I have zero desire to watch Leaving Neverland. None.
“In his first interview following his arrest last month on sexual abuse charges, an emotional and unyielding R. Kelly denied having sex with underage girls and portrayed himself as a victim of a social media-fueled smear campaign. Mr. Kelly, whose real name is Robert Kelly, was seen screaming, cursing and pleading to the camera in the sit-down with Gayle King, a host of CBS This Morning, parts of which aired on Wednesday. At one point, Mr. Kelly grew so emotional that Ms. King stopped the interview so Mr. Kelly could regain his composure. ‘Hate me if you want to, love me if you want,’ Mr. Kelly said. ‘But just use your common sense. How stupid would it be for me, with my crazy past and what I’ve been through — oh, right now I just think I need to be a monster, hold girls against their will, chain them up in my basement, and don’t let them eat, don’t let them out!’ He continued, directly into the camera and growing tearful: ‘I didn’t do this stuff! This is not me!’”
I really need to spend more time on my shipping container idea so we can get rid of people like R. Kelly et al.
“Stephen Colbert has dethroned Jimmy Fallon in demo ratings: The Late Show now leads the Tonight Show (and Jimmy Kimmel Live! for that matter) among adults 18 to 49. The margin for this season’s current 1-2 rankings is incredibly thin. Considering Colbert has been dominant in total viewers for a while now, this is the very first time he could claim being No. 1 outright. Based on the latest Nielsen data, Colbert just barely edges Fallon, with a 0.54 demo rating vs. a 0.53. Here’s a more digestible stat: CBS’ Late Show is currently averaging 692,000 viewers in that all-important demographic, NBC’s Tonight is close behind with 686,000. Jimmy Kimmel is averaging 510,000 audience members per episode over on ABC.”
I Am Richard Pryor, a new documentary looking at the life of the comedian, will make its world premiere at the South by Southwest Film Festival on March 12. The film will then air on Paramount Network and Comedy Central on March 15.
“Freeform has given a 10-episode series order to Motherland: Fort Salem, an hourlong drama from Claws creator Eliot Laurence and executive producers Will Ferrell, Adam McKay and Kevin Messick. One of the leads in the project is being recast. Motherland was one of three hourlong pilots at Freeform, along with Party of Five and Breckman Rodeo, all of which have been garnering solid buzz. Party of Five was the first of the bunch to score a series pickup last month, with Breckman Rodeo still in contention.”
“21-year-old Kylie Jenner was just named the youngest self-made billionaire. Forbes announced Tuesday that Jenner officially surpassed Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, who was 23 when he reached the billion-dollar mark. Jenner, the youngest of the Kardashian-Jenner clan, began Kylie Cosmetics in 2015. Forbes estimates the company is worth over $900 million alone. In comparison, Jenner's 38-year-old half-sister, Kim Kardashian West, was worth roughly $350 million last July, Forbes estimates. Many have been less-than congratulatory about Jenner's new title.”
“Netflix is already prospecting locations for the second season of The Umbrella Academy. Based on the superhero graphic novel by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá, the adaptation became the latest smash hit from the studio, earning the spot of top digital original series in the U.S., and surpassing the popularity of the Arrowverse and Marvel Television series. Starring the Ellen Page, Tom Hopper, David Castañeda, Emmy Raver-Lampman, Robert Sheehan, and Aidan Gallagher as the gifted but troubled Hargreeves siblings, season 1 brought the family's endeavor to save the world to a climactic intermission.”
Per Variety, “[o]ne of the greatest games in football is months away from starting, but that isn’t keeping the players from getting warmed up.
“The NFL and some of the media companies that broadcast some of its most-watched matches have considered the idea of shaking up the Sunday-afternoon packages that regularly air on CBS and Fox, according to two people familiar with the matter. Under one idea broached, the two networks could get to air packages that include games from both the NFC and AFC, as opposed to the current system, which keeps the NFC on Fox and the AFC on CBS. The talks are extremely preliminary, one of these people cautions, and may not come to fruition.
“Spokespersons for the NFL, CBS Sports and Fox Sports declined to comment.
“ESPN’s rights to air Monday Night Football last until 2021, and Sunday packages for Fox, CBS and NBC extend through the following year. Yet that isn’t keeping the media industry from focusing on the future of football, which provides the majority of TV’s highest-rated broadcasts and will be essential to the health of the media business as streaming-video options lure millions of couch potatoes away from traditional TV watching.
“‘This is likely to be the most dynamic negotiation to date,’ says David Carter, executive director of the Marshall Sports Business Institute at the University of Southern California. The current rights holders are certain to bid for more football, but so too are new-tech outlets that may see a chance to use the popular sport to win fans to streaming services.
“Already, there is speculation that Walt Disney could offer to put ESPN’s Monday Night Football on ABC, which hasn’t aired the property since 2005. A spokesman for ESPN, which produces Disney’s sports programs, declined to comment. And AT&T may want to get in on the business. ‘We’re not going to take anything off the table,’ Jeff Zucker, the newly named chairman of the company’s news-and-sports unit at WarnerMedia, told Variety in an interview Monday when asked about the company’s desire to widen its sports-rights portfolio.
“Formal talks about football rights have yet to commence, but at least one company appears to be chomping at the bit to secure a new deal. CBS has ‘four years remaining on our NFL contract and we fully expect to keep the NFL on CBS for many years to come,’ said Sean McManus, chairman of CBS Sports, during a recent call with investors. ‘While the NFL has been very good for CBS, CBS has indeed been very good for the NFL, generating huge audiences and interest in the game.’
“NFL rights are costly. The most recent agreements with CBS, NBC and Fox went into effect in 2013 and last for nine years. The three are believed to be paying a combined $3.1 billion per year for Sunday games, compared to $1.94 billion a year under the previous contract. ESPN’s rights to broadcast “Monday Night Football” are believed to cost around $1.9 billion per year, compared to $1.1 billion paid in the previous contract. Fox struck a separate deal to broadcast Thursday Night Football for five years starting this past fall, a pact believed to be worth more than $650 million per year.
“And yet, the TV networks would be hard pressed to make a go of it without the games.Consider that a 30-second ad in CBS’ or Fox’s Sunday-afternoon games can go from anywhere from $550,000 to $800,000, according to media buyers. The average cost of a 30-second spot in this season’s Sunday Night Football came to $670,846, according to media buyers, and prices can range from the high $500,000s to more than $1 million. The networks also use the games to promote their programs – getting word of coming shows out to millions of viewers in one fell swoop.
“Rights fees are expected to go up, because football continues to attract outsize audiences at a time when more couch potatoes are prone to toggle over to tablets, phones and connected-TV services for their video fix. To be sure, NFL games haven’t been immune from recent trends. Ratings for regular-season games declined in both the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons as the league contended with the absence of some popular players as well as pre-game protests by select athletes. But in the most recent season, overall viewership increased 5%, compared with tumbles of 10% in 2018 and 8% in 2016.”
From Vulture: “If you know one thing about Jax Taylor, you know that he lies. As I sit across from the model/bartender/reality star on the porch of a West Hollywood restaurant, it’s the first thing I remind myself. Even with his ADD-fueled energy — head flipping back toward the street to investigate every honk, screech, or shout — Vanderpump Rules’ leading man seems present, fully engaged. On a warm Tuesday last November, the conversation flows naturally, with moments of unexpected wisdom tucked into wild anecdotes and petty beefs. His impossibly wide shoulders sit below an impossibly wide jaw, which is peppered with just the right amount of stubble. He feels easy to trust.
“For seven seasons now, Bravo’s Vanderpump Rules has followed a group of beautiful servers and bartenders at SUR, Lisa Vanderpump’s West Hollywood establishment, as they cheat, fight, and make elaborate cocktails. Throughout that time, Taylor has been the blundering Lothario behind the bar, philandering, spreading rumors and, just as importantly, getting caught. The show’s first two seasons centered around a Big Jax Lie: a Las Vegas infidelity-fueled pregnancy scare in season one, and sex with his best friend Tom Sandoval’s girlfriend Kristen Doute in season two. Both times, Taylor convinced both the show’s behind-the-camera staff and his friends that he was wrongfully accused; both times, he was caught red-handed as the season ended.
“Taylor’s ability to lie with gusto helped build Vanderpump Rules into a reality-TV powerhouse in which anything felt possible. It’s what makes him a perfect reality star: compulsively anti-monogamous, seemingly unaware of cameras, lacking in basic self-control, and fast and loose with the truth. Yet somehow — perhaps because of what Taylor himself calls a lack of forethought or malice behind his lies, or perhaps because of his dopey magnetism — he’s still redeemable in the eyes of Vanderpump fans and his castmates. This coming July, the West Hollywood bartender will turn 40. He recently proposed to his girlfriend Brittany Cartwright, while mourning the death of his father, and producers and castmates swear he has changed. He drinks less (‘six drinks in six months’), has started smoking weed (favorite strain: Jack Herer; favorite method: ‘Brittany’s blunts’; favorite blunt wrap: Swisher), and seems genuinely in love. He’s even found God, attending the Wednesday service at Beverly Hills’ Churchome (‘Bieber and Hailey Baldwin are back there, and the Kardashians are in front of me’). Somehow, perhaps because of what one producer referred to as ‘weapons-grade charisma,’ those closest to him, and much of the viewership, still root for Jax Taylor. Maybe, this time, the change will stick.
“As we wait for our food to arrive, Taylor dives into a hypothetical story about an unnamed Midwestern women who was the prettiest girl in her small town. ‘You lived in Ohio, you’re the pretty one in Ohio. But now you put all the pretty ones in California,’ he says, placing his sleek prescription glasses on the table. ‘Guess what? You’re all the same. Everybody’s the same. You should be an actress in Hollywood. You’re pretty. Next thing you know, you’re a waitress for 20 years, you know?’ In his telling, two-faced producers promise the aspiring actress bit parts and even that she’ll get her own show one day. The tangent seems non sequitur, until it does not.
“Raised in Michigan, Taylor — then known by his given name, Jason Michael Cauchi — was a strikingly handsome, if slightly unmoored, man’s man. He went to Macomb Community College before quitting school and joining the Navy as a seaman recruit. Afterward he modeled, living for moments in New York, Miami, and Milan. At 26, he arrived in L.A.. He was told again and again by producers that he’d get his break. For seven years, it never came.
“Eventually, Taylor took a job as a bartender at SUR to pay the bills. He was past 30 and ready to quit modeling, move back to Florida where his father lived, and try to join the fire department. His relationship with Stassi Schroeder — with whom he’d been set up by her SUR co-worker Doute — was on the rocks, and he had told his friends he was going to drive his truck across the country any day now. But Schroeder convinced him to talk with Vanderpump about the show she was pitching to Bravo executives. Taylor had just started bartending at SUR and says he’d barely met Vanderpump at the time, but respected her and let her explain her vision. He’d been promised the world before, but Vanderpump already was on a Bravo show, The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, so her offer felt a bit more substantial. After a couple meetings, he signed on and opened his life up completely to a team of cameramen and reality-TV producers.
“A few weeks before he agreed to be on Vanderpump Rules, Taylor says he had two commercials canceled and was cut out of a bit-part on a television show. He’d been screwed again and again by Hollywood; he was tired of it all. ‘That informed who he was and who he is in a lot of ways,’ says Alex Baskin, one of Vanderpump’s executive producers. ‘He was like, “This town sucks and there’s no honor amongst thieves.” I think his fuck jar was empty.’
“Bravo’s Andy Cohen knew right away that the network had something special in Taylor. To celebrate the release of Cohen’s first book, Most Talkative: Stories From the Front Lines of Pop Culture, the talk-show host and Real Housewives producer brought together his cadre of friends, reality stars, and celebrities at SUR. This was May 2012, seven months before the first season of Vanderpump Rules premiered. Taylor, whom Cohen describes as being in ‘the prime of his good looks,’ met the Bravo executive while serving him a drink. They small-talked for a moment before Cohen went on with his night.
“According to Cohen, it was what he heard later that gave him a window into Taylor’s potential. Apparently the handsome bartender had spread gossip to his future castmates that he and Cohen had ‘really connected’ and that they’d be grabbing lunch to talk about his future. It was a perfect lie, meant to create chaos within the friend group. In a group of aspiring actors and pop stars, Taylor’s fabricated lunch meeting with a Bravo executive was social currency. ‘Like, why was I paying all this attention to Jax?’ Cohen recalls, laughing. ‘Of course it was totally untrue and if you confronted him with the story now, he would probably say it didn’t happen. But I’m telling you, it happened.’ (Taylor, for what it’s worth, says he doesn’t know ‘if that’s 100 percent true.’)
“That preshow history helps to both anchor their friendships and create the kinesis that still threatens to pull them apart today. As part of their pitch, Baskin and the producers showed Cohen a map with lines charting the SUR staff’s prior and current relationships and beefs. ‘We put together a flow chart with arrows going in all sorts of directions,’ Baskin says, laughing. ‘It was super messy and complicated in the best possible way.’
“But no character’s past was richer, or more unlikely, than Taylor’s. His 20s are a potpourri of incredibly far-fetched details and anecdotes. Many articles, and Taylor himself, claim that he served in the Navy (which he did), that he played college hockey at Michigan State (which he did not), and that he was roommates with Channing Tatum (Tatum’s rep did not respond to a request for comment, and neither Taylor nor Bravo had photographs to share from the time because ‘it was before iPhones’). Schroeder warned me that Taylor might lie about his past; during the years they dated before the show, she would often track down unexplainable inconsistencies. ‘He lied to me and told me he was a Navy SEAL. He was not,’ Schroder says. ‘He literally had a Navy SEAL sticker on the back of his truck, so he wouldn’t get pulled over by cops.’
“Vanderpump Rules showrunner Bill Langworthy, who has spent seven years trailing his leading man and grilling him in interviews like he’s ‘under FBI surveillance,’ still finds himself surprised by details of Taylor’s preshow existence. ‘I don’t think he really lives in the past, so his stories aren’t quite as crystallized and clear in his mind the way that they would be for me,’ Langworthy explains, generously. ‘But there are parts that you think couldn’t possibly be true that all of sudden become confirmed.’
“Right on the first day of filming, it was clear to the producers that Taylor’s combination of leading-man looks and a desire to exist in a perpetual present would translate to reality stardom. Langworthy, a veteran of the reality genre, remembers seeing the sales reel — shot to test talent on screen before a show is picked up — and being instantly charmed by Taylor. ‘The audio guy is putting the lavalier [microphone] on Jax and he’s already revealing very, very sensitive information about his best friends, Tom Sandoval and Tom Schwartz,’ Langworthy says. ‘He literally could not wait for the crew to be set to just start being awesome on a reality show.’
“Taylor had been bit by Hollywood and was ready to take advantage of an honest-to-goodness break. He was 32 years old and knew how rare a real chance was in this town. He couldn’t act and was sick of modeling, but he was born for reality TV.
“Aging all these years on screen, especially since the arrival of his brash and baby-faced co-star James Kennedy (‘I watch him,’ Taylor remarks, ‘and, I’m like, God, did I act like this?’), has softened the once-impetuous wild card. The older, and perhaps wiser, he gets, the more the regret shows on his face; incredibly, it’s become possible to empathize with Jax Taylor. He is a liar, but a radically transparent one. The Vanderpump producers have a key to his apartment and, unlike many reality stars, Taylor has allowed the viewers to see an authentic portrayal of himself on screen, warts and all. Even as he successfully deceives, the truth of his motivations shows through.
“‘When he lies, he lies authentically,’ Baskin says. ‘He lies because that is his natural response, so it is a true-to-character lie.’
“That strange brand of authenticity has allowed Taylor to avoid becoming the villain, both among his friends and among the viewership. The promise of reality TV, rarely delivered, is the unfiltered real. Taylor is far from trustworthy in a relationship or around expensive sunglasses, but he delivers truth on screen. For producers and devotees of the genre, authenticity — even in the form of a lie — is a breath of fresh air.
“Taylor believes he gets so much leeway because his dishonesty isn’t mean-spirited, and the Vanderpump producers agree. But a quick glance at the back of his baseball card shows that, at times, he clearly has hurt those closest to him: He’s cheated, he’s slandered, he’s spread rumors. Yet Taylor will never be confused for a mastermind, so it rarely feels conniving. That fact, along with his charisma, is why he says his friends and Vanderpump-heads still stand by him.
“‘I do a lot of fucked up shit. That’s a hundred percent true. But I’m not mean. I don’t set out to hurt you. There’s no — what do you call that? Calculated. I’m not malicious,’ Taylor says. ‘I’m a pretty silly, funny, outgoing guy. You know, I do a lot of fucked up shit, but so what? I don’t hurt anybody. No one’s ever got pregnant. No one’s ever gotten divorced. We all do dumb shit. I’m not gonna walk around and be walking on thin ice all my life. I do dumb stuff. So what?’
“But as his ex, Schroeder felt the more poisonous end of Taylor’s impulsivity and untruth. Throughout the first season, she tried in vain to convince her and Taylor’s mutual friends that he’d impregnated a woman in Vegas. Though he actually had, Taylor gaslit Schroeder, persuading everyone that she was delusional. When Schroeder’s new boyfriend Frank Herlihy came forward as a witness of Taylor’s duplicity, the move backfired, swaying friends and viewers alike to see Schroder’s rebound as sleazy and untrustworthy. ‘When someone’s a really great liar, you believe everything. He would cry, he would literally cry. So how could you not believe a grown man who is crying?’ she says. ‘Even my truth isn’t as good as his lie.’
“The reality-TV world overflows with fantastic fabulists, and so any decent reality-TV producer needs to have a great bullshit meter. Yet, Langworthy told me the entire team was slack-jawed when Taylor came clean during the last hours of shooting on the first season. Langworthy talked with a stunned lead camera operator who’d just filmed Taylor and Schroeder’s conflicting accounts of the Vegas incident. ‘Having heard both sides, he came back and said, I guess I no longer know what it looks like when a person is lying to me,’ Langworthy remembers.
“Schroeder spent the show’s first season alienated by her friends, who backed Taylor. When the show aired, it was Schroeder who was cast as Vanderpump’s villain. And yet, even she has managed to let Taylor back into her life. ‘Everyone is always like, How can you hang around that terrorist of a human being? How? How? How?’ Schroeder says. ‘But the charm of Jax is that he likes to have a good time, he’s very charismatic, and he’s funny but in a dumb endearing kind of way. So you want to be around him even though he’s done awful things.’
“Taylor owns his past transgressions as we talk over lunch. He says he’s different now, changed since his father’s passing in December 2017. ‘After my dad died, I was very close to doing something really bad to myself, extremely close,” Taylor says. “And Brittany single-handedly saved me and our relationship.’
“In the spring of 2015, Taylor fell in love at first sight with the Kentucky-born Cartwright in Las Vegas, and convinced her to move into his L.A. apartment. The relationship was quickly rocky (in Vanderpump’s season five premiere, Taylor spread a rumor that she’d slept with Doute), but the two rode their love affair into a spinoff, Jax & Brittany Take Kentucky, which aired on Bravo in 2017. That show cast Taylor as an ill-equipped outsider on the farm and in Cartwright’s conservative and religious family; it also revolved around Taylor’s cold feet when it came to settling down. The couple’s breaking point arrived months later when it was revealed that Taylor had cheated with SUR waitress Faith Stowers. He and Cartwright finally split in August 2017, but soon reconnected. When his father passed a few months later, Cartwright met him in Florida and ‘Brittany took over,’ according to Taylor.
“Since then, Taylor has traded in alcohol for marijuana, reiki for a celebrity megachurch, and has asked Cartwright to marry him. Cohen, the Vanderpump producers, and Taylor himself say they were all shocked by how much he stayed above the fray throughout filming the show’s seventh season. During an episode that aired in late February, the SUR staff had boys’ and girls’ nights apart. When the lone single friend Peter Madrigal brought a group of women back to the guys’ hotel room, Taylor nervously paced and then hid on the porch, before finally calling his fiancé. It was an unexpected moment of transparency and of restraint, more than a bit bungled in execution. It looked a lot like growth.
“Even Schroeder has witnessed this evolution. ‘It was almost immediate, this incredible change and shift,’ she says. ‘I don’t even know how to explain it; he isn’t the same person he was before. He got the sense smacked into him.’
“The Jax Taylor Experience through the first six years of Vanderpump Rules was the male model id unleashed. That’s why watching him toe the line this season has been fascinating. He became a reality star for his lack of inhibition and factual pliancy. As he cheated and lied, surrounded by cameras with no regard for future consequences, it was impossible to take your eyes off him. It felt brazen, or perhaps compulsive, but never false. The new Jax Taylor, faithful and truthful despite every instinct to the contrary, threatens to alter the show. But the devil on his shoulder is still easy to see and every ounce of effort shows on his face as he tries so hard to be good. It’s not the same Jax Taylor Experience, but it still feels true.
“As the waitress brings the check at the end of our meal, Taylor begins in on his strangest anecdote of the afternoon. When he first moved to Los Angeles, he tells me, years before Vanderpump Rules, he lived in Westwood, near UCLA. He had found a student ID card on the sidewalk and began to use it to access the school’s gym. But then one day, on a whim, Taylor decided to rush a frat, posing as the student on the ID. He tells me he kept up the ruse for six months, living for cheap in a frat house he believes was Sigma Nu, while pretending to be a handsome, overly developed underclassman. At the time, he was 26.
“The story was odd and surprising, delivered casually between other fascinating nuggets of a crowded and varied past (hockey scholarships, high-fashion modeling gigs, time in the Navy, dreams of fighting fires). Only later, as I started to sift through the details, did the cracks begin to show. How did he rush and then live in the house right away? What was the final straw that led to his ouster? Why didn’t the producers or his ex-girlfriend know this story when I asked them about it?
“It was a throwaway anecdote, but it felt revelatory. So I began to dig. According to residents of the frat house, Taylor did not live in Sigma Nu under an assumed name in 2005. The story of a 26-year-old living in a house under false pretenses for six months didn’t ring a bell with other UCLA fraternity members of that era either. Yes, this was almost 15 years ago. Perhaps Taylor did live in some house for some time. (A Sigma Nu alum said it would have been much easier to rent a spot in the house over the summer when rules were more relaxed.) But why tell this specific story in this specific way in the first place?
“It was not until I’d made contact with the eighth member of that era’s UCLA Greek system that I began to realize that I’d fallen down the rabbit hole. Like so many SUR co-workers before me, I was chasing details of an aside by a known tall-talesman. I was taking a tape measure to Babe, forgetting that it was the idea of an ox the size of building that truly mattered.
“I’d spent a week on the phone trying to debunk the detail because it befuddled me. I could not for the life of me understand what was to gain from it. But so far as I can tell, a Jax Lie doesn’t work like yours or mine; it needs only to survive a moment, the future be damned. In explaining his brand of dishonesty, Langworthy tells me, ‘The present is very loud for Jax. He is not too worried about, How am I gonna keep this going tomorrow?’
“A Jax Lie can burn a friend or break up a relationship, but it’s just as likely to do nothing at all. It’s created only to serve whatever story Taylor’s telling in his perpetual present. At the time he told this one to me, I was rapt. I leaned forward. I laughed. I watched him closely as he spoke. As I chased the truth of it later, it became an irritation, but also a fascination. It was aimless and half-conceived, but it held some truth, not in its details but in its telling. And it kept me entertained.”
From Cosmopolitan: “Of course, not everything has changed. Today, for example, we’re sitting at The Ivy in Los Angeles, discussing nip slips and tattoos.
“The girls are crowded around a table at the legendary restaurant, which is known for its paparazzi-friendly outdoor seating. For decades, paps have loitered across the street to capture photos of its patrons, who are typically an eclectic mix of famous people, people who used to be famous, and people who would very much like to be famous.
“‘I’ve had a nipple slip at The Ivy before,’ Whitney Port, 34, says with a sly smile. ‘I remember when nip slips were the most embarrassing thing ever. I had one here and one in Miami. And now it’s like, whatever. It’s a fucking nipple.’ Heidi Pratt, 32, nods in agreement.
“Audrina Patridge, 33, says that the last time she was here, she ran into Ashlee Simpson.
“‘I haven’t hung out with Ashlee since, like, 10 years ago,’ Mischa Barton, 33, offers. ‘I have a couple of funny stories about her. One time, we were waiting for her at dinner and I texted her, and she was like, “I just stopped off to get a tattoo.” Just a quick before-dinner tattoo! I was like, “Okay, I don’t think you’re going to make it to dinner.”’
“We all laugh. It’s so Ashlee.
“Seeing these girls together again feels eerily familiar—and so right that I practically hear Natasha Bedingfield’s Unwritten playing in the background as each of them enters the restaurant. I can picture their full names written below their faces.
“The four are getting ready to promote The Hills’ long-awaited reboot, a sequel of sorts called The Hills: New Beginnings. The series—originally scheduled to premiere in April, as of Cosmopolitan's press time, but now slated to launch this summer—includes this crew and other memorable faces from the previous franchises, like Brody Jenner, Stephanie Pratt, Frankie Delgado, Justin (Bobby) Brescia, and Jason Wahler.
“Notably missing are semi-villain Kristin Cavallari—she has her own reality show on E! called Very Cavallari (Heidi is actually a big fan)—and OG Laguna Beach veteran Lauren Conrad, who parlayed her reality-TV fame into a full-on lifestyle brand of beachy dresses, chia-pudding recipes, and millennial-pink bedding.
“The current cast members seem more than happy to leave LC and Kristin in the past. ‘They’re not part of the story line,’ Whitney says succinctly.
“Lauren and Kristin’s absence makes sense given the reboot’s vibe, anyway. New Beginnings is supposed to be a real depiction of this group of old friends, and the women assembled at The Ivy today just don’t hang out with them anymore. After Lauren dramatically confronted Heidi on camera years ago, claiming she was spreading rumors of an LC sex tape (‘You know what you did!’), the two never reconciled. ‘Sometimes things happen that will change how you feel about people, and sometimes it’s very permanent,’ says Heidi, with a shrug. ‘I thought with Lauren and me, we would’ve been friends again.’ She seems sad, resigned, and a little surprised.
“While the group shares a well-documented history, the news that Mischa was joining the show surprised die-hard Hills fans. But her character on The O.C., Marissa, was the literal inspiration for Laguna Beach in the first place. And [Editor’s note: Skip to the next paragraph if you have somehow not yet watched The O.C.]
“Marissa’s iconic death on the show was only slightly less iconic than her real-life role in the legendary early-2000s L.A. nightlife scene, when she partied with the likes of Nicole Richie, Paris Hilton, and Lindsay Lohan. (Mischa has not watched Lindsay’s new reality series: ‘I’m so afraid,’ she says. ‘I think it might send me into a tailspin.’)
“According to Mischa, she’s very much done with that life. And her decision to join a reality show was not an easy one. ‘I was approached by a million different people for a long period of time,’ she says. But after talking to MTV and seeing the Hills girls at the VMAs on TV, she finally gave in to the idea of it all.
“‘It’s weird because I remember going out with Nicole Richie and people at the time, and we would come by set when they were filming The Hills,’ Mischa recounts, as the other girls perk up. ‘She would drag me to the producer van to see what you guys had been up to all day. All these years later...it sounds corny, but it felt like this was supposed to happen.’
“Still, her casting brings up questions: Will the addition of a professional actress make the show seem even less...organic? And why has everyone always been so obsessed with trying to figure out if The Hills is actually real, anyway?
“The show itself always toyed with that question. Its story lines were believable, but with all the consistent drama and the soaring, cinematic shots, it felt like there was no way it wasn’t a bit produced. Viewers would obsess over the details: Was Whitney really an intern at Teen Vogue? (Yes—the only reason she was cast, she says, is because she started about the same time as Lauren.) Did Audrina really work as a receptionist at that Quixote Studios?
“(Yes, she says. In fact, they always wanted to fire her because she wasn’t productive enough with the cameras around.) Did that uncomfortable confrontation between Heidi and her mother about Heidi’s plastic surgery really happen just as we saw it on TV? (Yes, says Heidi, and that’s the only thing she’d change looking back. She’s on good terms with her family now, but it took her a long time.)
“All that reality aside, the girls admit that some scenes were straight-up staged. ‘Toward the end of The Hills, Spencer and I had a lot of scripted fights and things like that,’ Heidi admits.
“But these days, Audrina, Whitney, and Heidi have more than enough drama to bring to the table on their own. All three are new moms, which means the bulk of stress, chaos, and insecurity you’ll see onscreen is probably the real deal. Ironically, while motherhood is the most important thing to all three right now, it won’t be featured prominently on the show aside from, perhaps, 18-month-old Gunner Pratt, who’s more than ready for his close-up. (‘He’s so comfortable with the cameras,’ says Audrina. ‘Even on the red carpet at the VMAs, I was amazed.’) Maybe MTV thinks the mom stuff is too real for fans of the franchise.
“Luckily, it’s not too real for lunch at The Ivy.
“‘I’m what they call an attachment parent,’ says Heidi. Whitney and Audrina laugh knowingly.
“‘You would be proud of me,’ Audrina says to Heidi.
“‘I met with a nanny last week. Did you have yours sign an NDA or anything?’
“‘I’ve been contemplating it,’ says Heidi. Her nanny, Abby, knows that she works for two reality stars, but she’s too young to have watched The Hills. Abby’s parents, however, are big fans.
“‘She’s so young, and she was there while we were filming, listening, asking a million questions,’ Audrina explains about the nanny candidate she’s considering. ‘She’s a Hills fan too, I guess.’ Whitney and Heidi shake their heads in empathy. Mischa looks like she’s texting someone.
“‘Maybe you should rethink hiring her then,’ says Whitney. Her son, Sonny Sanford, is 20 months old. ‘I have a nanny who’s close to 70. I took a picture of something randomly and she was like, “Will that go on social media?”’ She laughs.
“‘If she was a fan of The Hills, it might not be the best,’ adds Mischa, finally looking up from her phone. Apparently she’d been listening all along.
“I’m nodding like crazy and suddenly realize: I’m having just as good a time watching them discuss nanny NDAs as I did watching Audrina accuse Lauren of hooking up with Justin Bobby.
“But sadly, lunch must, like all good things, come to an end. As we get ready to leave, Heidi answers a call from Spencer while poking at her apple-blackberry crumble. Audrina has an appointment, Mischa has a call with her lawyer, and Whitney needs to get in some Sonny time before dinner with her sisters.
“I almost expect the hazy L.A. sky to go black and cut to commercial, but I get into my Lyft and realize that all of us are about to sit in the same 4 p.m. traffic. There couldn’t be anything more real than that.
“A few days later, I chat with Mischa on the phone. She’d been a little guarded at the group get-together, as if she didn’t want to risk saying anything too salacious. After all, her chance for a personal reboot relies on the world taking her seriously as an actress. I get a sense that she felt like an outsider during filming, not just because she’s reading scripts on the side but also because her personal life doesn’t look much like theirs.
“‘I sometimes get in over my head,’ she tells me. ‘I didn’t really consider the fact that they’re all such close friends. They’re family girls. They all have husbands or ex-husbands and babies.’
“But she says they welcomed her with open arms. And the Hills women’s shared history actually made things easier for Mischa in the end.
“‘I was afraid that, obviously, the drama would land on me because I don’t have babies,’ she says. ‘But the bulk of the drama comes from the history they have.’
“And a decade later, fans of the show are still talking about that history, whether it’s tossing a mascara-tear GIF into group chats, screaming ‘You know what you did!’ during rowdy bachelorette parties, or making a solemn vow to ourselves that we’ll never choose a boy over Paris.
“Back at lunch, the girls are feeling the nostalgia too. Les Deux, their old hangout, has been replaced by The Peppermint Club. Nicole Richie has moved on from production vans to TV screens. Even The Ivy, which used to have a months-long wait list, is easy to book on OpenTable these days. Most importantly, camera phones and Instagram now make it impossible to get away with the bad behavior that defined their 20s. In 2019, even when reality crews aren’t filming, a party girl has to watch her back.
“‘We could keep secrets back then,’ Whitney says. The group seems to become collectively misty-eyed.
“Audrina agrees. ‘That was the best generation.’”
Per Deadline, “[p]odcast company Wondery is stepping up its television activities following the success of Dirty John and is in talks with high-level showrunners to adapt its latest hit Over My Dead Body.
“The company, which was set up by former Fox International Channels boss Hernan Lopez, is developing a number of its serialized podcast series for the small screen, including dark medical drama Dr Death, Business Wars and Gladiator, the story of ex-New England Patriot Aaron Hernandez.
“It is now plotting a TV remake of Over My Dead Body, which just ended its six-part run atop the Apple podcast charts, and is in the process of hiring its first in-house development executive to take a more hands on approach to adaptations.
“The first season of Over My Dead Body, subtitled Tally, is the story of Dan Markel and his wife Wendi, two good-looking attorneys whose wedding is featured in the New York Times.
“But when this perfect couple’s marriage falls apart, it leads to a bad breakup, a worse divorce, and a murder case involving a menagerie of high-priced lawyers and unexpected co-conspirators.
“It is hosted by Matthew Shaer, who had originally planned to turn the story into a long-form print article after delving into the dark world of orthodox Jewish divorces with a shady rabbi nicknamed The Prodfather, whose tactics are slightly less than ethical, for GQ. Shaer, who had written an early season of Wondery’s Business Warsseries about the battle between Nike and Adidas, was subsequently encouraged to tell this story as a podcast. ‘It’s a good example of how Wondery approaches a story; we want to figure out how to tell it in the most compelling way through the people that are involved and to a certain degree take the reporter out of the middle,’ Marshall Lewy, Chief Content Officer of Wondery, tells Deadline.
“The story features a cast of different characters, although the murder doesn’t necessarily come right at the start. ‘People overuse the term Fargo-esque but it really was and we wanted to do something a little different in true crime, where no one dies in the first episode, it’s the middle of the second episode and then you don’t really know what happened and then the blanks get filled in,’ he adds.
“The case is also not completely wrapped up with a trial set for June. ‘We wanted to do six complete episodes to where things stand now and [focus on] the evidence as to what seems to have happened. It’s like the end of a TV season finale.’”