Admit it: you don't really hate The Hills. I mean, why would you? Yes, the real-people-in-fake-situations MTV phenomenon (which starts a new season on Monday) is profoundly shallow and vapid, not to mention potentially damaging to the young girls who look to the show for guidance on how to navigate their emerging womanhood and find only rhinestones and an empty cocktail glass. So no, I don't think 12-year-olds should be watching it. But for us, discerning and intelligent adults who maybe like to watch a soap every now and again (or, even, got a giddy thrill out of the more salacious parts of August: Osage County), The Hills is masterfully crafted, beautifully shot arch melodrama. You bring me the best of Richard Brinsley Sheridan, and I'll show you its parallel on The Hills. It's a picture of self-involvement and social anxieties that could be seen as representing the minds and experiences of many young people, only writ large and ludicrous. So you don't hate it, you just don't understand it yet. You're not caught up, you don't know the ins and outs of what's happened to our sun-melted friends in Los Angeles, lo (Lo!) these many years. I've provided a summary after the jump, with links to video of the most recent season. Give it a chance. If you don't like it, I'll shut up.
In the beginning, Lauren "LC" Conrad (possibly smart, oddly melancholy) migrated to Los Angeles from Laguna Beach (both the MTV show and the actual town Orange County town) to pursue a career in fashion design. She brought along her best friend, Heidi Montag, whom she'd met during her one semester of college in San Francisco. The pair moved into a lovely, fancy apartment complex and got right down to the hard business of meeting boys and patently ignoring work responsibilities. Heidi got an entry level job at a PR firm, while Lauren took an internship at Teen Vogue, a magazine exactly as prestigious as Ranger Rick. While at the internship, Lauren befriend the criminally underutilized Whitney Port, a mysterious (or probably just dim) blond master of facial expressions. In the first season, Heidi dated some forgettable dude, Whitney didn't do much of anything, a couple of other friends popped up once in a while (Lauren "Lo" Bosworth, from back in Laguna, and Audrina "Look I have breasts!" Patridge, most often), and Lauren dated Jason Wahler (also from Laguna Beach), a drunk, cheating forty-seven-year-old Greek merchant with a secret family living in Fresno. OK, that's not true. Except for the drunk and cheating part. At the end of the season, Lauren passed up the opportunity to continue her internship in Paris to instead shack up in a beach house with dopey old Jason.
In the second season, things began to pick up; the situations getting more and more staged, thanks in large part to the Machiavellian, camera savvy Spencer Pratt. After escaping from the Mattel toy factory, Pratt latched himself onto Brody Jenner, the nefarious Brandon Davis-lite socialite son of athlete Bruce Jenner. The two palled around Los Angeles with their pussy posse (spearheaded, it would seem, by club promoter Frankie Delgado.) Then, as if some act of carefully market-tested and thoroughly planned kismet, Spencer and Brody met Heidi and Lauren, and sparks flew. Much of this happened off-camera, so we were sort of plopped into the middle of Heidi and Spencer's courtship (though, Lauren and Brody had a little thing in the first season, I believe. So we knew a bit about him.) Anyway, Spencer is instantly recognized as a bit of cad when he appears to be "macking on" Audrina as well. That story line fizzled soon enough (Audrina, respectably, put the kibosh on it), and Heidi became more and more entranced by the evil, manipulative Spencer. Lauren, who had mostly kicked Brody to the curb, balked at the idea of losing her roommate to this creature, especially after she discovered that Heidi and Spence were encouraging Lauren's friend (the walking Peep, Jen Bunny) to pursue the off-limits Brody. So, after lots and lots of fighting, a "Lauren or Spencer" ultimatum was put forth. Heidi chose Spence and season 2 ended with Heidi moving out and Audrina moving in.
Season 3 was definitely the most delightfully campy so far, with lots of relationship drama between Spencer and Heidi (an awkward engagement, a busy job that Heidi in no way deserves, jealousy, a living room wall painted to look like a 1970's van), while Lauren drunkenly confronted her at clubs (mad about a sex tape rumor that the couple supposedly started) and occasionally retreated back into the hot/cold arms of Brody. Though she remained wary of his womanizing ways (as did he, vainly and pathetically). Meanwhile Audrina, stepping more into the limelight, began dating "Justin Bobby," a heinously pretentious actor who burped and grunted and treated her like shit (but he has a motorcycle!) More fighting, more cattiness, more hilariously quizzical looks from Guildenstern-esque Whitney ensued. The Heidi and Spencer engagement was called on and off repeatedly (ending on off, I believe) while Lauren fumbled around at work, trying to find her purpose. Then, magically, another opportunity to go to Paris arose, so off Lauren zooms in the season finale.
So, that's where we are. Heroes and villains, hubris and hamartia. All the classic staples of drama. Did I glaringly omit something that a non-watcher just has to be up on? Let me know, down below. (Hey that rhymed!)