Hills producers work with paparazzi, plan each week in advance, admit doing retakes

Entertainment Weekly’s cover story next week takes an in-depth look at the phenomenon that is The Hills, and what it takes to create the series.

The story gives the most detailed account to date of how exactly the show is produced, and EW writer Tim Stack calls the series “scheduled reality. … Depending on where the girls are going and whom they’ll be with, production will call ahead and clear the locations — restaurants, cafes, retail outlets — for the crews to come in. Once everything is set up, Lauren gets her shooting schedule e-mailed to her, usually the night before.”

Executive producer Adam Divello admits the show sometimes asks cast members to do retakes. “If we lose something, or there’s no audio and we need them to talk about something [again], we’ll ask them to talk about it. Anyone that’s making a reality television show that tells you they aren’t doing [the same thing] is probably lying,” he said.

There’s also the problem of Lauren being “too famous to have anything resembling a real life,” yet “producers insist on keeping the celebrity side off camera.” Executive producer Liz Gateley justifies that by saying, “We give people the access that they’re not getting in the tabloids. They’re getting their private life.”

Part of that celebrity side includes the paparazzi, with whom producers have an agreement. “We don’t want to [shoot] in the back of a restaurant so people can’t see us. You want them on the patios. The paparazzi really work with us. They stay behind the cameras,” executive producer Adam Divello said.

Like far too many EW stories, the piece comes off as defensive on behalf of its subject matter, even sycophantic, which is perhaps the price of continued access. Most notably, the story completely ignores the more damning accusations and evidence that the show is fake, like the way it casts actors and fakes complete scenes.

The Hills': They Shoot, Lauren Conrad Scores [Entertainment Weekly]

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.