Posted: Tue., May 30, 2006, 12:00pm PT

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The Hills

 (Series -- MTV, Wed. May 31, 10 p.m.)

'The Hills'
'Laguna Beach' alum Lauren moves to MTV's 'The Hills,' where she meets blondes Whitney and Heidi and brunette Audrina.

Produced by MTV. Executive producers, Tony DiSanto, Liz Gateley, Adam DiVello, Dave Sirulnick, Rabih Gholam; co-executive producer, Sean Travis; supervising producer, Colin Nash; story editor, Robyn Schnieders;
MTV sends out new reality programs for advance review only sporadically, and after witnessing an exercise in unrelenting vacuity like "The Hills," it's easy to understand why. A carefully massaged spinoff of sorts from "Laguna Beach," the series relocates flaxen-haired Lauren to the hills above West Hollywood, where she lands a "killer internship" at Teen Vogue while being surrounded by a new cast of beach-blanket-bingo friends. All told, it's "The Simple Life" with less substance, featuring youths that have clearly studied both the reality TV manual and "The OC" to perfect their "characters."

"Laguna" alumna Lauren Conrad moves into a groovy apartment she's never seen with fellow blonde roommate Heidi, who explains that her career ambition is "to be the fun, party, PR girl in L.A." Let's hope she drives better than her ostensible role model in New York.

Within moments (hey, it's a 30-minute show), Lauren interviews for and secures her internship, and Teen Vogue's West Coast editor, Lisa Love, assigns her a minion-type chore at a swanky party thrown by the magazine.

Lauren also makes pals with fair-haired intern Whitney and Heidi's bikini-clad friend Audrina, a brunette aspiring model-actress (geez, ya think?) who breaks up the dazzling assault of human blondage. There are some boys, too, who look plucked out of the same Abercrombie & Fitch catalog as the gals.

Lauren, it seems, will attempt to be the sober one, while Heidi has clearly devoted herself to studying the collected works of Paris Hilton. So can a beautiful girl with an equally beautiful if somewhat ditsy roommate survive on this side of the Orange County line? All that's missing is tossing her hat in the air at the start of each show.

Granted, MTV is peddling a certain lifestyle and image with its reality fare, and virtually all reality shows set in Southern California indulge in cartoonish stereotypes, a la Bravo's "The Real Housewives of Orange County." Even so, exalting indolent, party-going teens -- which this series does, intentionally or not -- seems rather dubious and off-putting unless you happen to be part of the clique.

As for Lauren, she's so well schooled in the ways of reality TV you can almost see her calculating how each scene will be stitched together. And while "The Hills" pledges that the show represents a "New City, New Drama," it's really just a different zip code, and the dramatic flourishes are as old as they come -- a point that's about as close to reality, actually, as this program is apt to get.

Camera, Hisham Abed, Mark Petersen; editors, Adam Lichtenstein, Marlise Malkames; music supervisor, Jon Ernst. 30 MIN.


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Date in print: Wed., May 31, 2006, Los Angeles


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The Hills - Tue., May 30, 2006, 12:00pm PT