Fox // 2004 // 275 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // December 22nd, 2004
Paris: That's HOT!
Nicole: Do you love it?
Let's take two girls, both filthy rich
(Voice in the background: Hey isn't that Paris Hilton?)
From the bright lights, down to the sticks.
From velvet ropes to cattle pulls,
Let's take away their limousines, their credit cards, and shopping sprees.
Well, they're both spoiled rotten,
Will they cry when they hit bottom?
Heaven knows who can survive
This simple country kind of life.
(Paris: Where the hell are we?)
Paris Hilton (One Night in Paris, Nine Lives, Wonderland) and Nicole Ritchie (daughter of Lionel Ritchie) hit it big with their series The Simple Life, which put them out on an Arkansas farm to live with a really sweet country family. Originally the show was conceived with Paris's sister Nicky in mind, but she wanted little to do with a reality series. So in stepped Paris' gal pal, Nicole Ritchie. The show became an unexpected hit and a new TV sensation. From the people who brought you The Real World, here were two blonde rich girls who had to get out into rural America in order to prove that stupidity knows no class boundaries. The conceit of the show in this second go-round is they got their hands on the family car keys, and set out on one long road trip. More families, more jobs, more chances to put the girls into riotous situations and skimpy outfits. I can't figure out why I love this show. I know its not real, and it is stupid. It reminds me of a Britney Spears video: when it comes on, no matter how much I want to, I absolutely can not change the channel.
Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie return to television and small town America as they trek from Miami to Los Angeles in a very stylish pink pick-up, with a silver Airstream trailer in tow. It's the sequel to America's favorite "un"-reality show on Fox. This set includes all 10 episodes from the second season, and, oddly, a "missing" episode from Season One.
Basically, the episodes all follow a similar pattern. Paris and Nicole arrive in a small town or farm, and meet their host family. The two parties assess each other and have a meal together. The next day, the girls get an assignment to perform a menial job somewhere in town, and they go to work. (Well, sort of.) Usually the girls go somewhere and wreak havoc on the business that has hired them for a day. In the end, it all seems like silly harmless fun -- until someone unsuspectingly receives a sausage full of dog food. Kids are lost and found, cows herded, horses ridden, and the girls even get to impersonate cops. They also get to hang out in a nudist resort, where they go disco dancing with naked people three times their age, and lead them in the "YMCA" dance.
The Simple Life 2: Road Trip owes a lot to some grand traditions in comedy -- and no, I am not kidding. If you look at Depression-era comedies, and films like My Man Godfrey, you'll find an underlying fascination with cinema and making rich people look foolish. Consider the legacy of Lucy and Ethel's botched jobs in I Love Lucy, as well. Anyone remember Green Acres? (Ironically, Paris is actually related to the Gabors!) This is just a staged reality television show that borrows from the best sources it could possibly find. Please don't tell me you believed any of this had to do with reality. Paris and Nicole both burst that bubble when they made endless talk show appearances chatting about their "characters." They were promoting this sequel, and freely admitted they were acting the way producers wanted them to act. I know a lot of people debate how "real" reality television is, but in this case, you have no need to wonder. Check out this tidbit I got from a website called TV Tome (www.tvtome.com):
"Obviously there is some cheating going on. About six minutes into the show, the girls get some money from a minivan for toll. When they zoom out to show Nicole dancing you clearly see a person in the background who had stopped the minivan: probably a production assistant for the show who's reimbursing the minivan driver the $6."
So if we know none of this is really real, then why is it so watchable? Whether or not you like them, Nicole and Paris are pretty funny. I don't know if they act stupid or are stupid, but either way it's hilarious to watch them try to handle the real Middle America. That's probably why people love the show and find it entertaining. I hesitate to call it a comedy classic, but it at least owes something to a lot of classic comedies, and that has to count for something. Right? It's a classic "fish out of water" act that works like a charm, because we are never sure what's funnier. Is it the girls cluelessness or the fact that rural America is so dang bizarre?
The transfer is fine, and the show looks clear of any artifacts or problems. It was shot largely in a digital format, so there are no authoring issues. One slight disappointment is that we get the shows just as they were broadcast, with the censor's bleeps and blurs still firmly in place. I wish they had taken a cue from The Osbournes and given us the option to hear the foul language and see the nudity. Audio is a standard 2.0 Dolby mix which rarely uses the back surround speaker. As for extras, there is a long blooper real which includes some scenes not broadcast (yet still censored). Also included is a "lost" episode from the show's first season. Um...hello? Why was this not on the first season disc?
Listed on the product information and packaging it says there are Spanish subtitles. There is not a track included for this, and you can't make them come up. So if you want the Spanish translation you'll need a bilingual friend to translate "That's hot!" over and over for you. Paris no comprende Español! The menus are colorful, but also hard to navigate because they are just so damn busy. Jeesh! It looks hot and all, but I'm confused. Why can't they get the girls to do commentary? I would love to hear Paris and Nicole actually talk about this project on the DVD, and not just on guest spots with Letterman.
A little of The Simple Life goes a L-O-N-G way. I would never be able to sit down and do a marathon without wanting to throw myself on the nearest sharp object. The show is fine in small daily doses, but it's not suited for a long evening of entertainment. Pop this one in when you have twenty-five minutes to kill and you'll be fine. A lot of your tolerance for the show will depend on how you feel about Ms. Hilton herself. If you like her, then this is a no-brainer; but detractors will find little to love after being subjected to endless glimpses of her wacky fashion sense and trademark Valley Girl vocabulary. She's definitely a presence. Nicole is also pretty bratty and spoiled-acting as well, so it's a double dose of the "stupid slut" syndrome. The South Park guys recently did an episode where they called Hilton a "stupid spoiled whore," a label that certainly doesn't seem far off given her amateur porn career and portrayal in this series. You wonder what the Hilton family thinks of all this. Bear in mind, though -- Paris's mom was a B-movie actress who appeared in the '70s horror film The Dark...
It's staged and stupid, but funny as hell. Next to The Apprentice and America's Next Top Model, this is my favorite reality show. Why? Because it's got a good heart. Paris and Nicole seem spoiled and bratty a lot of the time, but every now and then you see their big hearts shining through. By the end of the season they have helped a lot of the kids in the families, and even gone all City Slickers on us, buying a cow that was destined to be slaughtered. The Simple Life 2: Road Trip isn't anything that will change your life, but it is a fun silly diversion that could put a smile on your face. It's hot and I love it! So sue me. I just recommended Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie's reality show.
Guilty of being a guilty pleasure! Loved it!
Review content copyright © 2004 Brett Cullum; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 275 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* 30-minute Outtakes and Deleted Scenes Reel
* "Lost" Episode from Season 1
* Links Page for THE SIMPLE LIFE