Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Simple Life

Listen closely, and it's possible to actually hear Paris Hilton's ill-deserved fame dissipating during the Fox TV series The Simple Life, a noxious would-be reality comedy that inverts the Beverly Hillbillies formula by airlifting grating "celebutantes" Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie to working-class Arkansas for 28 days of the crazy, surreal survival test that the majority of Americans call everyday life. In true Warhol-esque fashion, hotel heiress Hilton is famous largely for being famous, while Richie is semi-famous for being semi-famous. In a typical episode of The Simple Life, the perpetually giggly, undynamic duo is assigned a working-class job that they treat with contempt and fail at spectacularly, leading them to purposely mess up further, much to their own oblivious delight and their temporary employers' horror. The Simple Life seems designed at least partially as an attempt to rehabilitate its stars' images, but it fails spectacularly. Rather than revealing the sweet, smart girls behind the tabloid monsters, The Simple Life confirms that Richie and Hilton are every bit as spoiled, vacant, superficial, mean, manipulative, dim-witted, materialistic, naïve, and boy-crazy as their reputations suggest. Not only is Hilton perplexed by troughs and wells, but she's also clueless about such obscure concepts as generic products, soup kitchens, and Wal-Mart. By inquiring blankly about the nature of each, Hilton single-handedly destroys the fiction that there's no such thing as a stupid question. Richie, meanwhile, blithely asks her visibly insulted foster family if they hang out at Wal-Mart. Hilton and Richie emerge from The Simple Life with their bad reputations intact, but the show is hardly a celebration of the working class, either. Deliverance-style music, zany sound effects, and narration that lay on the homespun country shtick extra-thick all seem designed to create the impression that the show is run by Ma and Pa Kettle; meanwhile, the stars' bosses largely come off as joyless scolds. Hilton and Richie's adoptive family comes off slightly better, particularly the stoic patriarch deluded enough to take his role as the girls' surrogate father seriously. Seemingly unaware that his real role on the show is to play the part of the comic foil, he strives to lead the sentient mannequins placed in his care on the path to honest labor, decent values, and good citizenship, a doomed task if ever there was one. The Simple Life would like to be a guilty pleasure, but like The Anna Nicole Show and Celebrities Uncensored, it's just guilty.