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Laguna Beach turns 10, and it wasn’t fake

Laguna Beach turns 10, and it wasn’t fake

Today is the 10th anniversary of Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County, best known as the series that spun off The Hills, best known as the reality series that unapologetically scripted itself all the way to its conclusion.

The MTV reality series was groundbreaking not because it was like a reality TV version of a successful drama (Fox’s The O.C. premiered a year earlier), but because it discarded the standards of the genre established by The Real World and emulated by Survivor and the other shows that followed. It had remarkable cinematography and no interviews, and established conventions that would be copied for years to come (ahem, Real Housewives).

Unlike its successor, it was not scripted or fake–but it was highly produced, and there is a difference.

The show’s creator, Liz Gateley, told TV Guide some “behind the scenes secrets,” from the casting of Kristin Cavallari (she missed her audition) to the cast’s hair and makeup (the show didn’t do that). Here’s how the show was produced:

  • Conversations were set up. Because they couldn’t film at school, they would prompt the cast to talk about things that happened: “We never scripted it, but we said, ‘Can you guys talk about what happened earlier in the day?’ And so we had to sort of figure it out along the way.”
  • The cast was scheduled. Gateley said the show was produced in “a highly stylized, highly directed way and highly scheduled way.”
  • There was no scripting. “Laguna was not manipulated and we did not ask the cast to do things,” she said.
  • But the editing was heavy-handed. “In the editing, we definitely ratcheted it up. If Kristin said something nice about someone, we would edit it out. We wanted her to be the bad girl. That’s what you do in reality producing. But we told an authentic story.”
  • Cast only sometimes had control over content. Intriguingly, Gately said, “There were times when we didn’t cave and somebody wanted something taken out.” That, of course, implies that sometimes they did edit things. She said that, when they did not comply with such requests, “someone would be mad for a couple of weeks, but then you would talk them through why we felt it was important for the story because it happened and the audience needed to know.” Specifically, she calls out Stephen: “A couple of our guys were not happy that we showed them upset and forlorn about some of the girls after a breakup. I don’t remember the exact scene. [It was] definitely a Stephen scene. Lots of Stephen.”

All three seasons are free on MTV.com (they’re also on Amazon and the first season is on Hulu Plus). Here’s the first episode, which starts with Lauren Conrad narrating and calling herself LC.

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About the author

  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means. Learn more about Andy.

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