The Hills: Season 3
Television and film have always reflected the society they serve. The sad fact is the reverse is increasingly become true; our society is being shaped by its entertainment. Television series are now rewriting the meaning of words and greatly influencing the views of its audience. TV has always added a few phrases to the popular lexicon but now it appears that there is a degree of out right control. The most obvious place to witness this is with the latest rash of so called reality series. I use the disclaimer ‘so called’ because there are some discussions as to how close to the real events these shows are. In the last few years we have seen people eat disgusting things for money, date minor celebrities from the eighties and vide for the love of a stranger competing against a flock of other contenders. For the networks this is an incredible cash cow drawing huge ratings with minimal production cost. Since these series tend towards a younger audience it was only a matter of time until MTV got in on the bandwagon. Their reality series ‘The Hills’ has proven to be one of the most popular shows on the network and now the third season is out on DVD. This series is pretty much the definition of a guilty pleasure. ‘The Hills’ meets every requirement of a soap opera but it is played out against the real world with the actual people in the roles. One thing you have to keep in mind while watch a series like this is this is not a documentary. Just because it is marketed as a reality show does not mean this is how the lives of these people truly unfold.
‘The Hills’ is actually a spin off of another MTV hit ‘Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County’. That series was a reality twist of a very popular completely scripted TV drama, ‘The OC’. Laguna Beach followed a group of teens in high school and after three seasons and they were about to graduate MTV decided to keep it going with this spin off. ‘The Hills’ follows the main character from Laguna Beach, Lauren Conrad better known simply as LC, as she travels away from home to pursue a career in fashion. To this end she attends FIDM, Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising. In this third season she has graduated and now has an intern position at Teen Vogue. Lauren is the prototypical Californian blonde always shown with perfect makeup and just the right clothing and accessories; after all she is in the world of fashion. In soap opera terms Lauren is the protagonist, the one the audience cheers on. True to the format there has to be some arch rival, a nemesis to oppose our heroine and make life difficult for her. This role is filled by Heidi Montag. At least I think she is the villainess here; it is sometimes difficult to tell. She has a now long standing feud with Lauren that has split out into the actual press. Now Ms Montag is showing up everywhere promoting something or another and seen with her boyfriend Spencer Pratt. There is even a combined nickname of ‘Spidey’ when referring to them. Typical of young people, especially on TV, allegiances shift without notice; what holds for one episode may reverse in the next one. Heidi wants to be a singer and has fashioned herself on Paris Hilton. This should give you some idea of the depth of the characters here. Okay, I admit I am not part of the target demographic here but I am trying to keep an open mind here.
Towards the end of the third season Lauren gets a job at ‘The Peoples Revolution’. Working along side of her is her good friend Whitney Port. This new job came to Lauren after the usual events in a young woman’s life; a trip to Paris. Whitney had worked her way up to supervising the intern staff and went to Lauren for help during the all important L.A. fashion week. Lauren’s expertise comes to the attention of Whitney’s boss, Kelly and the next thing you know she has the job. I have a 24 year old daughter and I would gladly rent her to MTV for a career path such as this. As if having a dream career handed to them is not enough these girls live in rather spectacular living arrangements. Lauren starts out living with another friend from the old days; that is the previous series, Audrina Patridge. She lives with Lauren and another Laguna Beach alumnus Lo Bosworth. There was a lot of drama involved when Lauren and Lo ask Audrina to move in with them. I guess she didn’t read the end of that week’s script. Lauren and Lo bought a house together so they had the room. It would appear that their jobs pay pretty well or else they snuck in some of that MTV money to make it happen. Audrina’s new boyfriend Justin Brescia, who for some reason is called Bobby, creates some tension with Lauren repeating some of the conflict Lauren had with Heidi over her boyfriend. Romance is not easier for Heidi who is engaged to Spencer who wants to take a break in their relationship. Heidi has a great job in a record production company, Bolthouse Productions. While all of this is going on Lauren discovers that here boyfriend Brody Jenner, was seeing other girls while she was in Paris and breaks off the romance. Heidi becomes a bit of a villain when she allegedly starts a rumor that there is a sex tape of Lauren. This is the last straw and the feud escalates. I told you this was a soap opera.
Okay, there have been a lot of parodies of this series and it is the butt of a lot of jokes. Ultimately the measure of success for any piece of entertainment is whether people enjoy watching it. The facts are the first episode of season three was the highest rated basic cable show and one of the most watched for the all important 12 to 34 demographic the answer is yes, the series works. There has been a lot of ‘controversy’ that the scenes are scripted and set up. Diligent viewers will notice changes in hair, makeup and clothing within a scene. The producers do edit the footage obtained for dramatic effect. The bottom line for the legion of fans is ‘who cares’. The show is a guilty pleasure and only has to work out as that. It reflects an idealized life for the people watching. The teen aged girls who constitute the bulk of the loyal audience know all about friends turn on each other and the all want dream jobs and handsome boyfriends. Keep repeating to yourself ‘this is not a documentary, it is entertainment’.
MTV releases this third season DVD set through parent company MTV. It is well mastered which is expected. There are also some extras which should be welcomed by the die hard fans out there. Selected episodes have cast and crew commentaries. There are also deleted scenes and interviews with the cast. Topping it off is a Virtual Hills feature and a fashion featurette sponsored by Pepsi.