When the sudden news was revealed that Lauren’s new reality show, Lauren Conrad: Fiercely Fashionable, was not picked up for MTV’s new lineup, Hills fans everywhere gasped. It was Laguna Beach and then theHills that brought us inside the homes and lives of L.A.’s reality 20-something elite. Back then, the rich and prestigious lifestyles of these individuals who seemed to have it all – money, parties, class, and each other – were enough to captivate us and hold our attention. MTV was content to entertain us with shows that left us wanting to be just like Lauren, Kristin, and the rest of their California buddies.
However in recent years, the once successful formula of aspirational programming has not been enough to keep our interest. Perhaps it is too aspirational, or maybe not aspirational enough since the cast was seemingly handed extraordinary things on a silver platter, or perhaps it was the fake story lines that turned us off.
Shows like Jersey Shore and Teen Mom have skyrocketed in the ratings due to its provocative and downright outrageous nature. People watch these shows because A) it would probably never happen in their own lives and B) it’s just so much fun to mock these hapless individuals who exploit their environment for a quick buck.
Even the villans of theHills and theCity, Spencer, Heidi, and Olivia, would look quite angelic compared to Snooki, who got so drunk in a recent episode that she could not figure out where the beach was even though she was standing right on it. In another episode, Sammi Sweetheart punched boyfriend Ronnie hard in the face after finding out that he was on good terms again with her enemy J-Woww. The closest Whitney ever got to laying a good one on Olivia was to call her a “b*tch”.
Given that Jersey Shore and Teen Mom are now the breadwinners for the MTV family, it is likely that they did not want to pay Lauren more money than what she was making on theHills. We can’t see her accepting the same salary when she has been a part of this business since high school. This put MTV in a tight corner (they cited financial difference as a reason the show was canceled) and forced them to gauge how successful her show could be with today’s audience.
So, how does MTV calculate their equation for a successful show? With the new MTV shows there’s one gigantic overlaying factor: these shows are deeply rooted in reality. Not the kind of reality that is scripted with retakes, planned meetings, and fake fights. The kind of reality that brings about punches, sloppy hook-ups, babies who are sick, and the mothers who can’t take care of them. Simply put, people today want to watch what other people’s personal lives are like, perhaps to escape from their own.
From the start, Lauren said that LC:FF would be about her latest fashion line. None of her close friends or Kyle would be featured. While MTV said that this would be too high-brow for its audience and Lauren claimed that they felt their viewers were not savvy enough, in the end, it really does look like it was the “personal” bit that shifted the final decision to keep her show out of the lineup. Another possible factor is that Tony Disanto and Liz Gately left the network. Both were instrumental in the creation of theHills. While they were still at MTV when Lauren signed on, they had already left by the time the pilot was produced. They likely would have fought a little harder for Lauren and her refusal to show anything personal.
The new MTV did not. After all, they already tried the show with a character seeking a fashion career and keeping her personal life off camera with Whitney’s spinoff, theCity. Yet it was not a winning mix and the show eventually got cancelled. It’s obvious that MTV didn’t think Whitney was the cause of the failure, but the formula of the show. It looks like they didn’t even Lauren was a powerful enough force to carry a show like this.
Indeed, we’re not sure anyone could. Lauren started out on TV as an unknown high school student. Now she’s a bona fide celebrity. Every celebrity who has a reality show shows some of their personal life. For Lauren, she showed her personal life in the most provocative way on theHills, and now she seems scared to show even a little bit, even if in a less invasive way.