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I never understood the appeal of MTV's "Laguna Beach" (and I'm not that much older than the show's target audience) - it was a bunch of rich kids and their minor issues - make-ups, break-ups, fashion worries and just about every other possible teen crisis pops up at some point during the episodes. However, the kids have more money than they know what to do with, and am I really supposed to care when one goes into crisis mode when they can't find the best outfit for tonight's party?

"The Hills", which is a "spin-off" of "Laguna", is a step in the right direction. The series, which follows "Beach" star Lauren "L.C." Conrad, actually has characters that do something. This time, Conrad has moved to Beverly Hills in order to secure (read: be given by MTV, who I'm sure set it up) an internship at Teen Vogue. Joined by wilder pal Heidi and friends Audrina and Whitney, the girls try to make it after all. There's certainly a few obstacles along the way though, like Heidi finding out that work requires, well, work.

The fourth season of the series begins to see the characters head off in their own directions. Whitney eventually moves to New York City to work for Diane Von Furstenberg (a move that is followed by the "Hills" spin-off "The City"), Audrina and Lauren have a larger rift in their friendship (including an attempt to create drama when Audrina spends an episode accusing Lauren of cheating with Audrina's boyfriend, who Lauren has only ever disliked.) Audrina's relationship with boyfriend Justin turns absurd, as she goes between wanting to be with him and wanting nothing to do with him several times. Lauren's sidekick, Lo continues to be one of the most hilariously passive/aggressive characters on TV, offering up her comments to Lauren as events play out.

Meanwhile, Spencer takes his evil ways to a new and unexpected level, being incredibly rude to Heidi's sister, Holly, who moves to Los Angeles early in the season and stays with Heidi and Spencer, which leads Spencer to plot ways to get her out of the house. After he finally does, he boasts, "I just kicked that Holly out, felt real good."

Heidi doesn't protest, despite the fact that she doesn't appear to know where her sister is now living. She doesn't seem to be against the fact that Spencer treats her mother terribly. She also doesn't seem that upset when Spencer gets her in trouble at work once and then almost does so again. Holly winds up at the doorstep of Lauren, which doesn't make things any better in the eyes of Spencer. While there are some signs of truce and healing in the last episode of the season, it's "The Hills", and there wouldn't be a series without drama.

Season five continues where the fourth season left off, with Heidi and Spencer having decided (at the last minute, leaving a judge at a local court looking understandably confused) not to rush into marriage. Whitney (the "Phoebe" of the group, while Conrad is Rachel and Audrina is the Monica - which I guess makes Heidi the Ursula) has left for NYC and Lauren quickly finds herself in the midst of an awkward reunion when Heidi invites herself on Lauren's birthday on a boat and then proceeds to cry when she finds out that Spencer has been flirting with a bartender. Meanwhile, Lo (as she always does) says a whole lot with very little. While a tearful moment together for Heidi and Lauren comes towards the end of the episode, the repair of the friendship never seems to really stick.

Other highlights of the season include Spencer seeing the bartender from the first episode, which - rather than ending the relationship between Heidi and Spencer - instead leads to couples therapy, which is certainly amusing to watch, as Spencer manages to spin the discussion in his favor at nearly every moment, which somehow doesn't become apparent to the other two people in the room. Audrina gets into hot water when she flirts with Brody's girlfriend, Playboy bunny Jayde Nicole. The season ends with Spencer somehow managing to make up with Heidi - and the final episode largely revolves around their wedding - however, Heidi's sister Holly and Heidi's mother do not seem convinced by Spencer's sudden change.

This shortened season is the last for star Lauren Conrad, who is seen heading off in a limo as the credits roll. The replacement - Conrad's former "Laguna Beach" enemy Kristin Cavalari. It remains to be seen what road a Cavalari-lead "Hills" will take; while the series has always been drama, drama, drama, there always seemed something at least reasonably grounded about Conrad. The DVD labels this as "Part 1" of season 5, although some online sites list this set of episodes as season 5 and the next set as season 6. Either way, thankfully this shorter season set also has a reduced price in comparison to the prior season sets.

Season 5 82. 5- 1 6 Apr 09 Don't Cry On Your Birthday
83. 5- 2 6 Apr 09 Everything Happens For A Reason
84. 5- 3 13 Apr 09 I'm Done With You
85. 5- 4 20 Apr 09 Crazy In Love
86. 5- 5 27 Apr 09 I Always Had A Little Crush
87. 5- 6 4 May 09 Playmates Bring The Drama
88. 5- 7 11 May 09 Keep Your Enemies Closer
89. 5- 8 18 May 09 Father of the Bride
90. 5- 9 25 May 09 Hi Lauren, It's Spencer...
91. 5-10 31 May 09 Something Old, Something New...


VIDEO: "The Hills" is presented by Paramount in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Image quality was largely very good, as images looked crisp and clear throughout much of the program, aside from a few soft moments here-and-there. Some slight edge enhancement and artifacting was seen, but the majority of the program looked clean and clear. Colors looked rich and bold, with no concerns.

SOUND:The show's stereo soundtrack remains crisp and clear throughout, with bassy music and well-recorded dialogue.

EXTRAS: "Spiedi's Wedding Unveiled" special, "Lauren's Last After Show" feature, deleted scenes, interviews (with Lauren, Heidi and Audrina), "After Show" clips and a photo shoot for the fifth season.

Final Thoughts: The 5th season (or at least this part of it) sees a major change for "The Hills", and it'll be interesting to see what direction the series heads with a new main lead. The DVD set for the fifth season offers fine audio/video quality, as well as a few decent extras. Recommended for fans.

DVD Information

The Hills: Season 5/Part 1
Paramount Home Entertainment
Dolby Digital 5.1
177 minutes
Subtitles: English
Rated NR
Dual Layer:Yes
Available At Amazon.com: The Hills: Season 5/Part 1