The Hills: Steven Lippman
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June 01, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT

”The Hills”: Lauren moves from Laguna to L.A.

Look, I’ll admit it: I’m a hardcore Kristin Cavallari fan. So while I was interested to see what The Hills, this Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County spin-off, would be like, I couldn’t imagine being hooked on a show built entirely around that big yawn of a doormat known alternately as Lauren and ”L.C.” (proof that a self-given nickname doesn’t stick unless you’re Diddy, which is why she will heretofore be known as only Lauren in this space).

But these producers didn’t make a show about self-involved rich brats into a hit with more buzz than its once-sensational inspiration (that’s you, The O.C.) by being dumb. Accordingly, as Kristin’s former outmatched rival went off to Los Angeles to live, go to fashion school, and snag an internship, they paired her with the most perfect foil ever in roommate Heidi — who’s basically Kristin without the heart.

I’m psyched about Heidi, who’s clearly built to constantly mess with poor little Lauren’s perfectly highlighted head. I’m also psyched (vicariously) about this ridiculous apartment complex they’re living in, the Hillside Villas, in West Hollywood. Not only does it have an insanely sparkly pool with wooden, cloth-cushioned deck chairs to lounge in; it’s also got spiral staircases inside the apartment units, leading up to lofts. Gosh, it’s almost like watching my own early-20s life in Southern California, if you added a layer of algae to the pool, made it half as big, replaced those chaise longues with mildewy plastic chairs, eliminated the staircase and loft, and added a crazy stalker neighbor. But we’re not here to exorcise my bitterness. All experiences are valuable in their own special way.

And, hey: Things aren’t always, like, totally easy for Lauren. For instance, she gets a call asking her to come to her internship interview at Teen Vogue right away instead of in a few hours, so she has to get dressed really fast and go right there to meet with the scary editor lady with the brilliant name of Lisa Love. She is so scary that she, omigod, takes an important-sounding phone call right at the beginning of the interview, leaving Lauren to stare helplessly at a frilly pink dress hanging nearby for a good five to eight seconds, possibly more. And she asks tough questions, like ”Why Teen Vogue?” and ”Can you write?”

That leaves Lauren no choice afterward but to unwind with a relaxing dinner at Geisha House with a group of new pals, who are astounded to learn that one of the guys among them works ”like 40 hours a week!” But Lauren is sensible. She is wise. She knows how the world works. She has risen above her Laguna Beach upbringing to say things like, ”Some people do work for a living.”

We are further regaled with evidence of Lauren’s drive to succeed in the workaday world when she and Heidi meet with Susan the Scary Counselor Lady (L.A., you see, is full of scary ladies who don’t take cute blond girls’ crap) at their chosen school, the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. Susan, we learn, is proud of Lauren. Lauren has chosen product development as her major. She is going after that Teen Vogue internship. She is saying things like, ”When I get an opportunity like this, I will devote anything to it.” This is why I am bored with Lauren on her own. (If you really want to get into it, I am bored with Lauren because she is just like I was at 19. But again, this is not about my demons.)

And then Heidi shows up to demonstrate why I will love her. Susan wants to know: Has she looked at the curriculum? No, she has not. Has she thought about what she’d like to do with her life? ”I wanna do PR. I wanna be the fun party PR-type of girl in L.A.” Heidi, you know, you have to pay your dues before you get to plan parties and such, Susan explains. ”Really? It’s not like right away? You don’t get to do that?” Would she consider maybe working retail to get some fashion industry experience? ”You mean actually work the floor and stuff? I don’t think I can do that.” Has she considered any other majors? Nope. Is she sure she’s at the right school? Yes. Yes, she is.

Our little overachiever Lauren, however, is about to get her due reward: A (rather begrudging, if my radar isn’t completely off here) job offer from one Blaine, an editor who’s apparently in charge of unqualified interns at Teen Vogue. Phew, that was a close one. I almost thought we were going to watch an entire show about Lauren and Heidi sitting by the incredibly clean pool all day.

Hence we meet Whitney, the other bland, blond intern, on the first day on the job. And, I swear to God, Blaine actually brings over a fashion editor named Olivia to fix the gals before they go in to see the all-powerful Lisa Love. ”Obviously the Teen Vogue style is all about the mix,” she says. (I mean, obviously.) And poor Whitney, apparently, is less about the mix than Lauren: All Lauren gets is a little jacket to throw over her clothes with little further critique; Whitney’s belt must be removed and replaced on the spot, and Olivia must tell Whitney, while she rejiggers her prairie-skirt ensemble, ”It’s a little too matchy-matchy. We’ve kind of done the Western look.”

They are then brought before Lisa Love, who tells them sternly, ”Whatever you do in the outside world reflects on us.” Which is either the lecture of an exceptionally intern-conscious top editor or a set-up for a future plot point. You make the call.

The gals are then sent to partake of far more appropriate intern activities — namely, licking a bunch of envelopes for a party, to which the likes of, omigod, Josh Duhamel and Gavin DeGraw are invited. During which Lauren astutely remarks, ”Did you ever see that episode of, like, Seinfeld, where that bald guy’s fiancée, like, died because she licked all those envelopes?” But they live on, thank God, because Blaine eventually shows up to tell them they totally get to work the party! (I’m starting to feel incredibly sad for Blaine and his job situation now.)

Back at home Heidi immediately asks Lauren to get her and her friends into said party. Cut, natch, to Lisa Love telling Lauren and Whit, ”If I see you sitting, hanging out, you’ll be gone.” And cut to Heidi calling Lauren on her cell, saying she’s outside with some friends, and could Lauren please please please ”just sneak us in”? What do we think this leads to? Yes, kids, Lauren sitting, hanging out with Heidi and company in the very VIP section she is supposed to be protecting from interlopers.

And our first cliff-hanger of the season: Lisa Love pulling Lauren aside to say, ”No one should be sitting here yet. We’ll talk about it on Monday.”

Will our darling little Lauren keep her job? Will Heidi’s total lack of regard for other human beings ruin everything Lauren has worked so hard for? (She’s worked so hard, hasn’t she?) Why do I care so much?

I’m not sure why, but I’m willing to stick around another week to figure it out. And this is exactly how my Laguna Beach obsession began.

What do you think? Is this a worthy successor to Laguna Beach? Was the set-up a little too contrived? And are you going to watch next week?

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