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The truth is, Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt are the original reality TV victims.

Hating Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt is easy like Sunday morning.

They gained fame, or more accurately, infamy, by starring on The Hills for its initial six seasons before returning to our screens this year to try out the same tricks once again on The Hills: New Beginnings.

The glossy reality TV series began life as a spin-off of Laguna Beach, the less successful than The Hills reality franchise which was created for the sole purpose of leeching off the leftover fame from the early aughts pop culture juggernaut, The OC.

Heidi Montag was 19 years old when, after being raised in a tiny town in Colorado, moved to LA to live with her then best friend Lauren Conrad, whose move to LA from Laguna Beach in a bid to launch a glamorous career in fashion was the catalyst for the series.

Check out the trailer for The Hills: New Beginnings below. Post continues after video.

For the first five seasons of The Hills, back before the show was miraculously rebooted in 2019, the majority of the drama came from Heidi’s relationship with her then-boyfriend-now-husband Spencer Pratt, with the couple’s ongoing antics and regular feuding with other cast members (namely Lauren Conrad) clocking up hundreds of hours of TV time and gifting the world our very first reality TV villains.

Hating on them, their actions, their life choices, their families and, in mostly Heidi’s case, their actual faces, was not only easy to do but was also gleefully encouraged by the show itself.

Their intense pop culture reign came at a time when ‘scripted reality TV’ was not recognised as a genre in the way that it is today.

Back at the height of The Hills fame, viewers really believed that those glossy LA girls were just swanning from their glamorous day jobs to their drama-filled nightclub jaunts, barely aware that hidden cameras could be watching their every move.

Of course, now we know that not only were the cast purposefully acting for the cameras. They were also reading pre-scripted lines fed to them from the production staff and effectively playing characters.

No one played their roles better than that of Heidi and Spencer. The only problem was that they were in on a joke no one else was laughing at.

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There’s no way for us to ever really know if Heidi and Spencer are good people or not after the cameras stop rolling. (I’d safely venture they’re probably not, but then again I watched too many seasons of The Hills in my youth to ever be able to hold a truly unbiased opinion on this).

But their morality as regular human beings aside, any pre-approved bad on-screen behavior on their part does not negate the fact that knowing what we know now about how the show was filmed makes it easier to swap out the title of “villains” for “victims”.

Nowadays, “the villain edit”, as it’s called, is a staple in reality TV shows, where every show from the viper-like The Real Housewives series to the sweet and wholesome MasterChef uses this mechanism to create a little extra drama. Today, even the average TV viewer can see through the somewhat slick veneer of scripted reality shows such as Made in Chelsea,  The Only Way Is Essex and even Keeping Up With The Kardashians and pick out the moments that have been overly edited and scripted.

“I would say 80 percent of the show was scripted,” a talent manager for The Hills told Complex in a profile about Heidi and Spencer’s fall from grace in 2015, before they found their way back onto The Hills set.

In that same profile piece, Spencer told the publication that reflecting now on his behavior on The Hills, he wishes he could have done a lot of things differently.

“I burned a lot of bridges. You think you’re Tom Cruise and you’re not. Presidents of networks would be like, ‘Come in,’ and I would be like, ‘Come to me.’ All those people are still right where they were,” he said.

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Heidi and Spencer during an on-screen argument. Image: MTV.

In an interview with Vice in 2017, Spencer went on to say that he also regrets the amount of fake fighting he and Heidi did on The Hills under the direction of their bosses. "It was not necessary," he told the publication. "We were just trying to make producers happy, when we could have just not done it and made ourselves happy."

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“I was getting paid so much money to be just an awful asshole," Spencer told Daily Beast in 2018, further pulling back the curtain on his Hills character. "You start doing your interviews like that, and next thing is, you’ve got to stay in character."

He went on to talk about an infamous scene from The Hills where the couple talked about a possible unexpected pregnancy that ended with Spencer throwing Heidi out of his car before driving away in a furious rage.

"We shot that scene like twelve times,” he told Daily Beast. “I didn’t think anything of it. I should have, because every woman on the planet was like, ‘Oh my God, he’s the worst person on the earth!’ Really, my wife and I just drove away and went to dinner. But the audience sees this guy leaving his girl on the side of the street in tears.”

“Toward the end of The Hills, Spencer and I had a lot of scripted fights and things like that,” Heidi went on to confirm to Cosmopolitan this year before The Hills reboot launched, echoing his sentiments that she regrets parts of their on-screen behavior.

The interesting grain of truth within all of these remorseful, post mega-fame tell-all interviews, is that it's clear the couple really were the first causalities to fall off the reality TV villain conveyor belt, gleefully portraying the treacherous roles they'd been cast in so they could continue to grace magazine covers and enjoy big paydays.

While they don't exactly deserve our sympathy, they did, after all, choose to continue in roles in which they'd been cast even after public hatred towards them reached fever pitch, they do deserve a little more transparency on what went on behind-the-scenes and led them to this fate.

Nowadays, reality TV villains have the opportunity to redeem themselves to an extent via their own social media platforms, with the viewers who watch them being savvy enough to know what they're really seeing.

Since rising to fame and then falling into the 'has-been' archives, it's clear that now the couple has no real currency or skill set outside of being reality TV villains, having gone on to guest star on a number of other second-tier reality programs over the years before retreating to near obscurity (and bankruptcy) while they were waiting for that fateful Hills reboot phone call to come.

When watching Heidi and Spencer on The Hills: New Beginnings, it's clear to see that they've fallen straight back into their old villainous character roles, but maybe this time around, viewers will more clearly be able to see the strings.

For more stories like this, you can follow Mamamia Entertainment Editor Laura Brodnik on Facebook.  You can also visit our newsletter page and sign up to “TV and Movies”  for a backstage pass to the best movies, TV shows and celebrity interviews (see one of her newsletters here). 

Tags: entertainment-3 , pop-culture , reality-tv-2 , tv-2
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