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 began 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.
The second half of the fifth season of "The Hills" sees significant changes and the results are mixed - the first part of the season saw Lauren Conrad leave the series, and with her departure, the whole tone of the series changes significantly. Searching for a new lead, the show came up with Kristin Cavallari, Conrad's former enemy and "Hills" co-star.
Cavallari, whose introduction to the series was labeled in promotions as "The Bitch is Back", almost instantly starts looking for fights after arriving upon the scene, starting with Audrina - who goes ballistic (to the degree that Audrina can) when Kristin starts getting interested in Audrina's ex Justin. When Justin goes back with Audrina, Kristin turns her attention towards Brody, whose ex-girlfriend Jayde is the one person who can tell Kristin what's on her mind.
With Cavallari in place as the villain, it makes it all the more apparent how much the show relied upon Lauren, as supporting players Lo, Audrina and Stephanie seem not only mismatched as friends, but seem to drift through the series without an anchor (especially Lo, whose delightfully passive-aggressive ways continue.)
As for Cavallari (who now provides the voice-over that Conrad provided in the past), her presence changes the series entirely, as while the series has always been drama drama drama, the series now becomes catty as the claws come out. While the series was light and ridiculous empty calorie entertainment in the past, Conrad at least provided a solid core to the series - someone who carried themself in a way that was at least usually fairly dignified. Cavallari has moments where she shows she has some heart underneath the claws, but it's difficult to find her sympathetic.
Elsewhere, Spencer and Heidi - now married - go completely off the deep end. She wants kids, he doesn't - this creates a new and powerful enemy in the neighbor's little kid, who Spencer is downright evil to, as the kid continues to remind Heidi that she wants kids, as well. Spencer tries to get puppies for Heidi in order to distract her, but that backfires - but that is certainly not the end of it. This season is also prior to when Heidi gets enough plastic surgery to make Joan Rivers jealous.
The next season of the series is the sixth and final run for the show. As many cotton candy classic moments as the series has created ("You know what you did!"), it's right that the series is calling it quits at this point, as the show in its current form is more than a bit flawed - especially comparison to the Conrad seasons.
85 5-11 29/Sep/09 It's On Bitch!
86 5-12 06/Oct/09 Mess With Me, I Mess With You
87 5-13 13/Oct/09 Strike One
88 5-14 20/Oct/09 Old Habits Die Hard
89 5-15 27/Oct/09 Sorry Boo, Strike Two
90 5-16 03/Nov/09 I'm Done With You
91 5-17 10/Nov/09 On To The Next
92 5-18 17/Nov/09 Can't Always Get What You Want
93 5-19 24/Nov/09 Mr. Right Now
94 5-20 01/Dec/09 The Boys Of Summerv
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 Bitch is Back" special (season preview), "After Show Remixes" and deleted scenes (nearly 20 minutes worth.).
Final Thoughts: "The Hills" changes significantly with this second half of season 5 and while there are some entertaining moments throughout, the departure of Conrad takes away from the series. The DVD set provides solid audio/video quality, as well as a few minor extras. Recommended for fans.