is yes, we can, but we may not want to.
Matthew Gilbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.