Confidential from MTV

Found in a trash can at MTV in NYC:

The Hills spin-off ideas (rejected)

Speidi Sense
Spencer Pratt and Heidi Montag host a John Edwards: Crossing Over-style spirit encounter show, trying to reconnect celebrity guests with the beloved departed pets (except fish).

The Patridge Family
Audrina Patridge marries (now ex-)boyfriend Ryan Cabrera and they embark on a Giuliana and Bill-style quest to get pregnant.

Lo Life
Lo Bosworth flirts with disaster as she tries to find love while rehabilitating teens in the juvenile detention system.

Speidi Cents
Spencer Pratt and Heidi Montag host a Suze Orman-style money management program for twenty-somethings and new families.

Stephanie Pratt, dressed as a giant pink mastodon, hosts a children’s show that teaches kids to stay away from drugs, alcohol, and carbohydrates.

Jenner Bender
In a Punk’d style comedy show, Brody Jenner’s friends take him out and get him drunk repeatedly, then dress him in drag when he passes out. They drop him in an unfamiliar part of town with only a Cricket cell phone and a greasy five dollar bill to make his way home.

Speidi Scents
Spencer Pratt and Heidi Montag retreat to Santa Barbara, where they try to launch a fragrance line a la Tori and Dean Inn Love.

A Man in Every Port
Whitney Port and her sister Jade star in a Bachelorette-style competition show where suitors attempt to woo both sisters–while they are challenged to avoid giving a rose to the same guy!

The Ballad of Justin-Bobby
On a Kung-Fu-like search, Justin-Bobby rides his hog across America, stopping in small towns along the way in order to commit various acts of unprovoked douchebaggery.

Kell Hath No Fury
Kelly Cutrone oversees the management of a series of mob hits against each former cast member of The Hills in a Running Man-style competition show where there can be only one winner.

The Hills Are Alive. But Just Barely.

I can’t believe I haven’t yet had time to talk to you about the return of The Hills.

I’m sure you’ve been concerned about what’s happening on the show now that Lauren Conrad has gone off to pick trash up off the beach, write YA novels, and design clothes for Kohl’s.

I have been too. Friends, I’ve been worried.

When I first got in touch with my love for The Hills, I went back and got caught up on the show that spawned it: Laguna Beach. That’s when I first met Kristen Cavallari. In that show, Lauren quickly became one of the moral and narrative centers of the show. When she left, Kristen took over and pretty much killed it.

I fear the same fate for The Hills now.

The producers have tried to swap out Lauren for Kristen, but it’s a bad swap. Lauren played the show like an everywoman who experienced great privilege but never seemed to rely on it or need it. She was like us, only rich, and she still (seemed to?) worked her ass off in kinda crappy jobs (hello, intern at Teen Vogue much?). She was surrounded by craziness in the forms of trainwreck Heidi, vaguely-autistic Audrina, cracked-out Stephanie, megaloSpencer, feisty manbitch Brody, and coldtongued Lo. Lauren was always the nice person, trying to do the right thing, without putting up with needless lies or bullshit. Which mean that she was pretty busy.

Kristen is a whirlpool of the crudest form of selfishness. She’s like a Lauren Conrad knock-off: she looks a lot like her, but carrying her around on your arm would just make you look cheap and stupid. She’s mean, spiteful, quick to anger, vile, “a maneater” (thank god we resurrected that term), and an all-around horrible person.

When you put a truly horrible person into a sea of pretty unfortunate people, what do you get? Suddenly, a lot of tepid co-stars. Even the crazy people are sort of getting together over coffee to say, “Wow. That girl is actually crazy.” When crazy points a finger, you walk in the other direction, okay? That’s a life lesson.

So now we will spend 24 episodes watching Kristen Cavallari slowly tear down The Hills stone by stone, street by street, testicle by testicle. It’s really unfortunate. Just after two episodes, I was already wishing that, instead of bringing Kristen in, they’d given a starring slot to Lo Bosworth.

Lo, also of Laguna provenance, seems to have taken up the mantle of Lauren’s normalcy. She’s nice to everyone–even Kristen sometimes–and she’s gained a comparable level of grace under fire that Lauren always had (tear-soaked raccoon mascara incident notwithstanding). I like Lo now. I like that she’s gotten her shit together. I like that she doesn’t have stupid boy drama.

I’m also liking Stephanie. Yes! I’m serious. She can be crazy, but she’s a crazy who means well. She just often fails at it.

And that’s one to grow on.

Why We Can’t Help But Love Lauren Conrad

It’s Lauren Conrad’s last season on The Hills, they’re saying, and it seems to me a good opportunity to self-examine why I can’t seem to feel anything but love for her.

She’s pretty much everything we should hate: fabulously rich, dubiously famous, amazingly beautiful, and accepting hand-over-first the extraordinary opportunities presented to her. But despite the outward appearance and definitions, she’s also exceptionally down to earth, hard working, and sane.

Lauren Conrad and her stints on Laguna Beach and The Hills represent a few typical American fantasies. First, the obvious: that we have all the resources we need to live a lifestyle of decadence and leisure. It’s true; she does. She eats out at the hottest LA restaurants, goes out to bars and clubs regularly, and has a flattering luxurious wardrobe. She jets off to Cabo–becase, why not? Or plans an impromptu trip to Hawaii with the girls because hey, girls need to get away sometimes too.

But her narrative arc on The Hills is really a rags-to-riches story turned upside down. If all our material needs were met and all we had to focus on were giving our lives meaning, what would we turn to? Work and love, the only things missing. Lauren’s career Cinderella story found her working a highly-coveted internship at Teen Vogue, where she will forever be known as “the girl who didn’t go to Paris” when she could because she wanted to live with her alcoholic deadbeat boyfriend instead (but she went to Paris the next year, so don’t worry). She scored a hot job at fashion PR firm People’s Revolution with Kelly Cutrone, one of the best reality TV personalities ever. She works hard, she makes tons of mistakes, she learns from her mistakes, and she keeps working toward her dream.

This makes her a singularity among the rest of her friends in LA, which is the second fantasy Americans hold for themselves: that we are the sane harbor in a sea of totally fucked up people around us.

Two words: Heidi Montag. Nice girl, but whoa. She gots problems. Well, problem: Spencer Pratt. Lauren’s pal Whitney was pretty down to earth–but then again, we never saw Whitney’s life beyond Teen Vogue and People’s Revolution. On The Hills, she existed solely as Lauren’s sounding board and sage advice giver. Audrina, also a nice girl, can’t seem to stop falling for the wrong guy, and can’t say shit when she has a mouthful. Pile on Brody Jenner, with his penchant for douchbaggery, getting thrown in jail for fighting, and chickenhawking young ladies and you’ve got quite a mix. Oh, and Stephanie Pratt, who, like a mosquito, knows exactly what to buzz in people’s ears.

As she mixes with everyone, Lauren is our touchstone, generally unflappable, her eyes bulging out at the antics around her the same way ours were. She flatly confronts the lunacy around her to the people she has issues with, and she avoids gossiping beyond the harmless or inane. She’s also a great friend, always there when people need her–even Heidi sometimes.

Ah, Lauren…what will I watch when you’re gone? Here’s to hoping you’ll follow Whitney to Diane von Furstenberg in NYC, where you can bitchslap the smarm off Olivia’s face and take your rightful place: on my television and in my fashion fantasies.

Persephone in Hell

Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt, two stars of the MTV reality series ” The Hills,” tied the knot in a secret ceremony last week.

At the altar, the groom called his newlywed “the light in my life.”

And the bride kept her parents in the dark.

“The minute we said our vows, I couldn’t stop crying,” Montag told Us magazine, in a gushy account of the Thursday ceremony at the One & Only Palmilla Resort, outside Cabos San Lucas, Mexico. Photos are in the issue of Us on newsstands tomorrow.

Why The Hills Is the Most Important Television Show Ever (After Buffy and Veronica)

Last night, I came full circle.

I’d watched The Hills from the first season 1 episode all the way back through to the original three season 3 episodes I first watched last month. And now, looking back and looking forward, I can truly say that The Hills is one of the most important television shows of the decade. Here’s why.

1. Reality TV might not be real, but it partly exists in reality.
One reason reality shows are easy to produce is because their stars are, for all intents and purposes, people in the world. People have lives, go to the grocery store, have dinner out, see movies, take vacations with their friends and families. They’re endlessly different from characters on fictional shows because when, for example, Betty Suarez steps off the set of Ugly Betty, she turns into classy young actress America Ferrera, whose life and foibles are generally the complete opposite of her counterpart.

“Betty” can’t be out in the world grabbing headlines from US Weekly and the like, and for the most part, even America Ferrera can’t either. So the fact that the four very special ladies of The Hills have dominated that particular rag for weeks on end is something to note. Their lives keep happening when the show stops filming. And the “journalism” doesn’t stop either.

2. Wait—is The Hills even real?
A common question, but it doesn’t matter.

Scenario 1: The Hills really is a reality show.
If so, then it’s the most slickly produced, most watchable, most post-written show in the history of reality television. It bests The Real World by leaps and bounds and takes the conventions of traditional narrative television (woman arrives in the big city with big dreams, then sets about achieving them) and does not veer from the show’s primary arc.

Real lives don’t have these arcs or, if they do, they require a master editor and several hours in the cutting room. But The Hills convinces us that Lauren’s life really does surround Teen Vogue (and now People’s Revolution), the Hollywood club scene, her apartment with Audrina, and that feud with Heidi & Spencer. Lauren doesn’t pee, she doesn’t shop for her own groceries, and she doesn’t do laundry. But she is always comfortable, well-fed, and well-dressed.

The show really is worthwhile based on its production value alone, which gives LA a sort of gauzy, dreamy glow. It’s gorgeously filmed and will make you want to move to the West Coast.

Scenario 2: The Hills is one of the most elaborate televised hoaxes in broadcast history.
There are two possibilities here: either the show is completely fictional, or it is highly manipulated by the producers and cast. It’s hard to tell which.

On the one hand, because the events that occur on the show do so closely stick to the primary arc, it would be amazing if the producers were not completely orchestrating the surprise Lauren/Heidi run-ins, or encouraging Heidi to drop in on Audrina, or telling Lo to snub Audrina, or even telling Teen Vogue editor Lisa Love that Lauren has to go to Paris during season 2. Everything is so seamless, so clean, it feels like it must be structured that way.

But I often lead toward this being a fictional show in which the cast play characters named after themselves, who are given specific scene goals (“Heidi, in this scene you have to get Spencer to admit he cheated on you. Ready, action!”) and then ad-lib their dialogue.

In any case, it’s either brilliantly produced or brilliantly constructed. And now, I’m officially obsessed: last night I even watched an old airing of the live after show.

Narratively, I think the show is really good at keeping you sympathetic toward all the characters except Spencer, the Svengali to Heidi Montag and ultimate destroyer of everything nice about her life. Although the press (and Lauren) often villainize Heidi, in the show, she seems ultimately well-intentioned and misunderstood, genuinely confused why her friends won’t speak to her, all while enabling Spencer’s hostile take over of her life. It’s actually a bit heartbreaking to witness, particularly in just a few sittings.