The Hills Turns 10: A Look Back At MTV’s Hit Series
Recently Hulu and I came to an impasse. Having watched pretty much every episode of every show I was interested in watching, I reluctantly looked at the ‘You May Also Like’ option. And there it sat: The Hills. It was alongside such shows as Vanderpump Rules, Jersey Shore, and The Real World, but it was the first and most prominently featured of the group. Of course I watched it when it originally aired, as a middle schooler always trying to hide that I was watching MTV because my parents didn’t like it, but I hadn’t seen it in years. Re-intrigued, and also remembering that May 31st marks the 10th anniversary of the premiere of the show, which intrigued me even more, I clicked on the box and began watching. Somehow, immediately I found myself 15 or so episodes deep and utterly re-fascinated by the lives of Lauren Conrad, Audrina Patridge, Whitney Port and the unforgettable, Heidi Montag.
I couldn’t look away and I really couldn’t figure out why. What was it about this show that really captivated all of us so much? It’s not like they led lives that were so farfetched from the real world or extravagant. We all have internships, we all have friends that don’t like who we’re dating, and we all have roommates. Granted not all of our internships are at Teen Vogue, birthdays held in lavish hotel rooms at the Palms in Las Vegas, and we don’t all get to go to Paris for work, but overall they didn’t do anything extraordinary. In fact most episodes of the first two and half seasons mostly found the cast at clubs, work and Lauren’s apartment.
It was the setting, the dramatic editing and the fact that all fights or major moments ended with a dramatic Natasha Bedingfield song or Lauren Conrad solemnly driving through L.A. I mean who can forget how iconic Lauren screaming at Heidi, “you know what you did!” and “I want to forgive you, and I want to forget you” was? Or when LC and Whitney left for Paris and “Pocket Full of Sunshine” dramatically played over shots of the plane taking off and Heidi driving out of L.A. And how could we forget Lauren’s single black tear as she talked with Audrina or when she went to Heidi’s wedding and then “inconspicuously” left the church through a side door, slipping into a car and riding off into the sunset. THESE ARE MOMENTS YOU JUST DON’T FORGET, PEOPLE. The show made you want to be these people, even if they weren’t that entertaining in reality. The series was never the same when Whitney Port left at the end of Season 4 for her own spin-off, The City, and Lauren Conrad left during the middle of Season 5, replaced by her former Laguna Beach co-star, Kristin Cavallari. Cavallari didn’t have the same innocent likability to her that LC did. She just didn’t fit. Which may be why the series ended the next season.
The Hills will always be the biggest and best out of any group of reality shows with young 20 and 30 something’s offered to you in a ‘You May Also Like’ option. It is THE original. It is the show that all of these shows like Vanderpump Rules want to be but will just never quite be able achieve. It came to us at an interesting time. A time when MTV still had “Music Television” in it’s title. And a time when it was fairly untainted by social media, as there was barely any to begin with. It lived in an age where the cast wasn’t getting thousands of tweets during every episode and there weren’t any Instagram photos for people to start comment wars under. Can you imagine what it would have been like had the infamous Season 3 sex-tape rumor been all over Twitter? Social media only really kicked up in the final season, after all the drama anyone even cared about had ended and most of the cast had left. It was the first time our generation got invested in and followed a serialized reality show from week to week.
We didn’t care if it was scripted and still don’t. We didn’t care about all of the dropped, unresolved and inconsistent storylines, like did Lauren ever graduate college? If Whitney got a promotion why did she still have to be in the intern closet? Where did Lauren go after Heidi and Spencer’s wedding? These questions only made it all the more fun and fascinating. It was glamorous, messy, and changed reality television forever.