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Case Number 15980

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The Hills: The Complete Fourth Season

MTV // 2009 // 392 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Ian Visser (Retired) // March 23rd, 2009

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All Rise...

Judge Ian Visser feels the rain on his skin. Since this is Hollywood, it's dirty and smells like Botox.

Editor's Note

Our reviews of The Hills: The Complete First Season (published February 13th, 2007), The Hills: The Complete Second Season (published August 15th, 2007), The Hills: The Complete Third Season (published July 31st, 2008), The Hills: Season Five, Part One (published October 12th, 2009), and The Hills: Season Five, Part Two (published April 27th, 2010) are also available.

The Charge

Sometimes things have to get worse before they can get better.

Opening Statement

Justin Bobby: "I think to be in a relationship, you've kinda gotta be…together."
Audrina: "Yeah."

Facts of the Case

Welcome back to the hills of Hollywood. When we last visited, Lauren and Whitney had new stylist jobs, Heidi continued to struggle with her relationship and her work, and Audrina faced challenges dealing with her reluctant paramour, Justin. Additional tensions rose when Laruen's friend Lo moved in, displacing Audrina to the pool house and disrupting the harmony of the home they shared.

New developments challenge the L.A. residents in Season Four. A quickie Mexican wedding angers Heidi's family and Whitney starts a new job in New York. Lauren tries to re-enter the dating pool with less-than-stellar results, and Audrina must deal with a wandering Justin while moving out on her own. Will these difficult transitions test the bounds of their friendships or will they make them stronger?

The Evidence

After my harsh reviews of Seasons One and Two of MTV staple The Hills, I cut the show a little slack for Season Three. New characters were added, cast members outside of Lauren got more screen time, and the Heidi-and-Spencer show became a train wreck of epic proportions. Sure, the scripting and editing tricks were becoming more apparent, and it was getting difficult to continue to swallow the notion that Lauren "struggled" with any facet of real life, but the show seemed to be evolving. It didn't feel like it was growing up, per se, but it felt like The Hills was at least starting to move forward a bit.

The Hills: The Complete Fourth Season grinds the whole thing to stop.

Season Four probably demonstrates better than any other show on television how people will swill the same garbage over and over regardless of how bad it tastes. Literally nothing has changed from the last season to this one. Heidi continues to stew over Lauren's "betrayal" of her and remains trapped in an emotional abusive relationship with Spencer, Audrina, unencumbered by the weight of dignity, still pursues non-committal "bad boy" Justin, and Whitney appears to have no life outside of the one dictated by the producers of the show. Most galling of all, we are still expected to believe that Lauren continues to balance both school and work, despite the widespread knowledge that she earns millions through the show and her designer clothing label.

In terms of individuals, Spencer Pratt is undoubtedly the worst of the bunch: a scruffy pout either unable to recognize how badly he is portrayed or too willing to cash the check it results in to care. Pratt seems largely occupied with appearing as intelligent as possible; his establishing shots usually feature him with a weighty tome (Machiavelli's The Prince, A History of the CIA) cradled on his hollow chest. Two thousand years ago Pratt would have been the infant tossed from the Spartan cliffs for his weedy defects; today he drives a BMW and seems proud of the fact that he was able to avoid attending college. Watching his unlimited appetite for manipulating and torturing Heidi go un-sated for twenty episodes does more to promote the concept of a military draft than any amount of petitioning or Congressional lobbying ever could. As Bart Simpson once pointed out, "We need another Viet Nam to thin out their ranks."

Perhaps the greatest sin Season Four commits is that it makes itself dull. There is almost no conflict on display, rendering it guilty of the one crime that reality television cannot be redeemed of. Aside from the wiping of an occasional mascara-streaked cheek or a harsh word delivered above the thumping bass of an anonymous nightclub, there is nothing compelling on display. MTV continues to mine the on-going "feud" between Spencer/Heidi and Lauren, but it feels more and more like the producers are desperately hanging on to the only element of the show that ever possessed any dramatic weight. Scrubbed free of any significant conflict (as well as sex, drunkenness, obvious employment, and any other issue affecting most twenty-somethings) this season doesn't so much tread water as it ties a brick around its own leg and jump into the Pacific Ocean.

It sure looks good, though. The Hills: The Complete Fourth Season follows in the footsteps of previous editions and delivers an image that is as good as any television release out there. Colors are bright and vibrant, blacks are deep and solid, and only the night scenes show any graininess, given that they are shot using digital cameras. The audio is also top-shelf, mixing popular music of the day with inane dialogue for a sharp 2-channel track.

Extras provide for a bevy of additional content. In addition to interviews with the four female leads, there are eighteen deleted scenes that were cut from the final episodes. The set also includes a box art photo shoot and a Rolling Stone cover shoot where you can actually watch the magazine's lingering credibility drain away. Wrapping up the extras are some trailers for other MTV offerings and a collection of re-edits and mixes of the show courtesy of MTV Canada's "The Hills Aftershow" program.

If you're a fan of the show, these extras should sate your appetite for additional content. The interviews don't hold much back, giving the cast a chance to vent some frustrations and snap at each other for past transgressions. The deleted scenes are largely inconsequential but round out a few situations with more information and background. The remaining content is fluff and won't add much value to the experience.

Closing Statement

The Hills: The Complete Fourth Season might be more tolerable if it allowed a bit of honesty to penetrate the veil of self-constructed perfection that it shrouds itself in. I get the idea that people watch television for the fantasy aspect; what I don't get is how they can employ the doublethink necessary to get emotionally involved with it. As it stands, MTV's willingness to continue to feed a stream of unmitigated pap to its fans goes beyond lame and into downright insulting.

The Verdict

Everyone on this show is sentenced to immediate bankruptcy, eviction, and a scorching STD. That's real life, kids.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 94
Audio: 95
Extras: 70
Acting: 30
Story: 25
Judgment: 65

Perp Profile

Studio: MTV
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• None
Running Time: 392 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Bad
• Reality TV
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• Deleted Scenes
• Interviews
• Aftershow Mixes
• Photo Shoots


• IMDb
• Official Site

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