(CNN)Not 10 minutes into MTV’s “The Hills: New Beginnings,” the bubbly is flowing, the lips are glossed and old friends Audrina Patridge, Whitney Port and Heidi Montag sit pool-side and catch each other (and their audience) up on their kids, their feuds and, naturally, their love lives.
Look, no one expected the sequel to the channel’s mid-aughts wonder, “The Hills,” to raise the barometer on a Bechdel test. As the premiere episode unfolds, the newly divorced Patridge is seen on an awkward potential date with former flame Justin Brescia (Justin Bobby) and — thanks to a night of drinking with the guys — we learn that Brody Jenner and his wife, Kaitlynn Carter, may have some marital strife. There’s also some teary back-and-forth between Montag and her husband, Spencer Pratt, about parenting as the two seem to be stuck together for all eternity like some sort of reality TV version of the Jean-Paul Sartre play “No Exit.” (Also getting plenty of screen time: Crystals, presumably from Pratt’s own line, Pratt Daddy Crystals). ” allowfullscreen>A lot of these things will inevitably come to a head in an upcoming episode, concentrated on a welcome-home party for Pratt’s estranged sister Stephanie.While this all sounds as contrived as friends forcing each other to dance with their crushes in a school gym, that’s also what makes the formula work so well for this show and many others. Read More”The Hills” itself was a reality series that spun off from MTV’s “Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County,” a show about tanned teenagers that was meant to be a jab at the hit Fox drama “The O.C.” It’s probably not a wonder that in “New Beginnings,” its new cast members Mischa Barton (who starred on “The O.C.”) and Brandon Lee (son of rocker Tommy Lee and actress Pamela Anderson) seem to be the most above this nonsense — perhaps because, at least as far as television audiences are concerned, they haven’t already sat through the same re-hashings of snubbed invites, broken hearts and girl code violations within the group.And is all this necessarily a bad thing or at all dissimilar from what those of us not on TV do on a more minor scale? Facebook and its brethren long ago made it all too easy to keep tabs on former classmates and paramours and may also be to blame for low turn-outs at high school reunions. Even the classic Billy Joel song “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” is about friends filling each other in on past relationships, although there’s no accusatory “you know what you did” moment.Nor is “New Beginnings” the lone example of this in current media. Films and scripted television have been in reboot/sequel mania for years as studios and networks know there’s a market for people curious to follow the lives and loves of familiar faces and characters. As the spin-off to a spin-off, “New Beginnings” was never expected to be original. But just like so many of the rest of us, part of it is clearly stuck in the past.