Sunday, November 15, 2009

LA to NY or Why The City is trouncing The Hills

As a true marker of how intellectual I am my very first entry on this blog was about The Hills and the departure of Miss Lauren Conrad. You can't buy blogging class like that you can just hope to read it. Ahem.

Anyway it seems timely now to check in with The Hills now that its Lauren-less and paired with its spin off sibling The City on MTV here and Stateside. Putting the two shows together is obviously a triumph of scheduling for both MTV and for us reality drama nutjobs. But its also a neat reminder of how The Hills is becoming harder and harder to watch and The City is finally finding its feet as pacy, juicy and fun reality TV.

So why doesn't this new look Hills work? There a couple of reasons. Reason number one is the lack of focus. Kristin Cavallari, bad girl and firecracker, is back but its not really clear why. She doesn't want to be friends with the other girls (who are lost without Lauren to orbit pointlessly around) and she doesn't really want to be with Justin Bobby either. She is supposed to be the star but instead she cuts this rather lonely figure while the original cast gripe about her and have uninteresting drama all of their own.

Heidi and Spencer have now become even more cartoonish and ridiculous. Living in their ridiculous new house and talking about babies is all they do. If that wasn't bad enough they now a have a "cute kid" next door neighbour who regularly pops over. Anyone who knows their US telly will note that the cute kid is always always ALWAYS the death knell of a show. And you never quite shake the feel that Heidi is not only acting but acting badly in every scene. Honestly.

I also have severe problems with Stephanie Pratts new plastic surgery face (ridiculous), the inclusion of Stacey The Bartender (who is referred to as such in every scene) as a cast member and the amount of screen time given to Brody's girlfriend who obviously stumbled in from a Rock of Love audition and refuses to go away.

There are rumours that the show is up for the axe and with dwindling ratings and huge costs (Miss Cavallari is reportedly picking up a tidy sum for her "work" on the show) it wouldn't surprise me. Its a shame to see a once enjoyable piece of fluff become so dull but at least we have The City to look forward too.

So why does The City now work so well? The second season benefits from the lessons learned in the first. Less time spent on ridiculous supporting characters the audience have no relationship with and more time on Whitney and the pouty, bitchy but brilliantly entertaining Olivia. The addition of Roxy Olin, Whitney's childhood friend helps matters.

The show is now much more streamlined and fast paced. The episodes are split with Whitney and Roxy at work in People's Revolution where the fabulous Kelly Cutrone dishes advice and bitchy comments in equal measure. And then we follow Olivia as she workes (I use the term loosely) at Elle magazine and seems unphased by her complete lack of apitude at her job.

The focus on work and career is what made The Hills so interesting in the first place and its a forumla thats beens replicated with great success in this run of The City. More importantly it stills feels relatively off the cuff with things happening that look like they weren't planned (even if they were). And it looks gorgeous, the vibrant backdrop of New York providing a perfect setting for all that unfolds. This feels like a production that is being developed and honed and you can't help but feel that MTV are waiting for this to really kick into high gear and have it take over from The Hills sooner rather than later.

If this is a battle of the overly edited, heavily soundtracked faux reality shows then The City is coming out on top. And lets face Olivia is TV gold and shows Kristin how its done.

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