How Blogs Changed TV: For Your Consideration, 'The Hills'
by Stephanie Earp, posted Jul 20th 2010 11:32PM
'The Hills' is over and for fans of the show, it's a time of sadness. A time when they feel they are saying good-bye to old friends, sort of like those bittersweet days before you go off on a fake trip to Europe. Of course, they'll see each other again -- on shows like 'The City', 'The Audrina Show' and the rumored Brody Jenner spin-off. But it's not the fans that interest me right now, it's the rest of us. Those of us who saw nary a one of the 102 episodes of the MTV show, and yet could easily pick a dozen of these kids out of a line-up.
I am determined to answer that most curmudgeonly of questions: Why are these people famous? Why, without aid of Google or imdb.com, can I picture quite clearly Lo Bosworth, Lauren Conrad, Kristin Cavallari, Brody Jenner, Heidi Montag, Spencer Pratt, Audrina Patridge and Whitney Port?I couldn't have stumbled on the show accidentally -- I don't get MTV. To put it in perspective, here's another show I don't watch: 'Chuck.' I can't picture or name anyone from that show. Try it yourself -- but it's got to be a show made up mostly of unknowns. 'Desperate Housewives' doesn't count.
It seems to me that 'The Hills' -- or to be more accurate, its predecessor 'Laguna Beach' -- debuted at a time when media was changing drastically. About three years earlier, LiveJournal and Blogger debuted, making it incredibly easy for anyone to take to the internet and start 'blogging,' a word that was about six months old at the time. When 'Laguna Beach' aired, the blogosphere had been born, and it included gossip and entertainment sites like Perez Hilton, Pink is the New Blog, and Go Fug Yourself. It was on sites like these that LC, Lo and Kristin first got coverage, alongside other other non-actor celebs, like the then-ubiquitous Paris Hilton.
Thus began the time of terror for traditional media outlets like magazines and newspapers. Bloggers were scooping print by weeks, offering it all up for free -- with a sense of humor -- and to boot, they were writing about people the traditional media would never have covered. Reality TV? The Disney Channel? MTV?
The smart mags made room for the new breed of celebrity and prospered. The growth of online gossip actually seemed to fuel sales of printed gossip magazines, with several new titles entering the fold. A decade on, magazines like 'OK' and 'Twist' are still growing. Which means there are more pages to fill, more stories to write, and more celebrity drama to chronicle.
While the tabs made 'Brangelina' a household word, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie reserved their interviews for haute publications like 'Vanity Fair' and had a nasty tendency to sue when the tabs made up stories about them. Enter Heidi and Spencer, the anti-Brangelina in so many ways. Where Brad and Angie were romantic, cold and distant, 'Speidi' was crass, commercial, and available to attend the opening of an envelope. Unlike actors, who prefer to speak about their work rather than their private lives, reality stars who want coverage must talk about their private lives, since it is their work. And boy do Heidi and Spencer want coverage.
And so, whether you watched the show or not, a quick perusal of the magazines at the supermarket checkout or a trip through your daily blogroll could keep you up-to-date on the accomplishments of these new stars. Lauren got a fashion line, Heidi got plastic surgery and most recently Brody Jenner got a freshly-single Avril Lavigne.
Some coverage of 'The Hills' finale called it the end of an era, but it's more of a beginning. The past decade has seen a deep shift in media of all kinds and the rate of change has only accelerated. The role of gossip coverage in creating the stars of 'The Hills' makes me wonder if the next step is removing the television show from the equation altogether. If it's just a jumping-off point, a way of entering the public life, is it even necessary?
The 'M' in 'MTV' has become redundant over the years... could the new media make 'TV' disappear too?
Thoughts, dear readers?