The modern reality TV and influencer landscapes owe much to The Hills, a prescient series about a group of rich and beautiful young frenemies in Los Angeles. A spinoff of the wildly popular Laguna Beach, which was itself a riff on scripted teen soap The O.C., it starred Lauren “LC” Conrad, a student and aspiring fashion-industry player whose nascent career, romances, and friendships fueled most of the supposedly unscripted show’s extremely stage-managed storylines. While LC had always made an aspirational everywoman, the show amped up its drama in season 2 with the arrival of Spencer Pratt, the crew’s towheaded villain and the source of major tensions between Conrad and bestie Heidi Montag. As the duo dubbed Speidi got serious, the narrative of the rift shaped the remainder of the show’s six-season run.
Pratt’s gleeful embrace of his villain edit paved the way for contemporary reality stars like Selling Sunset’s resident troublemaker, Christine Quinn. And amid all the cast members’ confrontations, The Hills refined the archetype of the microcelebrity influencer. Conrad and her costars’ ubiquity on television gave them enough clout to be treated as VIPs, even in the glitzy city of L.A. From guaranteeing them entry to their now-defunct nightclub of choice, Les Deux, to landing them in the pages of gossip mags, this was the kind of status each of the show’s college-aged characters, many of whom reunited for 2019’s The Hills: New Beginnings, would use to hold onto their fame for years to come. —Cady Lang
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