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Case Number 07492

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Laguna Beach: The Complete First Season

Paramount // 2004 // 272 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // August 31st, 2005

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All Rise...

Judge Brett Cullum is, like, so totally into watching a bunch of rich white kids be boring. Not.

The Charge

Lo's Mom: Lo, it's not a fashion show…
Lauren "Lo" Bosworth: Every day's a fashion show, Mom.

Opening Statement

Laguna Beach: The Complete First Season is a collection of eleven episodes of the reality series MTV started showing in September of 2004. It's full of beautiful people in beautiful surroundings, living in "the real Orange County." Seven over-privileged high school seniors allowed MTV cameras to follow them for six months as they prepared to graduate and leave for college. It's silly, shallow, sad, and oddly addictive.

Facts of the Case

The cast for the show is as follows:

• Lauren Conrad, nickname "LC"
She is the narrator of the show, and most of the series concentrates on her. She looks exactly like the girl who played Marsha Brady in the remakes of The Brady Bunch, and could probably be on the state flag, since she is the epitome of the California girl. She has a thing for her "best friend," who is dating a junior off and on. She aspires to leave Laguna to study fashion in San Francisco. She's blonde, popular, pretty, and her parents are filthy rich.

• Stephen Coletti, nickname "Pretty Boy"
He is the boy in the show torn between two lovers, and feeling like a fool. He has grown up with Lauren, and truly cares for her. But at the same time, he has his eyes on a wild junior who seems to push his buttons much harder than his long-time friend. He surfs, and he doesn't talk much. He's dark haired, popular, pretty, and his parents are filthy rich.

• Kristin Cavalleri, nickname "Slut"
She is "the other woman" who has a hold on Stephen even though she is merely a junior. She's new to Laguna, having lived in Colorado and Chicago before coming to live life on the beach. She's been around the block, and she's got a bad streak in her a mile wide. She hates "LC," and truly seems to love Stephen. At least until she drinks, and then she seems to love everyone simultaneously. She's blonde, popular, pretty, and just this side of white trash, despite having filthy rich parents.

• Lauren Bosworth, nickname "Lo"
She's one of Lauren's best friends, and she's never tied down to one guy. She's diminutive, but can talk trash with the best of them. If Buffy the Vampire Slayer suddenly had to be recast, she'd be in luck. The best thing about Lo is she seems smart enough not to play into all the drama, and just wants to have a good time before she graduates. She's pretty, blonde, popular, and her parents are filthy rich.

• Morgan Olson, nickname "That perky Mormon girl"
Morgan has also lived in other places; she's a Mormon who only wants to escape to Brigham Young University. She's a little heavy, way too perky, and will say anything to be liked. She's a virgin. Morgan doesn't fit in to Laguna Beach, but she's the only one who realizes how fantastic their lives really are. She's got black hair, is not pretty but cute, popular, and her parents are filthy rich.

• Christina Schuller, nickname "The Preacher's Daughter"
Christina is a native, but like Morgan doesn't quite fit in. She comes from a religious family (her dad is the preacher at the famous Crystal Cathedral, the Rev. Robert Schuller), and is also a virgin. She aspires to be a Broadway actress, but ends up giving a horrifying audition when she gets her shot. She's far too judgmental, but has a good heart. She has dark hair, is somewhat pretty, popular, and her parents are filthy rich.

• Trey Phillips, nickname "The Political Activist"
Trey is a native in Laguna as well, but he has traveled abroad and spent time in Paris at some point. He designs clothes (mostly baseball caps), skateboards everywhere, and sports a little beard through most of the show. He throws great parties, but often tries to rally his friends to support his nonprofit organization, which seems concerned only with the vague goal of making young people politically active. He's running off to upstate New York to attend a college where his political concerns will make him more popular than he is in Laguna. He's strawberry blonde, pretty, popular, and his parents are filthy rich.

• Talan Torriero, nickname "The Himbo"
Talan is the player who seems to have hooked up with everyone in Orange County at least twice. He's only a junior, but he has a way with the ladies. Too bad he's not too bright. We never learn much about him, except that he will drop everything to get two girls into a hot tub, and then gross them out by asking if they think threesomes are hot. He's reddish blonde, pretty, popular, and his parents are filthy rich.

The story is:
Rich kids spill out senior angst, and MTV tries to convince us there is a love triangle that is remotely interesting between LC, Stephen, and Kristin. The truth is we're all just happy to hear the music, and see the beautiful beaches peppered with kids on their best behavior for the cameras. The Real World this ain't. Am I expected to feel sorry for or relate to these people in the slightest? They live in one of the most beautiful spots on the planet, they drive expensive cars, wear expensive clothes, live in multimillion dollar homes, and have no stress other than who their prom date is going to be.

The Evidence

The same channel that produced The Real World conceived and created Laguna Beach. It was MTV's answer to The OC, and aimed to "reinvent" reality television by simply following kids around with cameras and allowing the drama to unfold naturally. Someone forgot to tell them this isn't really hip or fresh, and documentaries have been around since the invention of film. The problem is the cast knew when they were going to be taped, and we never see any of them with their guard down—except for one notable drunken night in Cabo, when Kristin suddenly decides (after two margaritas) she's Elizabeth Berkley in Showgirls. A pole dance is the height of outrageousness in this squeaky-clean reality soap opera.

The best thing I can say about the show itself is Laguna Beach looks like paradise. These kids are living smack in the middle of one of the most affluent and picturesque part of the country. Screw Beverly Hills 90210, I want to be in the Orange County zip code. Odd the kids seem so squeaky clean and conservative when you consider Laguna is a pretty liberal place, despite the fact that the community is so affluent. The kids themselves are so generic and uncool, the geography easily becomes the star. These kids only care about fashion, surf, and the next party. Nobody ever expresses interest in becoming anything professional, they all just want to inexplicably move on. Nothing too dramatic ever happens, and we're left with a pretty but ultimately drab story. Nobody pukes, ends up passed out naked, comes out of the closet, gets into a fistfight, or gets arrested. Where's the high school I remember?

Still, something about Laguna Beach: The Complete First Season is addictive. The eleven episodes seem to fly by even without any dramatic revelations. It captures a time in everyone's life when you feel like you're standing still waiting for life to start. It reflects the ennui commonly known as "senioritis" perfectly. Rich, poor, pretty or not, those last few weeks in high school seem oddly quiet and drama-free for everyone around the world. California is the perfect place to just chill and wait for The Real World to finally start. With Laguna Beach, MTV has accidentally created a prequel to their most successful series.

The DVD set is as beautiful as the locale. Widescreen transfers glow and shimmer without a hint of problems. The stereo soundtrack is aggressively loud and robust. There's even an extra disc that is truly loaded with all kinds of extra footage, music videos, and featurettes. Fans of the show will be happy as clams to learn about behind-the-scenes secrets, and also finally learn how Morgan got into BYU despite being rejected early in the show. Laguna Beach: The Complete First Season is a marvelous set that offers some true value in the extras and presentation.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

This is what MTV has been reduced to? I will be the first to admit I have outgrown the channel's demographic, and have happily graduated to VH-1 so that I, too, can love the '80s nonstop. I remember the time when videos played on MTV; now it seems to be wall-to-wall reality shows starring teenagers I never could have related to. Maybe this is this generation's statement. If it is, it's sorta sad. The kids living in Laguna Beach seem to have no style of their own, listen to middle-of-the-road pop and rock, and want little more than a new Volkswagen to tool around in. It seems a poor substitute for the days when kids were just a little wilder, and determined to freak their parents out with alien fashion trends and punk or new wave music. I'd rather see videos than montages of vapid teens pining for each other while the latest Five For Fighting or Blink 182 song plays.

Something tells me the kids hid the real drama somewhere else, safely away from the cameras. They knew they were being filmed, and reined everything in to look "cool" on television, which in the end makes them look bland. Sad part is, Kristin came off the best because she seemed to stop caring the most. Her drunken night in Cabo is a series highlight, if only because I caught a glimpse of a real teenager reveling in her power to make everyone crazy. She busted the show open wide by letting go for one night. I kind of hated her bratty personality for most of the series, but she at least let us see the real her. Thankfully, MTV has jettisoned most of the original cast, and decided to let Kristin narrate the second season. Maybe in the next release we'll have something better to talk about than the pretty beach. Shake it up girl, a whole generation is waiting for you to show them that even in California teens aren't perfect.

Closing Statement

Laguna Beach: The Complete First Season is a watchable, tepid reality show with some breathtaking visuals and a wonderful amount of extras. Fans should eat this set up. I'm far too old to see anything deep or moving in the series, but it entertained me enough. It makes a great rental if you want to see scenic Southern California, and for fans it's loaded with enough extras to make it an easy purchase.

The Verdict

Guilty of being a shallow pool of drama rather than an ocean of interesting developments, Laguna Beach: The Complete First Season is like your stereotypical vision of a California girl—blonde, pretty, without much to say. Problem is we know most California girls are a hell of a lot more interesting than this series. It's all posing with hardly any real moments, but at least it's pretty, and the soundtrack is full of Hillary Duff pop bliss.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 92
Audio: 88
Extras: 95
Acting: 72
Story: 72
Judgment: 83

Perp Profile

Studio: Paramount
Video Formats:
• 1.66:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• None
Running Time: 272 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Reality TV
• Teen
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• Deleted Scenes
• Cast Interviews
• LC's House Tour
• Casting Tapes
• Lo's Guide to Laguna Beach
• Behind the Season One Finale
• Laguna Beach Highlights including Laguna Looks and The Laguna Triangle
• Music Videos
• Season Two Sneak Preview

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