Friday, August 15, 2008

Charlie Jensen: The Hills Are Alive

I'm very excited right now. In just a few short days, MTV will air the first episode of the new season of its famous (and much maligned) "reality show" The Hills.

The Hills follows the life of Lauren Conrad (of MTV's earlier show Laguna Beach) and her friends as they go to school, date, and work in the fashion and music industries in LA. If you don't watch the show, you're probably aware of the huge Heidi Montag/Lauren Conrad fued just by standing in line at your local grocery store, where tabloid headlines frequently feature the pair's public retorts.

Why should writers care about The Hills? I mean, why am I even mentioning it here, when admitting my love for it in such a public way will likely lead to some public chiding on the part of our members?

Put simply, The Hills is one of the most brilliant hoaxes of all time. Profitable, too.

A reality show it isn't. Although billed and marketed that way, you can tell after watching just fifteen minutes of an episode that there are few shows on TV quite as premeditated, structured, and "written" as this one. Altough I do believe the actresses are ad libbing most of the time (pay attention to their abrupt, segue-less conversation. "I really like mangoes! Oh, and isn't Spencer Pratt, like, totally annoying?"), the way the scenes are set up and shot implies that a lot of thought has gone into what you're seeing, what you're hearing, and the overall arc of the show.

How else to explain, then, the neat little arc of season 3, when Lauren's newly bff friendship with Audrina suddenly hits the skids just in time for the season finale?

What's truly brilliant about The Hills isn't the show itself, but the way the show has leaked over into the rest of our reality. Lauren, Audrina, Heidi, and Whitney all live in our world year-round, even if cameras only follow them for a few months each year. The rest of the time, their public and private lives are generating enough fodder to keep MTV's marketing machine humming along quite nicely.

If you're curious, The Hills returns Monday night at 10 pm on MTV.

Incidentally, I watched my first episode when I flew out to Bethesda for my interview for this job. And in the meantime, I watched the entire season.

1 comment:

Dan said...

The latest issue of Barrelhouse has a great essay by Patrick Brown on just this topic, "This Is Not Their Job: The Never-ending Reality of The Hills."

My wife loves The Hills and I'm right there beside her cheering Whitney and shuddering at Spencer.