TV preview

Hey MTV, a ‘Hills’ Reboot Without Lauren Sounds, Like, Totally Sucky

The Daily Beast

August 22, 2018

‘The Hills’ is back, but with no Lauren Conrad, Lo, and Kristin. This leaves Audrina, Speidi, Jason, Brody and Whitney (tbc) to revive some of the old, conflict-strewn MTV magic.

I’m like, I guess, I mean, I don’t know, like, I guess I’m, like, trying to process it.

If you’re going to bring back The Hills, as MTV announced at the VMAs on Monday night—where Madonna also paid moving tribute to herself—then to do so without Lauren Conrad seems madly self-sabotaging.

To do so without Lo Bosworth is more dealable with—all she did was hang out beside kitchen counters and look wide-eyed and scandalized on command—but still sad.

And to do so without Kristin Cavallari because she is now reportedly “contractually tied” to Very Cavallari on E! seems like you’re really not making a sequel to The Hills, but a weak cup of tea you are trying to mask with a surfeit of sweetener.

The trailer for the new series, played during the VMAs, features an exceptionally annoying male-female duet, guitar-twangy version of Natasha Bedingfield’s theme song, ‘Unwritten.’ And then one disembodied voice, intoning: “It’s like we’re all growing up… it’s weird.”

That totally Hills quote—I have played it multiple times, and repeated it, as slack-jawed as possible for my own amusement—at least reminds us of the tone of the show, which ran from 2006 to 2010. Like, perfectly.

Its vocabulary was exclamations, head tilts, hands run through hair, eyerolls, screams and shouts of incomplete sentences and insults, tears before and after bedtime, and long, pained looks that said everything, and all the twang-twang music you could handle playing over it all.

The quote couldn’t have been better chosen had it been said on SNL’s The Californians.

The focus of the old Hills was, really, on white women with self-illuminating hair never having a good time in glamorous places where you’d think they probably would and should. (The one thing it has in common with the new Hills is that, on first sight at least, the refreshed franchise still features no black faces in the lead cast.)

Every time they went out, disaster struck. “Stay in,” you’d think, “Just. Stay. In.”

To bring back The Hills, and with one of those annoying titles featuring word and punctuation salad—The Hills: New Beginnings—is (quite rightly) bargaining a lot on audience affection for the brand itself, even if it’s missing key players.

MTV said the new show will feature old cast members “alongside their children and friends, and follow their personal and professional lives while living in Los Angeles.”

This may be foolhardy. Old Hills fans are bemoaning online the lack of Lauren especially.

When the show moved from an examination of friendship and fledgling careers to turbo-charged soap opera with the introduction of villainous male interloper Spencer Pratt, The Hills became the most delicious, naughtiest snack on television.

Lauren and Heidi were the ultimate friendship gone sour because of a guy (although as more fame landed upon them, maybe that would have done them in, too)—and gone sour in a blur of nightclub arguments, intense coffee-shop conversations, and exquisite gazes out to the ocean, pillowy lips being bitten, as the gravity of certain decisions hit home.

It was Lauren telling Heidi she thought Spencer was a “sucky person.” (Also important: before she redecorated the apartment.)

It was Lauren being told, OMG devastatingly, that she would forever be known as the girl that didn’t go to Paris by Teen Vogue’s West Coast head honcho Lisa Love.

Of course, Lauren went to Paris, eventually, and had the kind of princessy-specific time on the backs of motorbikes with floppy-haired hunks that only scripted reality TV shows can bring you en Paris.

It is Lauren telling Heidi that, “All there is left to forgive and forget. So, I want to forgive you, and I want to forget you.” (Note: Apartment redecoration complete.)

What a perfect line: pure Laguna Method. And the music really helped.

Lauren Conrad doesn’t want to do the new Hills; her life is different now, with husband and family, and cute lifestyle ranges to sell; a mini-financial juggernaut built on the back of a reality TV character she wants to keep at a stiff distance. Nothing must damage her happy, smiley brand.

Or, more diplomatically: “She’s in a different place in her life,” a source told People. “But she wants everyone to enjoy themselves. She wishes everyone the best.”

Lo Bosworth has been more adamant. “I was like, ‘F—k, no! I don’t want any association with those people,’” Bosworth said in February about her response to a TV executive wanting to reunite her and her castmates. (If only Lo had been this voluble in the show.)

Whitney Port may still be up for it: no confirmation as yet, but promising signs of support shown on social media.

Without Lauren and her perennial suffering and humiliation, and without Lo-as-Tonto, and without Kristin cackling and being brisk and unpleasant, “Speidi” (Spencer plus Heidi) essentially have the floor in the new show.

Justin Bobby Brescia and Audrina Patridge will be there, but who wants to see them re-enact the most tortured relationship on TV, conducted with so few words and such concerted hair-tossing. Audrina and Justin Bobby were exhausting. Frankie Delgado was part of Monday night’s rogue’s gallery too. I only remember Frankie laughing bro-ishly, but forgive me.

The good news, as of Tuesday afternoon thanks to the Hollywood Reporter, is that Brody Jenner is in talks to return to the show.

A source is quoted as saying, “Everybody wants Brody to come back. He was such a big part of the show. It truly wouldn’t be the same without him.”

Well, OK, but given both Lauren and Kristin—his two ex-conquests—are now married with child/children, and seeing as Brody himself is married, what exactly can he do, especially as he himself is recently married, too?

Audrina had a short-lived marriage to Corey Bohan; their ugly split included her accusing him of threatening behavior.

What will they all do on the new Hills, except drink red wine and moan about marriage, protein shakes, and mortgage payments? But hey, the much-older Bravo ‘Housewives‘ party relentlessly hard, so maybe we should prepare for the Hills cast again to brave velvet ropes and dance floors.

Who can be Pratt’s foil this time? He seemed really quite nutty by the time the series ended, notching up even more vituperative conflict with his sister Stephanie (also appearing on the new series). Since The Hills ended, Stephanie crossed the Pond and become a star of a superior British show, Made in Chelsea, and now looks like every inch the identikit blonde glamazon that reality TV so voraciously consumes. (Her first romantic squeeze on that show was also named Spencer.)

If red carpet presence means anything, the new show will also include Jason Wahler and his wife, Ashley Slack, who have an infant daughter. (Surely a better Frankenstein title for the new Hills would have been The Hills: Honey, We Need To Get Home To Pay The Babysitter.)

Jason, you will remember, was LC’s ex whom she chose to stay in Malibu with at the end of season one, and not go to Paris for Teen Vogue, inviting that damning “girl who never want to Paris” line from Lisa Love.

Their relationship foundered around his substance abuse, which Lauren spoke about in The Hills’ tenth anniversary show, That Was Then This Is Now. Jason himself earlier this year admitted to a relapse during his struggle with alcoholism.

Perhaps Jason’s troubled story will be a focus. Or it will likely be Speidi’s show-to-own, with their baby son Gunner even accompanying his parents to the VMAs on Monday night, wearing a matching jacket to his dad.

Not for the first time did you think, “Is that Heidi?” because New Heidi still looks so different to the Old Heidi, and that makes you remember one of The Hills’ most real, and therefore most jolting moments with her mother Darlene crying and frustrated at watching her daughter transform herself into something that frightened, upset, and alienated her. (The two have since reportedly reconciled.)

Speidi is its own bizarre clown show, and Heidi’s mother’s upset was a reminder of harsh realities beneath the scripted confection. But even this relationship appears recast, with fans online praising Speidi as changed people: not as nuts, kind of be-humbled, even charming. Really?

We’ll find out next year. “The rest is still unwritten,” goes the final line of ‘Unwritten,’ and it was the last line in the twangy trailer shown on Monday night, promising fresh drama after a panoply of L.A.-familiar shots of hazy sun disappearing, blue ocean, the ‘Hollywood’ sign, and finally twinkling night.

This, in the chilly-feeling clubs of Hollywood (R.I.P. Les Deux!), was when all the Hills mischief principally occurred and, producers no doubt hope, will occur again.

We, like, do too. Totally.