Case Number 17462: Small Claims Court

THE HILLS: SEASON FIVE, PART ONE

MTV // 2009 // 216 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // October 12th, 2009

The Charge

"Honestly, I would have to pick L.C. Heidi's a bad friend." -- Kelly from The Office

The Case

I was completely unfamiliar with the MTV television program The Hills before receiving this collection of episodes as a review assignment. Well, okay, maybe not completely unfamiliar. I knew it was a reality show about spoiled young adults and that Lauren Conrad was more or less the central figure of the show. Beyond that, I was in the dark. Despite my lack of having actually seen the program, every time I heard someone mention The Hills, my brain would automatically file the show in the "Mindless garbage that ought not be seen," category. As I write this, I've just finished spending a few hours with Lauren and Heidi and Spencer and the gang, and you know what? My brain's judgmental instincts were right on the money. The Hills is the very epitome of vapid television.

As the season begins, Lauren Conrad is enjoying her surprise birthday party aboard a luxurious yacht. To everyone's surprise, Lauren's ex-best-friend Heidi Montag decided to invite herself to the party in the hopes of successfully reuniting with Lauren. Can I get an, "Oh, no she didn't!" You see, Heidi used to be Lauren's roommate, but then Heidi got into a serious relationship with a guy named Spencer Pratt, and Lauren totally hates Spencer Pratt because he is a tool. Lauren initially displays little interest in allowing Heidi to come back into her life, but fate (and by "fate," I mean the producers of The Hills) has other plans. Meanwhile, Heidi is trying to decide whether or not she actually wants to go through with her wedding to Spencer, since he is such a tool and all.

The 10 episodes from this first half of season five are spread across two discs.

Disc One
* Don't Cry on Your Birthday
* Everything Happens for a Reason
* I'm Done With You
* Crazy in Love
* I Always Had a Little Crush
* Playmates Bring the Drama
* Keep Your Enemies Closer
* Father of the Bride

Disc Two
* Hi Lauren, It's Spencer
* Something Old, Something New

Try as I might, I have a really difficult time finding the appeal in The Hills. For some, I suppose the program allows them a fun opportunity to peek in the lives of the young and privileged. For others, I imagine the fun comes in being able to sit in front of a television and smile smugly while thinking about how much dumber these wealthy people are than the rest of us. After all, without programs like The Hills, where would pop-culture snark-fests like The Soup get their material? Still, I found the show about as close to unwatchable as anything I've seen recently, as it finds a way to grate on the nerves from multiple angles.

First, let's talk about the fact that this is a so-called "reality program." Nonsense. The moments of dialogue and human interaction are so scripted, so predictable, and so conventional that either the participants were told what to say or they are putting on an improvised performance. Upon doing a bit of research online, I discovered that these things have been sheepishly admitted to on various occasions by both the stars of the program and the producers. How much of what these people do is heavily influenced by the fact that a camera will be observing all of it? Even the moments in which the participants act foolishly or do something horrible are undoubtedly just ways of attempting to make sure their "character" gets some attention. There is a distinct feeling that these people are either being pushed or pushing themselves into easy-to-digest "plot arcs." Real life is much messier and less accessible than this, even for celebrities.

Aside from the fact that The Hills isn't any more credible than a daytime soap opera, one also has to consider that the program is much less enjoyable than such cheesy fluff. At least in a soap opera people speak coherently. The young stars of The Hills are so maddeningly dumb at times; they often have trouble getting through an entire sentence without contradicting themselves or making some sort of cringe-inducing grammatical error. Oh, and 70% or so of the words used in the program are "like," "totally," and "whatever." To cap it all off, every single character (Seriously. Every. Single. Character.) speaks in that oh-so-grating passive-aggressive, nasal half-whine. For all the laughter and tears throughout these ten episodes, I would be quite surprised if there is even a brief moment of genuine, unadorned emotion to be found in this collection.

Fans of the show should note that this collection includes such important moments in The Hills history as the "Speidi" wedding and Lauren Conrad's final episode, though if you ask me, the producers of the show do a pretty poor job of accentuating these significant events.

The DVD transfer is merely adequate. A show this obsessed with superficial glamour ought to have a bit more pop and polish, but the image is a bit flatter than I expected it to be. The level of detail is slightly disappointing at times, and the colors aren't as vibrant as they should be. Still, it certainly doesn't look horrible. This is a perfectly adequate transfer, just not as exceptional as the usual modern television release. The audio is a mixed bag, as well. Sometimes the dialogue scenes are overwhelmed by the surrounding noise of parties, crowds, etc. (though to the show's credit, subtitles are generally used during these instances). Meanwhile, the slick pop soundtrack comes through nice and clear amidst the spotty sound design. Extras include Lauren Conrad's final after show interview, some deleted scenes, a handful of interviews with the key cast members, a featurette about the Speidi wedding, a photo shoot, and some remixed after show interviews.

You're either going to watch The Hills: Season Five, Part One or you're not. If you like this show, there's nothing I can say to change that. If you don't like it, there's nothing I could say to convince you to watch it. Not that I would ever, ever, ever attempt the latter.

The Verdict

Guilty.

Review content copyright © 2009 Clark Douglas; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 30

Perp Profile
Studio: MTV
Video Formats:
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)

Subtitles:
* None

Running Time: 216 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Deleted Scenes
* After Shows
* Featurette
* Interviews
* Photo Shoot

Accomplices
* IMDb
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0489598/combined

* Official Site
http://www.mtv.com/shows/the_hills/season_5/series.jhtml