Even though this was my first taste of The Hills/Laguna Beach/The City genra of shows, I felt that the editing and overall style was very familiar. I am a devoted Top Chef fan, and I know that pretty much all of the Bravo branded reality competitions have the same look and feel, but i was blown away to find out that The Hills fits eerily well into this style.
The opening credits for both shows go through their list of character/contestants with a heavy slathering of effects filters. The main difference being that Top Chef acknowledges the audience while The Hills ignore it. Watch from 0:55 to 1:40 of the Top Chef video and from 0:27 to 1:30 of The Hills video to get a sense of the openings.
In both shows the openings are followed by a similar set of cut scenes that are repeated throughout the episode in between the competition or the teen drama. Shots of busy streets, fancy restaurant interiors and exteriors, are beautifully saturated and framed to look “careless.” What would have been ordinary shots are sped up and slowed down and shot with wide angle lenses to give a sense of movement and excitement to cars driving on a road or a person entering a building.
I suppose for arguments sake, Top Chef’s non competition editing can also be made for MTV. There is an ever lingering sense that the editors are searching for any little shred of anger, friendship or romance to create a huge side story. And while the cheftestants are not expected to be actors, some of them are more convincing in their obviously scripted, yet subtle product placements than Heidi is at playing the painfully stupid and meddlesome character in The Hills.
These shows also end in suspense that is blown out of proportion. Through Lauren’s crazy escapades of the first episode, The Hills sets up what is expected to be a major chewing out of the main character. I could picture in my mind the millions of commercials that week replaying Lauren’s nervous face, but instead she hardly gets a slap on the wrist. Top Chef takes the same stance in their next week previews where it seems like Tom has had a conniption over someones terrible food or a portal to hell has opened up in the kitchen and a cheftestant is swallowed up. Just like The Hills the suspense hardly ever pays off.