The HIlls, but in a Nutshell

Tonight I watched The Hills for the first time. I’d just read a lengthy piece about it in Rolling Stone while I waited at the airport for my flight this morning and I have to admit, it piqued my curiosity, especially when the writer noted that many in the culture have likened it to the Neorealism filmmaking of Michaelangelo Antonioni.

I have to admit that, for a show where virtually nothing happens, even the slightest social nuances between the characters take on an oppressive, dramatic weight. When Lo snubs Audrina when Lo and Lauren visit the studio where Alkaline Trio are recording, the impact is virtually Ivory Merchant in its magnitude. And later, when Lo describes the puppy she and Lauren rescued from a shelter as “having two mommies,” succinctly subtracting third roommate Audrina from the equation (in front of Audrina, no less), it resonates.

A lot of people contest whether or not the show is scripted or if it’s just a new take on the reality genre. After watching a couple of eps, I’d hazard it’s somewhere squarely in between–not scripted, but not completely at the mercy of chance, either. There’s clearly enough manipulation of events that leads me to believe the show is ad libbed, that the actors are given certain information they have to convey in some way that feels natural, and then it’s slickly produced and packaged for MTV’s audience.

Here’s the general structure of an episode:

LAUREN: I keep thinking about having a boyfriend.
AUDRINA: I think we should have a party.
LO: I think having a party is the dumbest idea ever.
LAUREN: How could we get boys to talk to us?
LO: I know! Let’s throw a party and invite boys!
AUDRINA: [looks wounded]
LO: Also, the puppy totally hates Audrina. I think that means something.

HEIDI: I really need to focus on my life right now.
STEPHANIE: How come nobody lets me be friends with Lauren? It’s in my contract.
SPENCER: God, Stephanie, I wish you were never born. Also, Mom drank while she was pregnant with you.
HEIDI: Spencer, stop controlling everyone’s life.
SPENCER: I do not! Shut up, shut up, I’m not even listening.
HEIDI: I’m going to Vegas so I can flirt with yummy boys and ask them to shoot my music videos.
SPENCER: [sulks]
STEPHANIE: Spencer, if you don’t get off my couch I’m going to have you arrested.

LAUREN: Do you know what I really like? Going on dates.
LO: But isn’t Audrina a bitch?
LAUREN: I’m craving sushi.
LO: What do you think about other people who aren’t in this scene? Like, isn’t Heidi a total hobag?
LAUREN: I don’t even say that name anymore. Unless I meet a boy named Heidi, then I’ll think about it.

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