The Simple Life 2: Michael Yarish
Tom Conroy
August 04, 2004 AT 04:00 AM EDT

”The Simple Life 2”: Home, off the range

On the last two episodes of ”The Simple Life,” which ran back to back, Paris and Nicole alienated the local yokels with inappropriate remarks, then annoyed their bosses on their one-day jobs by goofing off and otherwise breaking the rules. Wait. I was reading my notes from last week. Or was it the week before?

Even the show’s producers seemed to realize they had run out of ideas, so after the girls spent endless episodes traveling across Texas (at one point, I could swear they doubled back), they got to drive the last 1200 miles of their cross-country trip straight home to Californy, skipping right through New Mexico and Arizona. So we never got to see them harassing the Hopi, needling the Navajo, or phooling with the old phogies of Phoenix.

Hey, the girls deserved a break. They were beginning to seem as tired and played out as the show’s premise. Paris, to her credit, gamely kept smiling: I assume she developed that bright, attentive look as protective coloring during 12 years of zoning out in school. But she kept proving that her mind was wandering elsewhere by her increasingly irrelevant use of her and Nicole’s go-to response, ”That’s hot.” She resorted to that phrase after rancher Bob Click warned the girls they might bump their teeth on a rail in his jeep; then she repeated it minutes later when Nicole stalled the car. That’s hot? Are you OK, Paris, honey? Do you want to lie down for a minute?

Spunky Nicole kept mixing things up to the end. While the girls were staying with rancher Bob Click, a retired marine, they decided he needed to spice up his relationship with his wife and former junior-high-school sweetheart, Gail. After they suggested he try roses, diamonds, or furry handcuffs, Nicole wrote him a poem to recite: ”I love you, Gail/If it’s a crime, I’ll go to jail /I don’t care how expensive the bail /Because you make my heart sail.”

And so on. It was kind of sweet to see Bob get all dressed up, light some candles and unscrew a bottle of wine for his date night with the missus, but when he recited the poem, both he and his wife were far too conscious of how they were going to look on TV for the moment to inspire laughter, embarrassment or empathy. Bob is clearly a good sport, but there are limits. He didn’t need to tell the camera, ”I think Gail might get lucky this evening.”

Nicole’s Beavis and Buttheadedness worked best while she and Paris worked as sheriff’s deputies, especially when the girls pulled over one male motorist. After instructing him over their patrol car’s loudspeaker to stand next to his vehicle, Nicole said, ”Grab your tush cheeks, please. Scream, ‘I love it!’ ”

The night’s second episode took Paris and Nicole to another ranch. Or maybe I hit play instead of delete on my TiVo and watched the first one twice. In any case, I clearly remember seeing them drive cattle. This involved getting Paris back in the saddle (huh-huh) for the first time since her riding accident earlier in the season. Murph, the grizzled trail boss who was supervising them, was impressed when Paris bravely hopped on her horse. ”She cowboyed up,” he said. ”I have to give her that.”

Earlier we had learned that Paris is an ”animal activist” and prefers to color cows with lipstick rather than brand them. (If she’s such an animal lover, how come she lets her little dogs rattle around the trailer like maraca beans?) At the end of the cattle drive, the girls decided they had to buy one steer, whom they had named Billy, in order to save him from the slaughterhouse. When the ranchers pointed out that they had a contract with Billy’s owners, the girls suggested they break the contract, to which Murph replied, ”This is not Hollywood, kid.”

If even grizzled Texas ranch hands are that showbiz savvy, things look dodgy for the series’ projected third season. The show was already hard-pressed to find anyone who could provide an unforced reaction to the girls. Maybe that’s why the final show ended with Billy’s arrival at the Hiltons’ pool. Could this be setting up a new premise? After all, relatively few animals watch a lot of television, have reality-show experience, read the gossip columns, or have enough Internet bandwidth to download Paris’ video. Why not try an entire season in which Paris and Nicole interact spontaneously with, say, cows or lions or chimps? They could call it ”The Simple Life 3: Girls Gone Wild Kingdom.”

What do you think about this season? Loves it or hates it?

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