TV Article

Office Space Cadets

On ''The Hills,'' Lauren and Heidi learn that they're actually expected to work at their fake-seeming jobs; plus, Audrina goes on a date

MISSION: IMPLAUSIBLE Lauren had to fly cross-country to deliver a dress to an editor
MISSION: IMPLAUSIBLE Lauren had to fly cross-country to deliver a dress to an editor

''The Hills'': The dream jobs turn to nightmares

People like to scoff at me when I admit to watching this show, and said scoff is often accompanied by a form of the question ''What could you possibly like about that?'' And, to be honest, I struggle sometimes for an answer.

But tonight's episode confirmed what I have suspected I like about The Hills: Namely, I enjoy it when any one of the assembled cast of rich, insulated-from-anything-resembling-reality young adults gets any sort of rude awakening. And because the theme of tonight's episode was quite clearly Work Is Hard, there was plenty of comeuppance — or what qualifies in this excessively posh world as comeuppance, which is to say anything that requires the kids to do anything other than exactly what they want to do at any given moment.

Now, those people who scoff at me for watching this show often ask another startlingly valid question: ''Do you think any of that nonsense is real?'' And as it turns out, this episode also answered that question for me. The answer, scoffers, is no.

I mean, yes, in a sense it is real: It clearly physically happened and was captured on camera with no special effects; the people involved are (presumably) using their actual names and God-given identities; and they are performing actions whose consequences are in some way incorporated into their lives.

But, for example, absent cameras, would a Teen Vogue intern like Lauren be required to hop a redeye to fly a dress to New York for Fashion Week? I can't claim absolute expertise here, but my gut says no. Would she then be sent immediately back after handing the dress to her editor? Again, I'm skeptical.

Even more important: Would anyone actually care about the fact that Audrina and Brian — two individuals apparently connected to main gals Lauren and Heidi in some not-interesting-enough-to-remember way — seem vaguely attracted to each other in the way that most young, cute people are attracted to each other? Well, no. But even more amazing is how little we care even when they're properly lit and plopped onto television anyway. These two are clearly the weakest actors — ahem, characters — ahem, real and genuine personalities — in the bunch. Watching them was like watching the first read-through of a high school play, except the lines weren't as good. (''Do the models get mad that the receptionist is hotter?'' quoth Brian as Audrina gave him a tour of the photo studio where she works.)

Anyway, the far more exciting, if no less fake, action is going down at our fave slacker Heidi's first day on the ''dream job'' at an event planning firm. She is shocked...shocked to learn she will be expected to work, yes, Monday through Friday. With no days off in between. Just straight through, five days, every week. She's so flustered by that and by the fact that she's charged with stuffing envelopes that she just has to take a break to call the old roomie right as Lauren has handed the very important dress to her editor and has been sent straight back to the airport. (Or is it just because the producers are like, ''Hmmm, we need a way for both Heidi and Lauren to verbalize their current workplace frustrations''?)

Heidi really nails the mood for both of them when she whines, ''It's so boring. I'm stuffing envelopes. This is my nightmare job.''

So nightmarish, in fact, that she marches into the office of boss Brent Bolthouse (even these names sound like they're straight from a college kid's effort at a first novel, don't they?) to explain that she totally didn't realize this was like full-time when she took it. But Brent, bless his heart, really breaks it down for her. In fact, he basically offers the world's most clearly articulated explanation for the typical modern employment arrangement: ''We have a real job. We're going to count on you. You being here full-time is what is best for us because then you're consistently here all the time.''

(Then there is an interlude wherein we find ourselves at some sort of Japanese restaurant, and I have no idea why we're here, watching two people on the most uninteresting date ever. Sample line: ''I really like your hair, by the way.'' I wonder if I've accidentally changed the channel. I wonder if I've taken more Advil than I realized and am now stuck in a drug-induced reverie. And then I recognize the expressionless cadence of their lines, and I realize I do know these people. It's Audrina and...what's his name? Yes, Brian. Them again.)

Anyway, so the next morning Heidi's boyfriend, Jordan, is all grumbly about her ''working a 9-to-5 job,'' and Heidi's all, ''9 to 6, baby.'' Then when she gets to work, she finds out she has to not only make some travel plans for her boss but also get him a sandwich. And then — here's something that would be pretty amazing if we believed any of this were real — the camera shows her literally sitting and typing, ''9 a.m.: Start work. 6 p.m.: Finish work,'' into her little Outlook calendar thing. I can't decide which is stupider: the idea that Heidi would need to remind herself every day that she starts at 9 and finishes at 6, or the idea that she'd use an Outlook calendar.

And the big cliff-hanger ending comes from the technological unlikelihood files as well: When Lauren returns to the apartment after her cross-country trip, there's a message on the answering machine from none other than Jason, her inexplicable chick magnet of an ex from the Laguna Beach days. Intriguing, to be sure, but all I can think is: Why didn't he just call her cell?

What do you think? Is this series too fake, even by reality-TV standards? Does any of the workplace footage remind you of your first job? And do you think there will be an actual payoff when Jason visits?

Originally posted Jun 15, 2006
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