Season 1 of 'The Simple Life'
Everett Collection

No reality show epitomized the cultural zeitgeist and values of the early aughts more than The Simple Life. Originally conceived as a comedy at Fox, the show riffed on the notoriously ditzy celebutante personas ascribed to socialites Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie, shamelessly enlisting them in ridiculous capers (like posting innuendos on a fast food billboard) as well as occasional reprehensible set pieces; a bit in which they spill ashes at a crematorium was revealed years later to have been staged. The first season, which found Hilton and Richie shipped out to rural Arkansas, was full of hilarious and cringe-worthy moments, including an infamous scene in which Hilton claimed not to know what Walmart was. Evoking both mirth and derision, the show fed the rampant casual misogyny of the early 2000s but also shaped reality TV influencer culture as we now know it, forging a connection between the small screen and the society pages that effectively positioned Hilton and Richie as the OG influencers. —Cady Lang

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