Once upon a time, a pretty Laguna Beach girl agreed to let MTV film her life. Now, she's a millionaire mini-mogul whose world as a celebrity bears little resemblance to what TV viewers see. Still, fans can't get enough
Lauren Conrad

The Kress, a four-story Asian-inspired L.A. club, has barely been open one week, but tonight it's hosting the nightclub equivalent of a meeting with the Pope — that is, a visit from the cast and crew of MTV's reality hit The Hills. With stars Lauren Conrad and Audrina Patridge due to arrive at 8:30 p.m. for their standard videotaped girl talk over cocktails, the crew is busy prepping the space for the cameras. Two seats at the corner of the bar are reserved, and a production assistant laps around the room handing out forms asking bystanders to agree to appear on camera. If they don't, production will ask them to move, or shoot around them. Most comply easily, unimpressed by the fact that MTV's highest-rated series will be shooting a scene mere feet from their plates of lobster sashimi and beef carpaccio. Clearly, they don't know that roommates Lauren and Audrina are having major tension at home, and this could be, like, a totally important conversation.

Finally, Lauren and Audrina coast into the restaurant and take their seats at the bar. No direction. No rehearsals. They just start talking. Upstairs, the director and four producers, including creator and executive producer Adam DiVello, huddle around three portable monitors. Lauren and Audrina segue into a conversation about tomorrow's barbecue at the house of Lauren's ex-boyfriend Doug. Will it be awkward, Audrina wonders, since Doug recently went on a date with Lauren's friend Stephanie? Lauren admits, "Tomorrow, I'm gonna need to drink." DiVello, catching a shot of Lauren laughing that he thinks will work well for this season's updated opening credits montage, runs over to the story editor to have him jot down the time code. When the girls prepare to depart, the director sends one of the cameras across the street to capture them leaving. Strolling down the boulevard, Lauren, who has been living her life on television for four years and knows how to end a scene, turns to Audrina and smiles. "Tomorrow," she says, "is gonna be a crazy, fun day."

It's a wrap. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you make one of the most addictive, hated, beloved, vapid, influential, successful shows on television.

NEXT PAGE: The Hills "is almost becoming like a novel at this point, like this generation's A Tale of Two Cities or Oliver Twist."