Created by Adam Divello
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 anamorphic
Running Time: 570 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo English
MSRP: $ 39.99
Release Date: July 29, 2008
Review Date: July 24, 2008
Ah, to be twenty again . . . NOT! At least, I wouldn’t want to be twenty again if I had to suffer through the societal and relationship angst of the characters in MTV’s smash hit reality drama The Hills. Featuring a cast of toned, bronzed twenty-something young adults living la vida loca in and around Hollywood, The Hills is as deep and meaningful as a thimble, but once into the bitchy dramas and romantic catastrophes these young folks perpetrate upon themselves and their crews, it’s hard to look away. The Hills is the new definition of guilty pleasure. It’s rather pitiful as drama, but it makes for fascinating air-headed TV.
Four upscale young women are pursuing life and love in the Los Angeles area: Lauren and Whitney, both working at the start of the season for Teen Vogue but destined for bigger things as the season progresses, Audrina who holds a position with Epic Records, and Heidi who works as a project manager for Bolthouse/SBE. Their jobs are different, but their social lives have led to some serious tiffs in previous seasons which leads this year to Lauren and Heidi as bitter enemies (the causes aren’t worth going into) and friends really struggling during the season with being loyal to one or the other (LOTS of angst over that). Dating-wise, Heidi and her boy friend Spencer have become engaged but are experiencing friction among themselves over their wedding plans. Lauren spends the season bouncing between old flames while Audrina is inevitably drawn to bad boy Justin, an uncouth loner she seems determined to force a commitment from despite his unsuitability for anything resembling a serious relationship.
Though the producers of the show would love to have its audience think this is all non-scripted “real life,” the situations and set-ups are obviously managed and poked to get exactly the stories and reactions they think will make for riveting television. How else can one explain the “chance” encounters between enemies at restaurants and clubs in the Los Angeles area which always lead to over-the-top confrontations and squabbles, or the fact that Lauren narrates the show and knows things even her enemies are doing, just as Sarah Jessica Parker did in Sex and the City? Serious talks between the participants consist of a few sound bites and then silence as the scene fades out. Continuity is suspect when Spencer, for example, sports a blonde beard in one shot, is clean shaven in the next, and is back to being bearded in the following scene. But the audience isn’t supposed to be focusing on that. Instead, they’re asked to swallow these beautiful people with their petty problems living in high scale apartments, condos, and homes, with plenty of clothes, fancy modes of transportation (many of the guys don’t seem to work at all but have plenty of money to eat out, have beach parties at plush Malibu beach homes, etc.), and only having to worry about whom they’re seen with and what gossip about them is being spread among their little cliques.
Being MTV-based, there is plenty of music on the soundtrack to comment on the on-screen events, but I was rather surprised there isn’t one person of color among the friends of these groups. It was nice to see some focus on the professional lives of these young women; they do pursue careers and want to succeed in their chosen fields of business (well, except Heidi, whose choices throughout the season are often absurd, especially her season finale behavior which is producer-manipulated bonkers. Of course, it gives the show a nice season-ending cliffhanger, and that‘s the point anyway, isn‘t it?).
Here is a rundown of the twenty-eight episodes contained on four discs that make up the third season:
1 - You Know What You Did
2 - Big Girls Don’t Cry
3 - Truth and Time Tells All
4 - Meet the Parents
5 - Rolling with the Enemy
6 - Second Chances
7 - They Meet Again
8 - For Better or Worse
9 - What Happens in Vegas
10 - What Goes Around . . . .
11 - No More Mr. Nice Guy
12 - Stress and the City
13 - Young Hollywood
14 - Forgive and Forget
15 - With This Ring . . . .
16 - A Night at the Opera
17 - Once a Player . . . .
18 - When One Door Closes
19 - Paris Changes Everything (an episode that’s double the length of the others)
20 - Back to LA
21 - An Unexpected Friend
22 - When Spencer Finds Out . . . .
23 - Just Be Careful . . . .
24 - Girls Night Out
25 - A New Roommate
26 - A Date with the Past
27 - No Place Like Home
28 - The Next Move Is Yours
The program’s 1.78:1 aspect ratio is presented in welcome anamorphic transfers. Though color is strong and flesh tones admirably realistic, sharpness varies, especially in the season’s penultimate episode which isn’t just soft; it’s out of focus for much of the running time. There are encoding artifacts present in many shows, especially moiré patterns which make frequent visits. Most episodes have been divided into 4 chapters though occasionally there are only 3 chapters.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track is loud. The left and right front channels carry the “mood music” that comments constantly on the action of the episodes. The continual talk is properly placed in the center channel. Subtitles are used when people talk too softly to be understood or music is too loud at the numerous clubs they frequent.
There are 24 deleted scenes to choose from or the viewer can watch them all in one 40 ¾-minute chunk. They are offered in anamorphic widescreen.
The four major stars of the show are interviewed about the events of the season. Basically a rehash of everything we’ve already seen, fans of the show will enjoy having Lauren, Heidi, Audrina, and Whitney talking about what happened to them during the previous few months. Viewers can watch each interview individually or all at once in a segment that lasts 38 ½ minutes. The interviews are in nonanamorphic widescreen.
Two commentaries are offered but not for entire shows. Instead, the producers have put together montages of memorable sequences from the season and let the girls comment. In the first commentary which lasts 26 ¾ minutes, Audrina, Whitney, and Lauren sit together and talk about what they’re seeing. Heidi is featured in a solo commentary of sequences which lasts 11 ½ minutes.
“Virtual Hills” directs the viewer to the website where one can create his own character that can interact with other fans who have created their own little world with the cyber characters from the show. The tutorial lasts 2 minutes.
“Fashion: The Life” is 8 segments from the MTV fashion designer series which can be watched separately or together for 46 ½ minutes.
The Hills is MTV’s highest rated program, and it leads all shows in the target women aged 12-34 ratings group. Obviously I am not the target audience for the show, but for those who are, this third season set will offer you lots of extras about the people whose lives you love following. Enjoy!