Judge Brett Cullum is hot.
Paris Hilton: That's hot.
The original concept for the fourth season of The Simple Life was to have Paris Hilton (House of Wax) and Nicole Richie (daughter of pop singer "Dancing on the Ceiling" Lionel) head off to Mexico where they would bumble their way through a foreign country. Fox was behind it, and everything was all set. Then the bottom of the show fell out—the girls were in a fight and not speaking. How could you do a show about the misadventures of two dimwitted rich girls if they refused to be near each other? Paris wanted to replace Nicole with her friend Kimberly Stewart (daughter of rocker "Do You Think I'm Sexy" Rod). The hitch was both Paris and Nicole were under contract for at least four seasons, and the producers weren't about to let them out. The E! Channel on cable picked up the show even though it had to be severely retooled thanks to the feuding leads. For The Simple Life 4: 'Til Death Do Us Part the girls would go from family to family replacing the wife for one day on two separate occasions. Nicole on Wednesday and Paris on Thursday…however that worked out.
The first episode reveals the feud with the two girls running into each other at a coffee shop. Paris sends over a cookie that reads "Good Luck Bitch!," while Nicole lets out the hotel heiress's dog. Then for the next nine episodes, we get to see Paris and Nicole assigned wifely duties in LA suburbia, and they make a mess wherever they go. Split screen is used gratuitously to make them look like they are together. In the season finale, we get a showdown involving a Paris impersonator, and the two girls finally come face to face. Yet the words "to be continued…" pop up just when things get really good.
So what's with the fight? Rumors abound, but nobody knows for sure why these two childhood friends were going at each other. I heard Nicole played a cruel joke on Paris by inviting her and friends over to watch her Saturday Night Live hosting gig, and then at last minute switching it out with her sex tape One Night in Paris. That could have happened, but I suspect a far more nefarious plot. Simply put, it was good publicity. Both girls are incredibly savvy at keeping themselves in the news, and this spat worked in their favor. It saved the show from cancellation and kept them in the tabloids while they launched high profile projects such as Paris's self-titled CD and Nicole's first book. The pair may appear stupid on camera, but they're both smart as hell when it comes to getting press.
The Simple Life has never felt like reality, and The Simple Life 4: 'Til Death Do Us Part doesn't break that mold. Paris and Nicole grandstand for the camera, and attempt to be as silly as they can muster. The whole show seems to be long in the tooth by now, and the production values have dropped with the transition to basic cable. It looks cheaply shot, and the locations around Los Angeles make it less exotic than the other three seasons where the girls were in Middle America and the East Coast. It lacks some of the "fish out of water" elements that made the series rooted in comic tradition. The fight is the saving grace for keeping all this interesting, as well as the sight of seeing Nicole shrink before our eyes with her alleged eating disorder in full swing.
The DVD presentation follows the same mold as the other recent seasons. The shows are shown just as they were broadcast with the bleeps and blurs of the censor still firmly in place on the fullscreen image. There are no extras, and you simply have an episode by episode or play all choice off the main menu. There's a three channel surround mix, but it focuses on the front channels with very little use of the rear. For fans you can make room on your TiVos, but that's about it.
There are some nice surprises here in the fourth season. Nicole's dad, Lionel Richie, makes a cameo or two during the run. We get to see both homes of Paris and Nicole, and plenty about their "real" lives, which was missing from earlier incarnations out of their turf. But why are we still watching The Simple Life? We know the girls are acting at every turn; that was easily revealed after the first season. I guess my only reply is the show is fun in its own sadistic way. Watching Paris squirm or Nicole be evil is a simple pleasure that cannot be denied. They take being classy right out of being rich, and do it in their own way. Part shame, part disaster, but always amusing. Slackers with trust funds is the very definition of The Simple Life.
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