Whitney Port's Annotated Rewatch of 'The Hills' Is the Internet's Best Kept Secret
As each day goes by, inching us closer and closer to the moment when we can say we've lived in a pandemic for a year of our lives, there really isn't much that brings me true comfort outside of knowing that my loved ones are safe. The FaceTimes with family and friends are a blessing, but they also break my heart thinking about how long it's been since we've hugged. The elaborate recipes I tried to make over the summer are now too cumbersome (frozen veggie burgers will suffice). And when I looked for something escapist to watch after binging everything else on Netflix, I found that new shows and movies were already starting to reflect the pandemic life that we're living. I don't want to see that. All I want to do is to escape into something so familiar and mindless and far from this world that I can, just for a few seconds, forget I'm living in it.
Then I discovered former MTV reality star-turned-designer Whitney Port's eponymous YouTube channel. Before you roll your eyes, hear me out.
A few months ago, the infamous YouTube algorithm — perhaps influenced by my watch history, which includes plenty of music videos from the 2000s —pushed me toward a familiar, tall, blonde woman: Whitney Port.
In the video previews, Port is sitting on her couch with who I now know is her husband, Timmy Rosenman, and the two are gasping, laughing, crying, etc. I realized that in these videos she's rewatching and reacting to The Hills, the culture-shifting reality show that aired from 2006-2010 and made her famous as an intern in the fashion closet at Teen Vogue. The same television show that I pretty much based my entire personality on when I was a teenager.
I scrolled to season 1, episode 1, of the "Reacting to The Hills" series, and sure enough, a now 35-year-old Port and Rosenman are sitting on the couch watching and commenting on the entire 20-minute episode from start to finish. As Natasha Beddingfield sings "staring at the blank page before you / open up the dirty window" from her song "Unwritten" in the opening credits, I instantly got that warm feeling of nostalgia, the kind that reminds you of how hopeful and naive you once were — two things I wish I could be right now … I want to open up the dirty window and let the sun illuminate the words that I could not find, damn it.
In the YouTube series, Port functions the same way she did in the show — she's an unproblematic secondary character that asks the right questions to keep the plot moving.
As the show goes on, Port and Rosenman pause to discuss the plot in a way that's not annoying and intrusive, but makes it feel like you're watching with a friend who also remembers just how ubiquitous empire waist dresses and thick headbands were. It was a time in reality TV, when the stars of the show didn't feel like celebrities, they felt normal and flawed. Their eyeliner smeared when it was hot, the apartments were messy, and there was lint on their dresses. Port and Lauren Conrad working at Teen Vogue was part of the reason I wanted to work there so badly and did so ten years later. (Yes, people still made jokes that Lauren would always be the girl that didn't go to Paris, and yes, they were annoying.)
The couple also delves into things that now, watching the show 15 years later, seem absurd. Timmy, who was a producer on Whitney's other MTV show, The City, gives behind-the-scenes info on how they would do jump cuts to make things more dramatic, highlighting places where voice-over was used but it's not clear to the viewer. He also pokes fun at certain aspects while still giving the show respect for just how impactful it was at the time. Whitney often goes into detail about how some storylines were more exaggerated or happened in a different timeline than it seemed. And, she highlights what she was feeling as the filming was happening.
In an ICONIC episode that shows Port falling while modeling a dress on live television, the 34-year-old tears up remembering her embarrassment and what it was like to have her now-deceased father there to comfort her at that moment. Maybe it's my chaotic emotions during the past year, but I teared up a little too, feeling that same sense of relatability that I did when I watched her on the show originally.
Each video averages around 120K views, mostly from loyal followers who engage with the couple, sometimes calling them out for defending certain people or asking for more info on a problematic plot point. It's like a reunion of fans who also discovered the perverse comfort of watching other people's problems play out before Real Housewives was a thing.
Of course, we can't talk about The Hills without mentioning that in 2019, the show (now called The Hills: New Beginnings) came back to MTV with almost everyone from the original cast, including Whitney, Spencer and Heidi Pratt, Brody Jenner, and Audrina Patridge. The cast is grown up now, they've moved on from petty drama about nights at Le Deux and hookups with friends' boyfriends and onto more consequential issues like fertility and divorce. Kristin Cavallari is even rumored to be returning for the second season, perhaps giving the show the main character energy it clearly needs.
For a reboot in a time where every aughts show seems to be doing it, the show is fine. But right now, after living a full year in a world none of us recognize, I just want something safer, something I've seen before. An annotated version of my comfort television seems to be doing the trick.
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