Reality TV: can’t live with it, can’t bring my lazy self to change the channel when it comes on. At least, that’s the attitude I used to have, though lately this has grown into a full, outright appreciation for the genre. I genuinely like the stuff, and a lot of it has more cultural worth than most give it credit for. That being said, it’s obvious that not all “reality” is created equal, which is why it may seem strange that I sought out the first episode of new series “Audrina” on VH1.
Before I get into defending myself, some background about the show and its star. Audrina Patridge is famous for being famous. She’s an It Girl, a descendant from the lineage of Edie Sedgwick and Paris Hilton, and with her new reality show, she’s milking that status for all it’s worth.
“Audrina” is different from Patridge’s former reality show appearances, “The Hills” and “Dancing With The Stars,” because it’s all about Audrina (get the title?) and her family. The producers are obviously going for a “Keeping Up With The Kardashians” type of show here, down to the details: It’s a family with an overbearing mother, three clashing sisters, a harmless brother and a meek father, living in Southern California and generally being a collective pain in the ass.
Here’s why I was so excited to watch the show: I love “The Hills.” Although I was late to the party, as soon as I gave the show a chance, I was hooked, because it’s real life. Not real life in the sense that what they filmed are things that literally happened — it’s obviously scripted and hyped up. But it is real life in the sense that it has some of the most realistic plot lines on television, especially in the first few seasons.
It’s a story you know — people hang out with their friends, some stupid drama or misunderstanding breaks out, and then a whole week is spent hanging out, having lunch and overanalyzing the situation to death. How many times have you had to sit and listen to the same complaints and observations from the same bitter people, and then have to respond by pretending these were highly original insights?
Also, remember when LC abruptly left the show with hardly a goodbye, and Kristin came in to take her place, and nobody on the show even commented about how weird that was? Some saw that as highly unrealistic, but when you’re a young adult, people lasso in and out of your life with surprising flexibility. It all depends on schedules and proximity and late-night intoxicated bonding or fighting sessions, so for some people, every quarter brings a new cast of characters.
“The Hills” just takes all of that to the extreme, and the results were hilarious and addictive. The writers for that show got it: people hold grudges, act stupid, make up and generally don’t learn anything from their mistakes, although they claim to. It’s real life.
“Audrina” looks like it could be building on that theme, though this time with a focus on family dynamics instead of a group of twenty-something friends. There are some obvious gender implications that come with that. Audrina’s mom and sister are shown as raving lunatics, quick to jump to conclusions and hurl insults. Meanwhile, the dad serves as a sort of hands-off voice of supposed reason, and the brother is just a friendly guy who wants to have a good time.
What I liked about “The Hills” was that everyone was basically shown in the same unfavorable light. Although it was problematic to have a show from a girl’s point of view being mostly about boy troubles and fighting with her friends, at least those boys she stressed over were equally shallow and clueless. So yes, Heidi is a terrible role model for young women, but Spencer isn’t some sort of scholar himself. The point was that these people were the worst parts of ourselves.
Hopefully “Audrina” will develop to show both genders on an equally low plane. I can get past awkward bikini photo shoots that clearly objectify Audrina, but only if her boyfriend gets into some sort of crazy voodoo crystals, as Spencer famously did. Then it can be equal opportunity idiocy.
Probably the most interesting part of Audrina so far isn’t the plot, but the way it’s filmed. Confessionals are commonplace on reality shows (though they never were a part of “The Hills”), but what’s intriguing about this new program is that it shows a wide shot of the studio room where they are filmed, before focusing in on a cast member’s face. The same studio, with a white screen in the background, is also where the opening credits takes place, which are clearly and openly posed.
These things serve as constant reminders that the show is a production, and not in any way a straightforward representation of what happens. It’s picking up where the famous finale of “The Hills” took off, when the camera pulled back to reveal that they were actually on a staged version of a Hollywood street.
Truth be told, “Audrina” just isn’t as entertaining as “The Hills,” and that’s a shame. But, hey, given the fact that I apparently have nothing better to do than watch and write about these shows, maybe “Audrina” being boring just makes it even more like real life than anything else.