LOS ANGELES — "The Hills," the landmark reality soap that cemented Lauren Conrad, Heidi Montag and their pals as tabloid superstarlets, died Tuesday at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood. It was 4.
The popular series' cause of death wasn't provided, but MTV president of programming Tony DiSanto previously called it "an organic culmination of this saga."
"I'm oddly devastated that it's come to an end," said Ben "B-Side" Mandelker, who blogs about "The Hills" and its New York-set offspring "The City" on bsideblog.com. "My five-year goal was to appear as a sidekick on the show, ideally with a subtitle that defines me solely as the friend of someone else. Sadly, that dream never came to fruition."
After 102 installments, "The Hills" faded into the sunset Tuesday with a goodbye gala attended by the show's cast and a wink, wink twist ending in the final episode that had friends-with-benefits Kristin Cavallari and Brody Jenner seemingly saying goodbye in front of the Hollywood sign, then appearing in front of a backdrop on the Paramount Studios' lot.
"With 'The Hills' off the air, I no longer have to field questions about the show's authenticity," said Mandelker. "I can think of about 10 different things I'd rather do than engage in yet another dumb argument about whether or not 'The Hills' is staged. I just tell people it's like professional wrestling: Don't take it so seriously, and enjoy the ride."
The club-hopping, music-pumping, cat-fighting, mascara-dripping, mouth-dropping, crystal-worshipping drama of "The Hills" debuted in 2006 as a spin-off of MTV's popular high school reality docudrama "Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County." The series originally documented the journey of bubbly "Laguna Beach" graduate Conrad to Los Angeles.
As the show progressed, "The Hills" morphed from a coming-of-age story centering on the budding fashion designer to a splashy soap focusing on a bevy of beautiful people. Andy Dehnart, a frequent TODAYshow.com contributor who has blogged about reality TV for more than 10 years at realityblurred.com, said the series' lush cinematography and phony authenticity left a lasting impression on the medium.
"The legacy of 'The Hills' is that it improved the visual language of reality TV while proving that a series could be sustained in an M.C. Escher-like circle where tabloid coverage of the cast members sustained interest in a narrative that largely ignored their real lives, including the intense media coverage that generated interest in the show," said Dehnart.
Fans never seemed to mind the show's fabrications. Kelli Hughes, who has followed the series since its inception and blogs about "The Hills" and its stars at hillsfreak.blogspot.com, bemoaned that her Tuesday nights would never be the same. Despite the end of "The Hills," Hughes said she would continue to monitor the cast's off-screen exploits.
"I still plan on blogging about all the girls because, for me, that's what the show was always about," said Hughes. "The news may not flow as freely, but I will always be interested in what they are all doing. They have all had issues on-screen and off that we can relate to. That's what drew me to 'The Hills' and always kept me coming back for more."
Throughout its tumultuous six seasons, tabloids and blogs were enamored with the show's never-ending series of breakups, make-ups and fall-outs, most notably the epic divide between best friends Montag and Conrad, who left "The Hills" in the middle of the fifth season and was replaced by her sassy, raspy "Laguna Beach" adversary Cavallari.
The transition from Conrad to Cavallari as the series' narrator and Montag's marriage to bad boy Spencer Pratt — the real wedding, not the phony Mexican one — marked the beginning of the end of "The Hills." Villainous couple Pratt and Montag, who underwent 10 plastic surgery procedures earlier this year, were later phased out of the final season.
"Now that the gang is leaving my TV, my blogging choices will be limited," said Mandelker. "Maybe I'll bring a folding chair to Les Deux and just blog about what I see. Realistically though, I'll just focus my attention to my other guilty pleasure: 'The Real Housewives.' They're crazier, anyway."
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