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The Simple Life

Did anyone else watch The Simple Life? I just got done with it, and it wasn’t half bad. There’s debate about how real it actually is (did Paris really not know what Wal-Mart was or was she just kidding around?), but I don’t think that actually matters too much. Either way Paris and Nicole will do whatever they want, setting up a “conflict” between the girls and the family: those who can and will do anything without fear of consequences vs. people who can’t because of the consequences. Class clash, culture clash. Reminds me a bit of Frontier House and the Clune’s difficulty in honestly dealing with the situation into which they were placed (and had agreed upon).

Reader comments

dowingbaDec 02, 2003 at 10:36PM

My bet is that she was told to pretend she didn't know what Wal Mart is because the whole point of the show is for rich people to look like idiots so poor people can laugh at them.

Andy BaioDec 02, 2003 at 11:05PM

According to the NYT, "Ms. Hilton admitted to a gathering of incredulous television writers last summer that she had actually heard of the chain but thought it would be funny for the show if she acted as if she had not. It is."

barlowDec 02, 2003 at 11:43PM

I'm not an FBI profiler, but I do know that people tend to blink if they're not trained liars, and she blinked both times that she professed ignorance of Wal-Mart.

My real question, following the show, is whether the family is now watching the airing of the episodes. I'm sure there is a teenage boy in Arkansas smiling tonight.

AllisonDec 02, 2003 at 11:46PM

While the Clunes were a painful family to watch on Frontier House (and in many Paris-type ways an epitome of America today in many aspects), just as painful was Karen Glenn. She was so rigid and so self-righteous than within two episodes the only family that you felt truly understood the assignment was the Brooks.

RobDec 03, 2003 at 12:21AM

i don't know what show has the potential to make me more angry - simple life or rich girls. i didn't watch simple life and have only seen moments of rich girls and that was enough to cause me to blackout from rage. the fact that mtv puts that crap on is hysterically sad. as for simple life, at least paris hilton will be made a fool of (i hope). also, it helps that she is alright to look at.

Justin BlantonDec 03, 2003 at 12:32AM

Just saw it out here on the west coast -- as far as entertainment goes, this is going to be a great show (perhaps that's a sad commentary on the state of our culture, but either way, the show is going to be funny as shit).

JoseDec 03, 2003 at 1:08AM

I think that teenage boy will be thinking about what he COULD have done to get some of that threesome action for the rest of his life.
I will say it is a lot funnier than I thought it would be.

Patrick H. LaukeDec 03, 2003 at 6:24AM

more junkfood tv crap for the voyeuristic, easily pleased masses. over here in the UK this whole reality tv stuff is slowly becoming a damned joke. everybody will have their 15 minutes of fame ? heck, at the rate this is all going everybody will have their own spin-off series running for two or three seasons...
i for one don't need to see people behaving like morons on tv just to get the cozy feeling of "it's not that bad, there *are* people dumber than me"

KateDec 03, 2003 at 9:23AM

Lucky you, Patrick. Here in the voyeuristic USA, we are easily pleased by the damned jokiness of this reality tv stuff. It's downright awful! Then again, we also tend to observe the target of our commentary before rushing to a conclusion. Or maybe that's just little old international me.

Doug BakerDec 03, 2003 at 10:38AM

Just a reflection on the Clunes (Frontier House) vs. Hilton/Richie. The Clunes actually did have to deal with consequences, and in one way, I found their survival (and comfort) tactics likely to reflect how many people on the Frontier lived during times of want and deprivation. While the Clunes could be self-righteous, they did come to the aid of their neighbors and did not steal from them or belittle them. On the first viewing, I didn't like the Clunes that much, but after seeing the show a couple more times, I would say that I respect what they went through and the reasons for why they did what they did.

webDec 03, 2003 at 10:54AM

I hate reality tc myself, it being so fake and all. Maybe the joke is on the family/town on this one. My favorite part is when they cut to Grandma' and Grandpa' and the grandmother was talking about thier clothes (or lack there of). The old guy made this face, and grinned ear to ear such like a dirtbag, it was hysterical.

Yeah that kid has to be kicking himself over missing that 3some. Althought that was only the first episode I wonder where it will go to there.

Reality TV is like a Train wreck. You cant help but stare, but it sucks so much.

Justin GoodlettDec 03, 2003 at 10:56AM

I agree that this show is going to be very entertaining. I had had high hopes for it upon first learning of it, and after the first episode last night my hopes dwindled just a bit. But nonetheless, I can't wait for the next episode. I know, I know...that is pretty sad.

KeithDec 03, 2003 at 11:15AM

If it wasn't for that threesome line at the end I'd probably thought it was pretty lame. That had me giggling all through 24 though.

KimberlyDec 03, 2003 at 11:45AM

I kept thinking about the kid in the preview that she ends up macking on. I have horrible visions of him moving to Hollywood where his entire persona is "that guy that Paris Hilton macked on", and then failing miserably (after some memoriable modeling jobs?), disillusioned and used.

I thought it was interesting that this show is produced by MTV's Mary Ellis whatshername. It definitely has a different feel from other network reality shows, and I don't doubt that much of it is staged and carefully edited.

Stephen S. PowerDec 03, 2003 at 12:26PM

Poor Nicole. One review described her as the more perky and better mannered of the two, which warmed me to her until I realized that she is perky and better mannered only because is the ugly friend whose presence makes Paris prettier and, therefore, she has to try harder.

Nicole's the one who suggests the threesome, trying to get some action, because otherwise the kid would go after just Paris. She pushes the cart while Paris does the actual shopping. She claims not to drive, although she does have a working knowledge of automatic transmissions. She got the short bench on the plane.

I wonder how this dynamic will be further revealed.

BobDec 03, 2003 at 12:38PM

I could have done without the road kill close up myself. We were eating dinner while watching. Blah.

Stefan JonesDec 03, 2003 at 12:44PM

I dunno. After reading a few pieces about this show, I think my time might be more productively spent playing Civilization III or Star Fox Adventures or something.

tedDec 03, 2003 at 1:31PM

I personally thought it was pretty boring. Not compelling at all, I won't be watching next week or beyond.

LeaDec 03, 2003 at 1:46PM

Yes, that is interesting about Nicole. Even on the website, there's this long list of things about Paris, and then a paragraph or so for Nicole. Ah, whatever.

steve rasmussenDec 03, 2003 at 2:33PM

God, British people are boring.

trDec 03, 2003 at 3:38PM

The whole show is fake. They were told to lose the jobs and so on. Really, was there any doubt?

j.t.Dec 03, 2003 at 3:52PM

Wait a minute. People actually find Paris Hilton attractive?

GeeDec 03, 2003 at 5:16PM

(Seems as good a forum as any to get this off my chest.)

At the end of the first season of "The Real World," I puzzled over why I found the show so disappointing -- particularly given my strong voyeuristic prurience that one would think be easy prey for the producers. I was already a fan of pioneer reality TV shows such as "Cops," one would think these kids, what with their youth and all, would be a group even more sympathetic to my target demographic.

And indeed they are, for the most part. But when the genre's Second Renaissance began with "Survivor", I realized what my problem is. The type of people who seek to be on these shows are not interesting to me. For the record, I'm not much of a celebrity follower in general: I may adore both Maggie and Jake Gyllenhall on-screen, but the characteristics that make them good actors are probably the same characteristics that would make me want to avoid them at a party, thus I have scant interest in what they do off the clock[1].

For me, the venture capitalists in the fame economy are downright tiresome in general and annoying at worst -- and not the kind of "I'm gonna' watch 'til the get what's coming" marketable kind of annoyance, but the "guess I'll see what's on Adult Swim" channel-changing kind of annoyance. I like my reality television, er, *real*. Draftees instead of volunteers.

"The Simple Life" of course contains one of the most extreme examples of this: up until the past few weeks, I only knew the name Paris Hilton tangentially, and associated it with "a rich socialite targeted for upskirt shots." In the past few weeks she's been inescaple, and I gather this is solely due to her brazen ambition to be in just this sort of spotlight[2]. Never mind that said famewhoring is, as far as I can tell, the only reason for her notoreity.

Well, that and the fact that she's rich. Which leads to my other problem with "The Simple Life": it's "dramatic" fulcrums (fulcra?) are two even-hotter buttons for me: entitlement issues and class balkanization. Perhaps my humor is diminished because of this, but I'm just can't find a position comfortable enough to be entertained by a show that relies on rich folks being appalled by less wealthy (or downright poor) folks. Or hypothetically vice versa, though I can't really think of an example of the latter.

Though a friend of mine made a point that ostensibly the slant of the show is to show just how ridiculous the privileged class looks when having to cope with the situations faced by the working class, I don't buy it. The audience response is more along the lines of "well, I surely would not be that stupid if *I was born into that much wealth.*"

At any rate, I did give the show a shot, per my friend's insistence last night. I like to think I kept an open mind, but I was gone at the first commercial break.

1. This presumption is based on broad empirical evidence involving other thespians and actors. It is possible Maggie or Jake could be an exception; I will find out next time I meet them at a party. The same goes for any other thespians reading this thread: no offense meant, and I'm sure you'd find my sensibility unappealing as well.

2. I mean, isn't it a little odd that nobody even raises an eyebrow at the oft-leveled suggestion that her illegally circulated "sex video" may have been a deliberately released stunt? Ordinarily one would think such an accusation cynical and insensitive (not to mention perhaps a bit misogynistic.) But in this case it barely registers a collective shrug.

BrianDec 03, 2003 at 6:24PM

David Foster Wallace, is that you?

tj hookerDec 03, 2003 at 6:58PM

Haven't seen it. But it's funny how TV shows are designed with the goal of humiliating the rich/beautiful/fortunate. It's not malice; it's more complicated. Like those Barbara Walters specials: Barbara shows us the beautiful star's home, then she makes them cry. We want them successful, then degraded, and degraded to a degree that allows us to pity them. (Why? So they are more "like us"? Or less?) Of course, nowadays, it's getting harder and harder to degrade them adequately.

TomDec 03, 2003 at 9:04PM

I sympathize with the both of them. Sure they're rich girls from L.A., but the whole city vs. rural topic isn't farfetched at all. I would never, ever be able to leave NYC and live on a farm. Milk the cows, slaughter the chickens and collect the eggs? No thanks - I'll just drive to Stop & Shop.

mickeyDec 03, 2003 at 10:07PM

They should just show a censored version of the Paris Hilton sex tape. Now that's what I call ratings!

CharlesDec 03, 2003 at 11:11PM

About the Clunes on The Frontier House - I thought they were much more honest in the end Glenn's and their sickening competitiveness. Paris and Nicole - we'll have to see. But they fail in the basic manners category... how bout a little human understanding and humility, and respect? I have a hard time believing they would act quite so audaciously without the cameras.

nickDec 04, 2003 at 2:35AM

Of course it's fake: humiliate some scapegoat richgirls on TV so that you forget that the lives of the rich basically humiliate everybody else's every single day. Bread and circuses, people.

This thread is closed to new comments. Thanks to everyone who responded.