The Hills Returns: The New York Times Preview

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The pseudo-improvised reality series The Hills, as it plays out beyond MTV, on celebrity gossip covers and in nearly every other byway of the modern media, is above all a vicious decimator of hope. It mocks our hearts; it plays with our allegiances, and we welcome the abuse, the New York Times observes.

In its third season, which picks up tonight at 10 p.m., The Hills, set among young aspirants of the Hollywood Hills' music and fashion industries, has continued to track the emotional warfare between former best friends Lauren Conrad and Heidi Montag, while delving more deeply into the twistedness and superficiality of the boyfriends who ensure that the tortured rivals treat each other like Crips and Bloods.

A Trophy Wife

Lauren Conrad and the rest of The Hills cast return at 10 p.m. tonight.

Defying our expectations, Heidi has emerged as a kind of feminist hero this season, climbing her way to a bigger position at the event-planning company where she orchestrates Nascar parties and the like, and refusing to acquiesce to the demands of her fiancé, Spencer Pratt, that she get herself home on time.

Her career-mindedness sets their relationship off course.

The 21-year-old Heidi Montag identifies the problem with no name: a boyfriend who sits around an apartment decorated to look like an '80s video arcade while trying to deny Heidi a real wedding with the glory of registering.

As you recall, her groundswell of self-assertion begins when Spencer Pratt insisted on eloping, prompting Heidi to, like, boldly declare:

"This isn't, like, Spencer's relationship and you decide what we do."

The full-on joyous Oprah-fication of Heidi Montag culminates with the show's return and gives The Hills a new momentum.

After taking a break from Spencer at her parents' modest house in Crested Butte, Colo., Heidi returns to L.A. to kick him out and chastises him for taking her flat-screen TV with him. How proud Gloria Allred would be.

And oh, what Lauren Conrad, her vulnerability hidden beneath her baroque moralism, could learn from Heidi right now.

Lauren is pining for Brody Jenner, her ex-boyfriend who, she has confessed more than once, never makes her feel good enough.

The theme of ambition permeates the new season, although it detracts not at all from the show's sense that there's no such thing as postadolescence: you're a teenager until you start having biopsies and paying a mortgage.

Lauren's friend and colleague Whitney Port, until now the best approximation of a Shakespearean mute that reality TV has ever produced, decides she wants more out of life than serving as an assistant at Teen Vogue.

She wants to be a stylist, and her boss, Lisa Love, helps her get a new job.

By showing one short job interview Whit has with the owner of a fashion publicity company called People's Revolution, The Hills captures the delusional self-seriousness of the fashion business better than any episode of Project Runway.

"You'll give up your life," the owner tells her.

Of course Whitney, Lauren and Heidi already have, and millions of Americans have shown their gratitude many times over.

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Lauren Conrad Biography

Lauren Conrad and New Boyfriend?
A Laguna Beach alumna, the gorgeous Lauren Conrad has gone on to be the star of its spin-off series, The Hills. Back in her high school... More »
Laguna Beach, California
Full Name
Lauren Katherine Conrad

Lauren Conrad Quotes

Someone with a great sense of humor is the most important thing, and someone who really supports me in everything I do... I don’t ever want to make an excuse for trying to work hard and having my own life. I love a guy that supports that and loves that.

Lauren Conrad [on men]

I don’t feel girly without long hair! There is something so sexy about having long blonde hair. It’s so feminine.

Lauren Conrad