Clean and sober

The Hills , Shooting Sizemore , and more from The Apprentice: LA and I’m from Rolling Stone
By JAMES PARKER  |  January 23, 2007

THE HILLS: “Something keeps on not happening.

Slow week in Reality Land. Yes, there was the premiere of Season #2 of The Hills (MTV, Mondays, 10 pm), but what can you say about The Hills? It purports to be aimed at the teenage girl, but I’m almost certain that this outgrowth or “offshoot” of Laguna Beach was created with college professors in mind: it’s reality TV at the level of pure theory, a quintessence of abstraction.

Audrina works at Epic records, Whitney and sad-eyed L.C. work at Teen Vogue, Heidi works for an event planner called Brent Bolthouse. Their lives, surveilled by multiple camera crews and lit in waning tints of California gold, are not completely free of incident — they drive around LA, have dealings with boys, cry in each other’s laps, and so on — but to quote John Berryman, “Something keeps on not happening.” The crude familiar hand of the reality producer heatedly mashing up his plots and characters is not felt here. Great pains are taken not to be interesting, not to perturb this druglike state of listlessness and afterglow. Conversations are unfinished; sentences are unfinished; thoughts are unfinished. The girls, rotating like lilies, are mysteries to themselves. Smirks and snivels; Godardian blankness; a rhapsody of ennui. Four cameras hover entranced as Audrina checks her messages. Heidi has dinner with Spencer and asks him about Audrina: “Was she hitting on you?” “No, she was totally, like, friend vibe.”

Shooting Sizemore (VH1, Sundays, 10 pm) is a more traditional sort of reality non-event. Big Tom Sizemore, of Black Hawk Down, Saving Private Ryan, and Heat, is an addict. Oh what an addict he is: he’s sober now, but the show keeps cutting back to some Webcam footage he shot when he was high in 2003, in hissing black-and-white, with evilly curling meth fumes and Tom’s ravaged nostrils dilating into the lens. He looks youthful, fiery, dynamic, full of depraved intent.

His sobriety, unfortunately, is less enthralling: up in Canada to shoot a B-movie horror flick called Bottom Feeder, Tom pads stalely around the darkened hotel room in his socks, complaining. “I hate oatmeal. I despise it.” Sigh. “I lost my sunglasses.” His assistant Luree, a stocky woman with a hint of chainsaw in her voice, smokes almost as many cigarettes as he does. He also has a “sober companion” to help him stay straight, and Robert Downey Jr. leaving robotic loops of rehab speak on his agent’s answering machine: “I can totally relate to any new challenges he’s encountering and I’m very happy that he’s encountering this phase of development because it means that he’s growing and changing.” There’s some potential here (the whole Bottom Feeder angle is very good, as the director attempts to coax a coherent performance out of his imploded film star), but Tom himself, lumpy and prone to sobs, is just too glumly non-verbal to give the show a real core.

Over on The Apprentice: LA (NBC, Sundays, 9 pm), we were accorded a magnificent example of corporate gibberish, properly jargon-padded and carrying the requisite charge of passive aggression. It occurred when the disastrous Michelle, forced by Trump to be Project Manager, tried to get her truculent teammates to pull an all-nighter as they planned this week’s task: a Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous bus tour. “If there’s any way that you can figure out a way to rally,” said Michelle to Nicole, who refused to come out of her sleeping bag, “that would be incredible. We’re creating a process and we’re going to help one another fill in the holes.” Beautiful.

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