FAMOUS AIMLESS: I’d better come clean and admit that I find something fascinating about the phenomenon that is The Hills – the most carefully staged, impossible to believe reality show ever broadcast, and the show whose strange production methodology might actually be the forerunner to a whole new way of making TV.
Gene Simmons Family Jewels, A&E’s answer to The Osbournes, is another brilliant example of how to create TV using materials close at hand, and the bountiful resources offered by tie-ins, product placement and cover sponsorship, which underwrites production costs and provides the show with plot and locations. It seems altogether likely that the whole Kentucky Derby episode arc of the show was subsidized by the organizers of the famous horse race, and I don’t even want to know about the contra deal that went into the multi-episode “Gene and Shannon get plastic surgery” storyline.
The Hills is a bit more subtle about its production machinery – its probably the most subtle thing about the show, to be honest – but the show’s producers admitted to the New York Post this week that its presenting some unusual challenges for the show, which returns to MTV this August. “The show purposely leaves out the fame life and leaves in the non-fame life,” said Tony DiSanto, MTV’s head of programming. “It’s not a documentary about Lauren (Conrad) who is a star because she’s on a show called The Hills.”
But that’s exactly what it is, Tony, and they’re finding it harder and harder to segregate the fame-induced aspects of the cast’s lives from the non-famous ones, and DiSanto admits that the steady encroachment of the former on the latter is likely shortening the show’s longevity. It won’t be long until the average episode of The Hills is reduced to the following avant-garde drama:
SHOT: Lauren stands outside her house waiting for her driver, plays with iPhone.
SHOT: Heidi brushes her teeth, examines the toothbrush, lifts her lip with her finger to examine her gumline.
SHOT: Lauren is standing in the lineup at a Starbucks waiting for a grande chai latte when a camera flash makes her turn with a start.
SHOT: Whitney Port watches Judge Judy with her maid, Esmeralda, while opening Fed-Ex packages full of perfume product samples, smelling each one briefly and giving the ones that make her grimace to the maid in her 2007 MTV Movie Awards t-shirt.