The colors pop and the stupidity glistens on MTV’s insanely watchable new reality soap The Hills, in which Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County star Lauren Conrad — hot, blond and appealingly neurotic — cruises up the coast to Los Angeles to bag an internship at Teen Vogue. The dangerous relationship waters that complemented all that orangey shop-and-surf teen vapidity on Laguna will now accessorize a career-girl story line that is already paying off huge in the guilty-pleasure department after only one episode: When Lauren’s suntanned slacker roommate Heidi interviews at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising — “I want to do PR” is the new “But what I really want to do is direct” — she emits unearned confidence like perfume, cheerily bragging about her discipline-free school life, desire to party for a living and honest disdain for work. It’s like deadpan sketch theater, awesome to behold. Later, much is made of the fact that Lauren is given the incredible responsibility of protecting a VIP-lounge space at Teen Vogue’s big Hollywood bash. She mustn’t sit, she mustn’t be seen carousing. She’s supposed to be pretty and guard the spot or she’ll lose her job. But doesn’t the fact that Lauren stars in her own hit MTV series make her a VIP too? Is this MTV’s idea of a philosophical celeb dilemma? But the real scene-stealer here, again, is cinematographer Hisham Abed, whose lush, saturated palette of artful vistas and shimmering close-ups — a Laguna holdover — is probably doing more for Southern California’s visual appeal than today’s movies. After Lauren gets a stomach-roiling call at the party from Heidi, saying she and some friends are outside and want her help crashing — which could threaten everything! — the blue/gray light from Lauren’s mobile washes over her whole face like a mirror to her newly agitated state. Hisham, I think you may have created a whole new photographic aesthetic: cell noir. MTV, give this man a raise.
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