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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 second season of "The Hills" saw the further separation of main girls Heidi and Lauren, who begin to go their separate ways. However, what makes the epic catfight so much fun is that it's not the two yelling and clawing at each other, but a series of double-crosses, backstabbing and manipulations behind each other's backs. It's hallway drama from high school taken to excess, and nearly every action the characters take seems to have some sort of ripple effect in their clique. Despite everyone telling Heidi that he was cheating on her and hitting on other women while they're together, Heidi still gets dragged down, leading to a war between the two where the claws come out. The series is all the better for the battle: while Heidi is deeply manipulative (and did I mention annoying?), Lauren is smart (well, in comparison) and is no pushover.

The third season of the show sees the complete deterioration of the former friendship between Heidi and Lauren (the two reportedly wouldn't even film scenes together) and, just for kicks, Lauren eventually turns her glare towards Audrina, who really...didn't do anything. Older than the others and seemingly nervous about her place in the group, Audrina goes from looking as if she's about to have an accident out of fear to, towards the end of the season, appearing as if she's had enough of dealing with the drama.

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.

"The Hills" remains more compelling than "Laguna" thanks to the fact that there's simply more going on as the main characters have to try to move forward in their lives, balance work and a social life and make choices. In terms of production quality, "The Hills" sees some upgrades over "Laguna", with much improved cinematography and a sleeker overall feel that gives the show energy and a dynamic feel. While I wouldn't be against the fifth season being the last - there's only so much that can be mined from the situations - the fourth season of the series still remains a guilty pleasure.

Season 4

58. 4- 1 18 Aug 08 We'll Never Be Friends
59. 4- 2 25 Aug 08 Drama Follows Them
60. 4- 3 1 Sep 08 Better Off As Friends
61. 4- 4 7 Sep 08 Boys Make Girls Cry
62. 4- 5 8 Sep 08 Something Has To Change
63. 4- 6 15 Sep 08 You Always Miss A Best Friend
64. 4- 7 22 Sep 08 While Lauren's Away...
65. 4- 8 29 Sep 08 Don't Act Innocent...
66. 4- 9 6 Oct 08 If She Never Met Spencer...
67. 4-10 13 Oct 08 Who to Choose?
70. 4-13 20 Oct 08 You'll Never Have This...
71. 4-14 27 Oct 08 Want You To Be With Me
72. 4-15 3 Nov 08 It's Her Move
73. 4-16 10 Nov 08 Back To New York
74. 4-17 17 Nov 08 One Last Chance
75. 4-18 24 Nov 08 You Did This
76. 4-19 1 Dec 08 It's About Trust
77. 4-20 8 Dec 08 Dream Boy, Dream Job
78. 4-21 15 Dec 08 Mr. & Mrs. Pratt
79. 4-22 22 Dec 08 I Heidi Take Thee Spencer...


The DVD

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: The set offers a reasonable amount of extras, but a few less than what has been offered for prior seasons. 18 deleted scenes are offered with no commentary, and a fair amount of them are extended scenes/repetitive discussion covered by other scenes. 50 minutes (total) of interviews with Lauren, Audrina, Whitney and Heidi offer further thoughts on some of the season's storylines. "Lessons In Love" is a 5-part documentary with the stars discussing their thoughts on relationships. Finally, we get footage from two photo shoots, a promo for "Virtual MTV" and clips from "After Show" footage.

While the extras are decent, there's a fair amount missing that could have been added, such as "The Hills: The Lost Scenes" show (which could have possibly been offered instead of or in addition to the deleted scenes), the "Hills" parody, "The Hills: According to Me" or footage from the live finale.

Final Thoughts: "The Hills" continues to be one of MTV's better "reality" offerings, and the fourth season sees no shortage of drama. The DVD set provides fine audio/video quality, and a few extras. Recommended for fans.



DVD Information





The Hills: Season 4
Paramount Home Entertainment
3-DVDs
1.78:1
Dolby Stereo
392 minutes
Subtitles: English
Rated NR
Dual Layer:Yes
Anamorphic:Yes
Region:1
Available At Amazon.com: The Hills: Season 4,The Hills: Season 3, The Hills: Season 2, The Hills: Season 1 DVD