Wednesday, June 22, 2005

I Want To Be A Hilton!?


Why would I want to be a Hilton?

Why did NBC buy this retread of The Apprentice?

Why did Kathy Hilton - who is classier than Paris and Nikki combined not to mention better looking - decide to make this her return to Television (she did some guest appearances in the mid 1970s before she married Rick Hilton, including two episodes of Happy Days) in this?

Actually it's not horrible - close but not quite. In fact it reminded me of something. After careful checking (okay when I was checking momma Kathy's IMDB listing I naturally checked out Paris's listing and found that The Simple Life was initially described as a real life version of Green Acres) it hit me. Remember that proposal for a reality version of The Beverly Hillbillies that was so roundly condemned that no one even considered buying it? Well they've revived it but called it I Want To Be A Hilton. I know it's a bit of a reach but if you substitute Kathy Hilton for Miss Hathaway and this group of 14 uncouth blue collar types for four Ozark Hillbillies then The Beverly Hillbillies becomes I Want To Be A Hilton.

The contestants gather together for the first time near the famous information booth at (cue reverb) Grand Central Station (end reverb) - sorry Grand Central Terminal. They are soon escorted by a butler type (you can tell because he wearing a tail coat) to a private cocktail reception at the exclusive Campbell Apartment - which isn't a private residence but a really expensive bar in the Terminal. There, as they dig - literally - into the souvlaki and other exclusive edibles, not to mention the free booze, they are being observed by an eminence gris (well eminence vert really, she's all in green and at 46 looking better than either of her daughters). It's Kathy Hilton, and at about this time she's probably wondering if she shouldn't have stuck with her acting career and not married Rick HIlton (who is one of the Executive Producers by the way). Eventually she descends amongst the hoi polloi and introduces herself. Each contestant is presented with a silver spoon with a ribbon around it indicating which team he or she is going to be on. Green Team is the "Paris Park Team" while Blue Team is the "Nikki Madison Team". Needless to say there's one guy in a private interview who wonders "just how much this thing (the spoon) is worth." After that they go to their exclusive apartments in the historic Melrose Hotel (which was the old Hotel Barbizon for Women if you were interested).

The next day the teams are sent of in the usual Trump style tasks. Well sort of. They're told that they'll be going to an exclusive party at "21" but of course it is the polite thing to buy a gift for the hostess so first thing they have to do is to select one person to go on a shopping expedition with a $100 bill. Specifically they have to select someone from the other team to buy that team's gift, so naturally they select the person they think is most socially inept from the other team. Madison picked construction worker (and arena football player) JW for Park while Park took ranch hand (and septic tank installer) Jabe for Madison. While they were out buying a gift for the party the others were sent to "etiquette boot camp" to learn how to conduct themselves at a fancy dinner party. You know, stuff like how to order, hold (not by the bowl, by the stem), and drink wine, how to extract and eat escargot, how to crack a lobster, and about various cheeses. Then came the twist. When the teams (with their gift buyer) assembled that evening for their party at "21" they learned that the gift buyers would be the only one attending the party. The rest would watch on closed circuit TV and give him instructions as to what to do by radio. The main table consisted of Ted Allen from Queer Eye, Billy Bush from Access Hollywood, and Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia. Hilarity ensued. JW did well with his gift (a bottle of wine and flowers) but stumbled a bit when he refused to eat the escargot. Still he offered a very nice toast. Jabe had less success with his gift of a four pound box of chocolates in cheap wrapping paper and Kathy Hilton's name scrawled on it in felt tip marker. Also he was not properly attired - no jacket. During his toast he repeated what his team members tell him over the radio, including, just like in a bad sitcom, "say thank you". Needless to say, his team were unsuccessful, they were the ones who lost a team member - perfume salesman Alain, punished for the sin of being too quiet. He wasn't on "The List".

The show had it's moments. As you might expect, Ted Allen was witty, at one point asking Jabe "Don't you have snails in Texas?" (Answer: "Yes sir, but we don't eat them."), and later telling Kathy "I wouldn't want to be in your shoes....Well I would but they wouldn't fit me." As well the show has an occasional voice-over, but unlike the voice-over in Hell's Kitchen which attempts to make the show sound like a documentary, the narrator in I Want To Be A Hilton has the persona of a snootier than the snooty English butler who is more of a character in the show than Kathy Hilton herself. As for the contestants only three really stood out in the first episode: Ann, a grad student and former Miss Tampa who seems to break into song at the passing of a participle; Yvette, an Irish born Las Vegas showgirl seems to have decided that the Hilton she wants to be is Paris; and Latricia, a California DMV clerk who wants is channeling the original Conrad's mother. She does not approve of Yvette, the way she flirts, and the short skirts that show off her butt (according to Latricia) that Yvette wears around the apartment.

It is saying a great deal when the most interesting parts of a show is guest appearance by a reality show veteran and an unseen voice actor. Part of what made The Beverly Hillbillies fun was that they were wealthy people behaving like "home folks" and here you have "home folks" wanting a chance to behave like the rich, or at least an idealized version of the rich (in one interview Hilton states that many rich people could use a course in "Etiquette 101"). The trouble is that like so many of the current crop of reality shows it is a ripoff of The Apprentice and while it is slightly more original than The Cut (I liked the party "twist") it is much less so than Hell's Kitchen. I will give Kathy Hilton one thing though. I think she's better on camera than Donald Trump (and has probably forgotten more about taste and etiquette than he ever knew). I like her, I just don't like her show.

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