The Stars of 'The Hills': Are They For Real?!

Why MTV's 'Laguna Beach' spin-off is the show you love to hate — or hate to love

Heidi Montag and Lauren Conrad on Lauren Conrad's 21st birthday in West Hollywood on February 1st, 2007. Credit: Michael Buckner/Getty for mark.

IT'S A CHILLY SPRING NIGHT IN LOS ANGELES WHEN I ARRIVE AT DON ANTONIO'S Mexican restaurant to join the End of Western Civilization for nachos and chicken enchiladas. The EOWC, of course, is Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt, a.k.a. Speidi, the fabulously toxic power couple of The Hills — the real-ish MTV reality drama about L.A. twenty somethings praised as "the most influential show we've ever had" by MTV president of entertainment Brian Graden — and watching the fair-haired lovers stroll through their beloved Don Antonio's feels like seeing Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe walk into the Stork Club back in the day. That is, if Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe were, instead of a sports hero and a legendary sex symbol, the irresistible villains of a maddeningly addictive TV show in which nothing ever really happens. We take seats at a dimly lit corner booth, and you can almost hear the text messages being tapped underneath nearby tables — omfg spencer n heidi r here!!! Spencer, 24, who's wearing a black Don Antonio's polo and a wispy blond goatee, rattles off a grande order without consulting the menu. Heidi, a 21-year-old mane of blond highlights dressed in a blue sweater and white sweatpants, tucks her tiny head into his shoulder.

"I wish I got to see what you saw today," Spencer says. He's referring to this afternoon's cover photo shoot attended by Heidi and her three Hills castmates: Audrina Patridge, 22, Whitney Port, 23, and the show's protagonist, Lauren Conrad, 22, with whom Heidi has been engaged in an ugly feud. Once best friends and roommates, the two women have spent the past year and a half bickering back and forth in celebrity weeklies — a rift that, depending on whom you talk to, stems from either a Lauren sex-tape story that Spencer and Heidi leaked to the press (Lauren's version; they deny it), or Lauren's jealousy of Spencer and Heidi (their version; Lauren denies it), or Spencer's overall control-freakiness, or a cabal of genius MTV executives secretly pulling ratings/goosing strings behind a curtain. Whatever the case, the shoot was the first time Heidi and Lauren had been photographed, and not Photoshopped (as MTV has been forced to do), together in more than a year.

Heidi says that on her way to the shoot she thought it might be a scam. "I thought I was walking into Punk'd or getting killed or something," she says. "Heidi really wanted me there for backup," Spencer says. "She was like, 'This is a setup.'"

But the shoot happened — even though Perez Hilton, the celeblogger and Hills Boswell, loudly tipped his readers off to the Lauren-Heidi summit and paparazzi staked out the parking lot of the Culver City, California, photo studio. (A pap shot of the four Hills girls together, Spencer claims, could command up to $200,000.) Inside, as MTV publicists and show creator Adam DiVello nervously looked on, the atmosphere was cordial but chilly. Hills Kremlinologists studied cast interactions, but over the course of" a nine-hour day, Lauren and Heidi never spoke to each other. "You can feel it," Whitney, The Hills' doe-eyed Switzerland ("I'm neutral"), told me at a quiet moment. "There's a separation."

Heidi is sanguine about the split. Lauren, after all, is why she's on The Hills — Heidi was just a spitfire from the small ski town of Crested Butte, Colorado ("A seven-block town with one main street," says Heidi's mom, Darlene Egelhoff), when she met Lauren at the Academy of Art in San Francisco. "We were the only blondes in the class," Heidi recalls.

"We were such. Good. Friends," she says emphatically. "A part of me just wants to go up and be like, 'Hey, how are you?' But the other part of me is so mad... It's like I'm the odd man out."

However awkward the Heidi-Lauren squabbling may be, it has been juicy business for The Hills. This spring's season premiere earned the show a record 3.9 million viewers — the highest-rated cable telecast of the year so far — with an estimated 5 million more views online. Graden believes The Hills is now a bigger franchise than other generation-definers like The Osbornes, TRL or Jackass.

"People love feuds," says Spencer, taking a chomp of quesadilla. "Who were Paris and Nicole before they weren't friends? That's when they became superstars. If Lauren and Heidi were friends, people wouldn't tune in."

Every rivalry needs its black hat, however, and Heidi, through Spencer, has eagerly, and perhaps too ingeniously, complied. The pair now operate, sometimes to the dismay of MTV handlers, like a MySpace edition of Bonnie and Clyde — courting reporters, vacuuming paparazzi attention, and deflecting Hills hype to outside projects like Heidi's Heidiwood clothing line and her would-be music career, not to mention her new nose and breasts ("It was the right thing for my life," she says unabashedly). This winter, a homemade video Spencer shot of Heidi prancing on a beach to her dance single "Higher," groundbreaking only in its lack of self-awareness, quickly got more than 1 million Web hits. The pair engender eye-scorching animosity on the Internet, but in their minds, at least we're paying attention. "Good girls are so vanilla," Heidi says. Spencer is routinely referred to as "the most hated man on television" — but he wears the title like a badge ("Who is that person they always compare me to, on Dallas?" he asks).

"It's jealousy, man," Spencer says. "It's human. I'm jealous of Jay-Z, Bill Gates, Rupert Murdoch. I feel for these people who wish they could be on reality television and not in their cubicles. You got to thank your haters."

"You have to understand, we have so many fans," Heidi says. "The haters are the ones who ask us for photos. The haters are the ones who are downloading songs." She looks out at the restaurant, which is packed. Don Antonio's has always been a popular joint, but since she and Spencer started eating here on The Hills, it's getting crazy, she says. "The world works on haters now."

TO WITNESS SPEIDI, LAUREN and the rest of the Hills phenomenon is to conclude that the tectonic plates of pop culture have shifted. In a ravenous celebrity economy, it's no longer important to be loved, or colorful, or even employed, to be famous. Consider the current trinity of young car wrecks: Lindsay Lohan hardly makes movies, Britney Spears doesn't make records (unless you count "Gimme More"), and we long ago gave up trying to figure out what Paris Hilton does. Whether you're a wanna-be on Robertson Boulevard or a Big Ten sophomore scarfing Jell-O shots on YouTube, what matters is not the life you lead but the life you lead in public — fully exposed, hips turned toward the cameras. "If you're not living your life in some pub-lie fashion — MySpace, or Facebook, or something else — it doesn't count," says Graden, whose job it is to pursue the fickle tastes of the 12-10-24 demographic. "It's almost as if it's not heard."

That exhibitionism streak goes a long way toward explaining the fascination with The Hills. A spinoff of the sun-kissed Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County, The Hills premiered in the fall of 2006 with the most archetypal of TV premises: Young out-of-town girl tries to make it in the city. Lauren, a Laguna favorite, was the protagonist and narrator, driving her black Beemer up the 405 to a stylish apartment in West Hollywood and a prized internship at Teen Vogue. Heidi (sigh) was the roommate friend. Whitney was Lauren's industrious co-worker in the Teen Vogue fashion closet. Audrina was the token brunette who would become hooked on a Zoolander-esque hairdresser gloriously named Justin Bobby.

The Hills sometimes is described as a reality soap opera, but soap operas thrive on extremes — histrionics, cuckoldings, hospital-bed suffocations, etc. The Hills, by contrast, can seem deliberately sonorous — so much so that The New York Times and bloggers have compared it to (not kidding) the meandering classics of Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni (Blow-Up, Zabriskje Point). The dialogue can sound like Harold Pinter after five shots of NyQuil:

LAUREN: Morning.
AUDRINA: Good morning.
LAUREN: How are you?
AUDRINA: |Sighs] Laundry. It's a laundry day for me.
LAUREN: Mm.

But damn it if The Hills doesn't suck you in. For starters, it's gorgeous. Most reality TV looks like cheap slop, but The Hills resembles a movie — it's filmed with digital cameras on tripods, with elegant evening scenes shot in low light. When its aerial cameras swoop down for a dreamy view of Sunset Boulevard twinkling at dusk, L.A. has never appeared more desirable. Much of The Hills' look is credited to Hisham Abed, a young director of production who worked on the show's first season and was also responsible for the golden tint of Laguna Beach. Abed says he based The Hills' cool-evening look on the film? of Michael Mann. "I like Heat," Abed says. "We were trying to emulate the look of film on television."

Of course, the vast majority of The Hills' audience isn't geeking out over camerawork. They watch it to escape. The Hills is a celebutante dream pecked out on a pink Sidekick: pretty young women swanning through a privileged life of plum jobs, VIP access and boyfriends with nice cars and excellent teeth. (Think a Bret Easton Ellis novel, without the blow or nihilism.) Its effect is not unpleasing. When the cheery theme song, Natasha Bedingfield's girly-power anthem "Unwritten," kicks in — "Feel the rain on your skin/No one else can feel it for you" — you can sense the serotonin releasing inside your brain. The Hills is Wellbutrin on TV.

"It's a fantasy," says the fashion publicist Kelly Cutrone, currently making a palate-cleansing turn as Lauren and Whitney's post-Teen Vogue boss. "You're watching it and thinking, 'These are really your biggest problems?' Most people in this economy are having to deal with things that are a little bit heavier than 'Oh, my God, should we go to Goa?'"

Indeed, The Hills is a reality show in which reality seldom intrudes. It studiously avoids contact with the outside world — there's no war, no cable bill, no one panhandling outside S Bar. Recently, there was zero mention of the sudden death of Heidi's stepbrother — an 82nd Airborne veteran of 80 Iraq missions who died in a freak accident not long after returning home. ("It wasn't a creative decision," says DiVello. "It was out of respect for Heidi and her family.") And of course there's the glaring meta-omission of The Hills: The fact that the show, which is supposed to closely follow the lives of four girls, completely ignores the biggest development in their lives — that they've become the stars of a television show called The Hills.

The master of this biosphere is DiVello, a tall, tan, 38-year-old former MTV development hotshot who helped launch Laguna. "The idea with Laguna was to do a reality Beverly Hills 90210," he says over lunch at the Buffalo Club, a Santa Monica restaurant. "When we went off to do The Hills, I was thinking more Melrose Place — a little more dark, with more fighting and drama."

The Hills was a sensation almost immediately. Soon Lauren wasn't just working at Teen Vogue; she was posing on the cover. The Web now overflows with spoofs, including one called "Over the Hills," in which septuagenarians play the roles of Lauren's crew. Record labels clamor to get their bands' songs played on The Hills' weekly soundtrack. Sales of Marie Digby's cover of "Umbrella" (which DiVello heard in his car one night) spiked 1,000 percent on iTunes after it was played on The Hills. The show even gets its own post-mortem called The Hills After Show, in which giddy, hyperventilating fans dissect the show as if it’s the NFC championship.

Of course, if you've spent 10 seconds on an Internet message board lately, you know there are plenty of people who love to hate on The Hills. The show hits an emotional third rail in away 90210 never did. Still, you get the feeling that The Hills is one of those things that everyone bashes in public and watches in private. "It's totally polarizing," says Tracie Egan, an editor at Jezebel.com, a blog that has dedicated much consideration to The Hills rage. "People who say they hate it still know who the characters are. They're like, 'Why is Lauren famous?' It's because you fucking click on this shit — I should be asking you.'"

WHEN I WENT ON 'LETTERMAN,'" Lauren Conrad recalls, "one of the writers there said that they believe The Hills is the most important show made in the last 10 years.

"When I hear things like that, it's funny — that people think that me, sitting hung over in my living room, talking to my roommate about hooking up with a guy, is considered important television."

It's the morning after the cover shoot, and Lauren and I are sitting in the West Hollywood breakfast nook Toast, surrounded by a late-rising army of future Jessicas and Nicoles eating egg whites and fondling iPhones. Lauren is taller and prettier in person, with striking blue-green eyes, and she radiates a self-assuredness not seen much on The Hills. Around her neck is an "evil-eye" pendant that she says helps "protect from people who talk bad about you, and jealousy, and negative energy."

So, um . . . unrelated question: How did it go with Heidi yesterday?

"We were on good behavior," she says coolly. "I mean, there's definitely bad energy between us, but I'm not angry. . . . We're civil with each other."

But you're not civil with each other. You don't talk.

"That's civil for us," Lauren says. "If we did talk, it wouldn't be nice words. So that's the only relationship we'll be able to have: silence."

Any temptation to just squash it?

"There's no point to it," she says. "We just have this weird rivalry. There's something really high school about it, but instead of writing rude things about each other on the bathroom wall, we do it through tabloids. I don't always reciprocate — I'm not going to be childish."

Drama, of course, is part of the Lauren Conrad mystique. Like with Mary Tyler Moore or Carrie Bradshaw, viewers relate to Lauren because she's a searcher — for true love, the perfect job and friends that never let her down. People wander in and out of her orbit, sometimes with curious motives (like Stephanie Pratt, Spencer's sister, who — looky here — just happened to be in one of Lauren's fashion classes), and she always seems unsure, tentative, ready for disappointment.

"She is the girl who has it all — but doesn't have it exactly," says DiVello.

Lauren's father, architect Jim Conrad, says his daughter is "portrayed pretty accurately" on the show, but he takes mild exception to the notion she grew up as a bougie beach queen. "There's this perception that Lauren had everything given to her — that's not true," he says. "She wasn't starving. But we were very careful not to spoil her... She had a car, but it wasn't a fancy car. She had a Toyota 4Runner with dents and scratches."

"Honestly, Lauren was kind of a dork," jokes Lo Bosworth, a Laguna vet and Lauren's Hills consigliere, who's known her since third-grade soccer. Counting Laguna, Lauren's been onscreen for nearly five years — a Michael Caine-worthy run in reality television, where yesterday's stars are tomorrow's bar mitzvah entertainment. These days she is dedicated to mapping out her post-Hills career; she talks energetically about her fashion label, Lauren Conrad, which is partly sponsored by MTV. Recently, she was the subject of a report in The Wall Street Journal, which heralded her as a new arbiter of female taste, SELLING LAUREN CONRAD, the headline read.

"The only way you can be successful in reality television is if you're OK with it ending," Lauren says. "A lot of kids [on Laguna] had a really difficult time when the cameras went away. One second you have people screaming your name, and then a few months later, they don't recognize you."

I mention Kristin Cavallari, her Laguna nemesis, who has struggled to make the transition to acting. "Ah ... I think that she's a really pretty girl and she was interested in becoming involved with entertainment, and she's done a good job with it," she says diplomatically. She may as well be talking about the salt shaker on our table.

Lauren, meanwhile, has no problems getting attention, even when she doesn't want it. In the past year, the paparazzi have grown exponentially more interested in her life, as well as the lives of all the Hills cast. She now shares a house in Holly wood with Audrina and Lo, and she can tell when they've arrived home by the flashbulbs popping outside her window.

The intensity on The Hills has also impacted Lauren's personal life. After the TV bust-ups with Laguna heartache Jason Wahler and Malibutante Brody Jenner, she's currently single, though she loves to torment DiVello by sneaking out for an under-the-radar date. A while back, she says, she briefly managed to hide a boyfriend from DiVello and the show. "It's hard," Lauren says. "There are so many obstacles. The [guys] have to be willing to be on the show. A lot of times they'll last two weeks, and the second they get written about, it's like, 'OK, we've had a good run.'"

If anything, Lauren was more irritated by the rejection of Justin Timberlake, who snubbed her, Whitney and Audrina at the 2007 MTV VMAs when they tried to present him an award. "Play more damn videos!" Timberlake howled. "We don't want to see the Simpsons on reality television." It was unclear if JT thought the Hills girls were related to Jessica and Ashlee, but the point was made.

"How harsh was that?" Lauren says. "He didn't even take the award from us. Kind of put a damper on our night.

"The worst part is, I agree with him," she continues. "I think that MTV needs to take oft" some of" the had dating shows and play some more music videos."

Speaking of videos ... I ask Lauren if she saw Heidi's beach-bikini video for "Higher."

"No," she says.

"Come on."

"I really haven't."

"I don't believe you."

"You don't?" she says, sounding hurt. "I've had it word for word described to me, but as long as I haven't sat down and watched it, I won't have an opinion, and I don't have to speak negatively, and it won't start another catfight."

I ask Lauren if she thinks the attention on her battle with Heidi is sexist. After all, it's a media rite of passage that when-ever a show with a principally female cast gets big — Desperate Housewives, Sex and the City, The View — it's forced to endure speculation about backstage clawing.

"I don't think it's just women," she says. "People love to watch people fight on TV. They want to see guys fight too. The whole pro-wrestling thing.

"I just got front-row seats at a [pro-wrestling] match," Lauren continues. "It was soooo fake! I knew it was fake, but they're, like, actors up there."

OF ALL THE VARIOUS QUESTIONS about The Hills, by far the most common one is whether or not the show is phony. It's always the first thing anyone asks me: Is it real, or BS? I speak to friends who tell me, with zero insider info but total confidence, that each episode is scripted, that every person in the show is an actor, that their jobs are bogus, that Heidi and Lauren aren't even enemies and probably play mah-jonggon the weekends.

Part of the skepticism, of course, stems from the fact that The Hills violates a cardinal convention of reality TV: It doesn't utilize the first-person confessionals ("Jimmy really got trashed at Hooters last night," etc.) that are a staple of the genre. You only have to watch five minutes of The Hills to grow suspicious. You see Heidi and Spencer arguing, and you see a camera shooting Heidi's face over Spencer's shoulder, and a camera shooting Spencer's face over Heidi's shoulder, and you wonder how that's possible for an unscripted reality show.

The answer, at least partly, is that life on The Hills is a carefully structured affair. The producers don't show up and rustle the girls out of bed — they speak to them in advance to find out where they're going, when they're working, who they're seeing. The filming schedule is diligently mapped (on average the girls film four days a week). Locations are selected and cleared (they just can't shoot strangers guerrilla-style), and when the girls show up at their producer-arranged jobs — basically freelance gigs at companies that have approved MTV's presence — they always have a project to do (and sometimes a plush office for the day, like the one Heidi gets at her SBE Entertainment Group job). "We pick and choose what we are going to focus on," says DiVello. Says Audrina, "It has to be interesting. They don't want us looking at magazines."

Talking with the girls, it's clear that each lives a kind of double life — a televised Hills life, and a non-Hills one, with separate friends and confidantes. "My friends who aren't on The Hills, most of them I've known since elementary school — they really know me, and I can totally trust them," says Whitney. "That's not to say I can't trust Lauren, Heidi and Audrina — they're great — but they're new friends for me. I definitely don't see them as much as my other friends." Audrina wasn't even friends with anyone on The Hills: She was discovered lying by the pool of her apartment complex by DiVello, who was scouting the place Lauren and Heidi had moved into (fun fact: Tracy Morgan also lived there). "I was just laying out, and Adam said to me, 'Have you ever thought of acting?' He says he's from MTV, and I was like, 'No, no, no — I'm not doing one of those dating shows.'"

Once assured DiVello wasn't from a dating show, Audrina agreed to meet with other Hills producers: "You just go in and tell them who you are, where you're from, where you work, who your friends are." She was quickly hired. "I met Heidi first," she says. But even that encounter had to be steered a bit, she explains. "They were so afraid we were going to meet without the cameras there. So they were like, 'OK, you guys, we're going to be there at the pool all day on this day, so please try not to go down there before.'"

The Hills' approach to cinema verite is squishy at best. On-camera, the girls know to cut to the chase. "Because it's for TV, you push yourself to do things that you normally wouldn't," says Audrina. "Like me and [Justin Bobby] being girlfriend and boyfriend right away. I would have waited." They get asked to reprise dialogue if there are technical problems. Lauren says that they're occasionally brought into a studio to "loop" their words if the audio is bad. Scenes are sometimes cut out of sequence. The arc of the final product, which the girls usually see only a couple of days before it airs, can be a surprise to them.

"The editing room is a magical place for The Hills," says Lo. "They really take little nothings and turn them into story lines."

But DiVello hastens to point out he can't simply exert his will over his cast. During Season One, for example, he begged Lauren to take a coveted Teen Vogue internship in Paris ("I got a phone call from him every single day for about a month and a half straight," Lauren says). But Lauren followed her heart and stayed in L.A. to be with her then-beau, Jason. "I was like, 'You got to be kidding me,' " DiVello says, now laughing.

Last fall, a young model and budding actor named Gavin Beasley created a mild stir when he gave an interview to the Website for VH1's Best Week Ever, in which he told of being coached by a producer to ask Lauren out at a Teen Vogue shoot and of going to a party where Brody taunted him but later apologized off-camera, saying, "Sorry about that, we're just trying to make good television." Said Beasley at the time, "It was some of the best acting I've ever done."

When I reach Beasley in April, he's more careful with his words. "I realize now [The Hills] is as real or fake as the characters want to make it," he tells me in an e-mail message. "One person, let's say Lauren, could totally be living in her reality, while another character could be making good television.'"

Whether or not this matters to you is your decision. MTV appears happy to let real-or-not controversy play out. But you probably have to ask yourself this: If you're going to live in a world that indulges in fake reasons to go to war, fake Bosnia sniper-fire stories, James Frey, JT LeRoy, silicone implants, steroidal sluggers, backing tracks, Ryan Seacrest and Keeping Up With the Kardashians, then why get crazy about a little dramatic choreography on The Hills?

"As far as people calling the show fake, I've kind of given up on defending it," Lauren says. "No matter what I say, people are going to think what they want to think.

"The story they are telling is a real story," she continues. "That's my real life — those are my real heartbreaks, my real friendships. Just because it's a reality show and they add a soundtrack doesn't mean it hurts my feelings any less."

A WEEK LATER, HEIDI AND Spencer have arrived at New York's refurbished Plaza hotel for a week's worth of publicity — The Tyra Banks Show, Live With Regis and Kelly and Access Hollywood. At LAX this morning, they were mobbed by photographers; tonight in the Plaza's ornate lobby, I ask Spencer if, as rumor holds, he calls the paparazzi on himself. "How am I calling that many people at LAX?" he asks, laughing. "I wish I could do that."

"I'm so thrilled to be sitting here right now," Heidi says, sipping a glass of rose. "I'm so thrilled to have Heidi," Spencer says. "We're like peanut butter and jelly times a billion, you know?" It's pretty bizarre to watch the Spencer and Heidi snugglefest, since the two of them are currently at Defcon 2 on The Hills. On the show, Heidi has booted him out of their apartment, and Spencer's crashing on his sister's couch. On TV, his callousness doesn't just extend to Heidi. Consider this gem with his sister Stephanie, after he confronted her about becoming friends with Lauren:

STEPHANIE: You're making me cry right now.
SPENCER: Stephanie, you're making yourself cry, thinking about what you did.

Is it for real? Spencer admits he "would much rather be entertaining than boring." Darlene Egelhoff, Heidi's mother, says she was worried about Spencer at first when she saw him on The Hills, but she's fine now that she's met him off-camera. "I try to separate what I see on TV from what I see face-to-face," she says. "I just know she can't be manipulated."

Whatever the case, Heidi and Spencer are running with it. The New York Times referred to Heidi as a "kind of feminist hero," and barely two weeks ago, Heidi announced that she was endorsing John McCain for president, and McCain actually publicly responded, calling her "a very talented actress."

Heidi, who hadn't yet registered to vote, was ecstatic: "If he becomes president, I'm in that Lincoln suite!"

"Heidi's goal is to become the richest woman in the world so that she can save the planet," Spencer says. "She's gonna be the Mother Teresa, Princess Diana, the first lady that's going to go and drop money on another country."

And what about Spencer? President of the United States?

"One hundred percent," he says.

"Yeah!" Heidi exclaims. "It's really for real!"

"The game plan isn't on paper," Spencer says. "But I definitely want to be mayor of L.A. and governor of California."

I've abandoned trying to figure out which aspects of the Heidi and Spencer Show are a complete put-on and what is real. Spencer reminds me of Don King-if he says something enough, it actually might come true. It's pretty entertaining, I admit. It's as if he's spinning a giant public Facebook page — boasting, railing, and collecting friends and enemies. It's all good, just spell his name right.

"Heidi and Spencer do a lot of things to get press," says Lo. "They're actually not that ridiculous in real life. They do it to keep the 15 minutes going."

How long can it all last? So far The Hills has managed to avoid the flytraps that swallow other hot shows. The Heidi-Lauren schism may be helping the music network here, since it prevents the cast from collectively lobbying for better salaries, as the Osbournes did. Spencer and Heidi say they've turned down offers for their own show. "We've already passed on three networks," Spencer says. "But The Hills is such a monster. Why would you jump off that?"

Could it go on five more years? What about a Hills movie? Could The Hills survive marriages and children? Divorces?

"Filming The Hills with five kids?" Whitney says. "I hope not." She mocks a voice-over: "This week on The Hills: Whitney has a hot flash."

"I like shows that leave you wanting more, like Seinfeld or Friends" says Lauren. "Obviously we're not compared to those, but I would be OK with going out when The Hills was still doing really well. It's better than waiting until no one really cares."

Someday this all may look very 2008, in the way that 90210 reruns seem frozen in early-Nineties hair mousse. Or maybe it's a launchpad: for high-fashion lines, for platinum records, for Oscars, for — dear Lord — the Speidi administration.

Lauren, not surprisingly, has another vision. "I feel like it's something where I'll meet them for cocktails years from now and laugh about it," she says. "And we'll say, 'Remember when?'"