Laguna Beach and the Meaning of Life

In a fit of the usual lackadaisical Friday ennui, last week we expressed our confusion regarding MTV s Laguna Beach, which presents itself as a reality show following the interaction of several teenagers in various, intertwining cliques in Orange County s prestigious Laguna Beach community. Our problem was multi-thorned: If LB is a reality show, why is it so meticulously filmed? How did MTV just happen to have camera crews present at all the times pivotal to these story lines, which seemed remarkably linear for a reality show purporting to follow around the random lives of high schoolers? Frankly, we just didn t buy it.

Judging from the feedback from that initial post, you didn t buy the reality of LB either. So we contacted a beloved source, one very knowledgeable and impressively close to the subject, and embarked on some old-school reportage.

Technically speaking, we can say that LB is real(ish). The stars of the show are, in fact, actual kids from Laguna Beach and, to boot, appear in the Laguna Beach High School yearbook as 2004 graduates (the exception is junior clique queen Kristin Cavalleri, who is a year younger) under the same names they use on the show: Lauren Conrad (LC), Stephen Colletti, Lauren Bosworth (Lo), Trey Phillips, Dieter Schmitz, Morgan Olsen etc. As for the rumored photo album belonging to Lo, complete with captions showing different names: It s fake, as determined through our investigations and some egregious photoshop work.

Point of interest: The show was originally centered around Beverly Hills High School but, when Fox s The OC became popular, MTV and co. decided to relocate their concept to Orange County, CA. At the very least, this detail lends credence to MTV s claim that they wanted to work with real-life high-school kids.

So we now know, at the very least, that these kids and, to some extent, their relationships to one another do exist. What, then, of the show itself? As reality shows go, LB strikes us as a different breed: It s filmed, the multi-cam shots are a bit too perfect, and how is it that the production crew manages to be at both Stephen s dorm room in San Francisco and Kristin s home in Laguna at the very moment when Kristin decides to call him and end their relationship? A bit too conveniently timed. And the kids are all so prone to expository dialogue: So, how is your relationship with Jason? or, I can t wait for my Christmas party this Saturday night! Dude, come on. No teenager in SoCal speaks like that, no matter how expensive their education is.

This is where things get a little fishy. The shots are filmed from at least a block away — think Discovery channel-esque high-powered cameras — so that the kids can roam somewhat unencumbered by the multiple cameramen. But while the interactions on LB are all definitely real, they aren t unspoiled by the long arm of the show s producers. Unless you ve been living under a very dark rock, you know that all reality show participants are bit goaded and/or encouraged into certain actions by producers, but LB takes that to a whole new level. According to our inside-the-inside source, producers at LB prep the kids for days that they ll be filming. A hypothetical example: Kristin, we re going to be taping on Thursday. You should call Stephen then, okay? Make sure you talk about these things...

A network source, when approached on-record about this sort of prompting, said, The show is completely real and unscripted — the kids tell the producers what parties and things they want to go to, and then cameras follow them. Well, at least the kids have some sort of agency in pushing their own story lines.

Given all this information, we suppose you could say, at best, that LB is sort-of real. What we find the most interesting, however, is that we hear Kristin Cavalleri and Stephen Colleti, the show s current focus, are represented by Leslie Sloane, the PR queen behind Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears. If these are just normal kids, why would they need any of Sloane s formidable PR muscle? No comment, said Sloane, who wouldn t speak to us on-record about LB. Well, then, what about the way Kristin treats Stephen? Why's she such a bitch? Again, Sloane declined comment just like a real PR rep would.

—With Neel Shah