THG Take: Overexposure, Success Ruining The Hills

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To put it in terms the star herself might choose, Lauren Conrad is awesome even when she's not awesome.

The 21-year-old star of The Hills can be whiny, bratty and controlling of her friends, and makes bad decisions when it comes to guys.

All of these characteristics only humanize Lauren, though, and make it that much easier to identify with and adore such a fun-loving, beautiful sweet and imperfect California girl.

It's easy to see why she became the America's sweetheart of reality TV. And even easier to see why The Hills is becoming less like reality with each passing minute.

The show has officially become a victim of its own celebrity.

Rumors of a Lauren Conrad sex tape that surfaced months ago were the focus of the Season 3 premiere last night. Well aware of their own notoriety, Lauren and friends went to absurd lengths to refute the existence of said video and condemn those responsible for the rumor.

The high drama of the evening was a Lauren's spat with Heidi Montag regarding the sex tape, which LC insists is a fabrication and a rumor started out of hatred.

Ever go to the celebrity news site known as TMZ.com? If so, you probably saw video and read accounts of this argument back in April, when it actually took place.

For their part, Heidi and her boyfriend, Spencer Pratt, got engaged on last night's show - another series of events that would have been at least semi-interesting had it not already been played out in the celebrity gossip rags in May.

Moreover, Spencer and Heidi are acting oh-so-cute and, like, OMG, so in love - wildly overcompensating for - justifiably or not - being vilified on last season of The Hills.

Yes, Spencer Pratt is now a caricature of Spencer Pratt. Can it get worse?

Ironically, the most realistic figure on last night's episode had to be Brody Jenner - the stereotypical, laid-back playa trying to talk Spence out of gettin' hitched at age 23.

In other words, precisely how we imagine Brody Jenner acts in real life.

In short, with the exception of a few scenes (the mother-daughter heart-to-heart between LC and her mom, Kathy, and some sequences of Lauren at home and work), what was once a tremendous guilty pleasure of a reality show is now a complete joke, and unless MTV does a better job of muzzling its core group of stars, it will only continue to deteriorate.

This is not entirely avoidable, of course. Like any famous people, The Hills stars are likely to be photographed out and about. But it shouldn't be this bad.

Many public wars of words and blatant cries for attention are perpetrated by the stars themselves - and the network stands by and does nothing until it's too late.

The Hollywood Gossip has no problem with Lauren drinking too much at clubs, Audrina acting like a supportive (yet a little fake and uninteresting) pal, Heidi being a superficial brat, or Spencer thinking he's the $h!t when he's the biggest tool in Los Angeles County.

But take away the shred of believability The Hills retained in Season 2 and you're left with a whole lot of petulant crap. The past seasons were great because it was a humorous glimpse into how the other half lives. Now it's a poor man's 90210.

One suggestion? Give Whitney Port more screen time. Not only is she pretty and focused on her career at Teen Vogue, she's the only one of the lot not tarnished by overexposure. We'd suggest a Whitney spin-off (The Magazine? Blonde Ambition? The Port of L.A.?) but then again, MTV would probably ruin that, too.

Suckin' Face

In stark contrast to Heidi Montag (left), whose "love" has become such a common sight that its appeal is lost on The Hills, Whitney Port retains elements of mystery and charm.

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I actually enjoyed the season Premiere of The Hills. So many people I know have also been excited about the start of the new season. I and others do agree that Spencer and Heidi's relationship is too planned and rehearsed, but it's still a good show, and maybe the joke of their relationship makes for good entertainment.