Why study when you can go to the beach?
Laguna Beach: The Real O.C. (2004 - 2006) was a Reality TV knockoff of The O.C. that followed a group of spoiled teenagers with obscenely rich parents who live in the seaside town of Laguna Beach, California. Said teenagers spend most of their time buying expensive (and useless) items, trying to cause "drama" within their inner circle of friends, or going to dinner with their random girlfriend/boyfriend of the week, where they discuss boring topics of interest.
Laguna attracted criticism for portraying the lead cast as shallow, spoiled people who don't have jobs (except for Stephen, who works at a surf shop). The average episode is typically fueled by one or more characters displaying arrogance as they partake in activities and situations that are sure to end in failure. The parents of the characters are almost never seen, and when they are (in the case of Lauren Conrad and Kristin Cavallari's parents), they are portrayed as pathetic people who blow loads of money to appease their daughters.
The show featured a lot of secretive back-stabbing and relationship woes between various characters, which went up a notch during the third and final season of the original series. With most of the cast having graduated and moved on to other endeavors, the third season introduced a lead character in the form of Tessa, a social outcast who once had a debilitating health condition. After refusing to see her friends while in the hospital, she is subsequently ostracized and has to repair her friendships over the course of the season.
Following the conclusion of the third season (and a lack of interest for casting in the town), the setting was moved several miles up the coast and rebranded as Newport Harbor: The Real Orange County, following a new group of high-schoolers, including Star-Crossed Lovers Clay Adler and Chrissy Schwartz. The sequel series was officially canceled after a shortened second season in 2007/8.
Interviews with producers and ex-cast members have revealed that most, if not all, of the encounters between the characters on the show were either greatly exaggerated or fully-scripted by writers. The producers of the series have admitted that they script situations and conversations for added impact. Some scenes are also edited to create "more drama".
Five spinoff series have been produced to date, and are considered to be part of the "Orange County" franchise:
- The Hills (2006 - 2010): Follows cast member Lauren Conrad (and, in its later seasons, Kristin Cavallari) as she moves to Los Angeles for fame, fortune and a lucrative clothing line contract. The cast is primarly composed of people that are foolish and naive.
- The City (2008 - 2010): Follows Lauren's co-worker, Whitney, who moves to Manhattan for fame, fortune and a lucrative job offer.
- The Hills was later given a Revival in the form of The Hills: New Beginnings (2019), which follows several of the cast members a decade later as they reunite for more adventures.
- Newport Harbor: The Real Orange Country (2007 - 2008): Intended to be the sequel series to Laguna, set a few miles up the coast.
- Audrina (2011): Previously commissioned as a series by MTV (who dropped the show after filming completed on the first season, which led to VH1 obtaining the rights to air it), the series follows Lauren and Kristin's friend from The Hills, Audrina Patridge, and chronicles her personal and professional struggles in Los Angeles. The show was not renewed after its first season.
This show provides examples of:
- Alpha Bitch: Kristin in seasons 1 and 2, Kyndra in season 3.
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: Jason Wahler, who holds this reputation amid a Love Dodecahedron he holds (at various times) with Jessica, Kristin and Lauren.
- Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: Raquel's parents in season three of Laguna Beach, who are not only not rich, but are regular suburbanites who hold "movie nights" with Tessa and Raquel.
- Bavarian Fire Drill: This is what Trey does in any episode where a natural disaster happens. After an landslide occurs near the town, Trey enlists everyone in his social group to help him create and run a fashion show to support rescue efforts. Everyone follows his orders without question.
- Beach Episode: Usually happens once per season. Or really every episode.
- Betty and Veronica: Stephen has on-again, off-again relationships with both Kristin and Lauren throughout the two seasons he appears in.
- Big Fancy House: Lauren's house is prominently featured throughout the first two seasons.
- Boyfriend-Blocking Dad: Chrissy's father in Newport Harbor, who grounds his daughter for speaking to a fellow classmate and hanging out with him for ten minutes, and that's just in the first episode. He also makes her call in every hour when she's out at parties so he can keep tabs on her. He does relent later in the season, though.
- Breakout Character:
- Kristin Cavalieri was the first such breakout star, leveraging controversy over her drunken pole dance in Cabo and status as the neighbourhood's "bad girl" into makeup and modeling opportunities.
- An enforced version of this came when Lauren Conrad was made the narrator for the second season, complete with a Framing Device featuring her, due to her growing popularity and decision to set-up a spinoff series around her journey to Los Angeles.
- Broken Aesop: One of the key messages running throughout the show is that as long as you have enough money, you can essentially do anything (have better job opportunities, date better-looking people, drive nicer cars, etc).
- The Cameo: Lauren returns in the third season to
promote the upcoming second season of The Hillsgive some advice to her sister, Breanna. In a hot tub.
- Catchphrase: Kristin's cry of "This is dunzo!"; Lauren's flirtatious "Thank you!"
- Class Trip: Many of the Laguna students travel to the city of Cabo every year; it's the site of Kristin's infamous drunken pole-dance.
- Continuity Nod: The appearance of Kristin's sidekicks in season three's opening episode.
- Deadpan Snarker: Lo, Kristin's best friend, is shown to be downright snarky (and dismissive) towards other teens living in the town, as well as some of the situations the group faces.
- Everyone Meets Everyone: The first and third season premieres do this (along with Newport Harbor) to adequately set up the various connections between characters and their circumstances.
- Fallen Princess: Tessa is explicitly said to be this; as part of her backstory, she was initially a highly-thought of "alpha-type" character living in Laguna Beach, but became sick and refused to let any of her friends see her. Due to this apparent slight, they ostracized her from their group, and the third season revolves around her attempts to ingratiate herself back into the fold.
- Fanservice: Kristen Cavallari is first shown getting out of a pool in a skimpy red bikini; there are numerous shots of toned men and women walking the streets of Laguna.
- Foreign Queasine: A girl in the third season attempts to pronounce "foie gras" at a fancy restaurant, then learns what it actually is (duck liver).
- Framing Device: The second season is built around one involving Lauren, who is seen in what appears to be a How We Got Here moment in the season premiere talking about how things were going to change for her, and the end of the season following her trip to make it big in Los Angeles. Notably, interviews with MTV producers confirmed years after the fact that the framing device was specifically thrown in at the last minute in order to provide a greater connection to the latter show, and was filmed just a month out from the season's initial airing.
- Frothy Mugs of Water: In this case, the ubiquitous red cups that appear during every party (helpfully provided by the production crew, of course).
- Genre Blindness: The actors apparently don't realize that their actions are being shown on national television, are repeatedly shown screaming at each other, getting into fights or (seemingly) making fools of themselves on the public stage. Given the later knowledge that most (if not all) of the show was scripted, these sequences are more along the lines of pantomime theatre rather than the actual events.
- In with the In Crowd: What happens to Tessa (before the third season) and Raquel during the third season. Both of them fall in with the clique led by Kendra and Cami, and both eventually get their senses back and return to their old friends.
- Love Dodecahedron: Jessica loves Jason. Jason loves Lauren, Jessica and Christina. Lauren loves Stephen. Stephen loves Lauren and Kristin. Kristin loves Stephen and about twenty other guys. Talan wants threesomes.
- Male Gaze: How else would you classify the scenes of young women lounging by the pool discussing menial topics in skimpy swimwear?
- Manipulative Bastard: Jason, who (over the course of the series) has a relationship with almost every woman on the show, cheats on all of them, and still has them all running back to him because he is the resident bad boy of the neighborhood.
- Manipulative Editing: Overdubbed lines, temporal shenanigans, reshot sequences that don't match with the rest of the show... it's all here.
- Mr. Exposition: Kristin, Lauren and Tessa each fulfill the role of narrator in their respective seasons ("This is Laguna Beach, where it all started.")
- Non-Idle Rich: Trey in the first two seasons with his fundraisers.
- On the Next: Kristen cheats with another man! Stephen looks pensive as he stares out into the ocean! Heidi does something incredibly stupid! Lauren complains!
- Pair the Spares: Lampshaded with Sasha and Grant in Newport Harbor, the two sarcastic and flirty characters whose best friends (Chrissy and Clay) have started dating. Grant tries to use this fact as an excuse to date Sasha, with hilarious results.
- The Parody: MADtv's "Laguna Biotch".
- Pixellation: Yes, even a show of this nature decides to go all World's Wildest Police Chases and does a bit of pixelization now and then. Also happens to many background extras and people who didn't want their faces shown on the program.
- Ping Pong Naïveté: Kristin cheats on her boyfriends and lies to her friends, sometimes knowing full well what the consequences will be, and other times not realizing what it could do to her friendships.
- Preacher's Kid: Christina in season 1. She and Morgan are best friends because they're the only virgins in the school.
- Product Placement: The T-Mobile cellphone is constantly shown throughout the series. The names and songs of artists (and their albums) that play over the transition sequences are promoted during the show itself (so you can buy the CD at your local record scene), and that's not even getting into the heavily-branded Virtual Laguna Beach...
- Reality Is Unrealistic:
- As noted on the subpages, the show was largely scripted, with lead actors Lauren Conrad, Kristin Cavalieri and Jason Wahler all giving interviews in the years after airing that unequivocally state that scenes were exaggerated, manipulated or faked to get specific reactions from the cast.
- The original cast was explicitly hired by MTV for the series, with several stating after the fact that while they were acquaintances in the sense that they filmed together, many weren't friends off-camera. Additionally, interviews with several of the cast members claim that, unlike the perception that their parents paid for their shopping sprees, the expenditures were actually paid for by MTV and made to look like their parents were to blame.
- An interview with Stephen had him state unequivocally that the dates he went on with Lauren (while he was dating Kristin) were paid for by MTV, and that he never would have voluntarily gone otherwise.
- Cavalieri has gone on-record to state that there were plenty of moments where she was nice to other people that were cut out, in order to create the perception that she was the Alpha Bitch, and that she was extremely disappointed to see how the producers portrayed her character in the pilot episode.
- Cast members have gone on-record stating that numerous scenes, including apparent fights, were either completely faked for the cameras or re-enacted, due to having occurred days, weeks or even months before filming.
- Wahler has gone on-record saying that the show was responsible for his alcoholism in later years, as the producers gave the teens liberal amounts of alcohol to drink, under the context that it would help motivate their performances.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: In the second season, Trey (a local activist) organizes a fashion show to help the victims of an landslide that happened near the beach. Bonus points if you can guess the subject of that episode's plot. (buzzer rings) If you said, "Lauren finds out that Jason is cheating with Jessica during the fashion show and confronts him," you win a prize!
- Retool: The show was revamped twice in its third season and In Name Only spinoff season.
- Due to the second season's cast all graduating from high school, the plot shifted to focus on a new group of teenagers who had previously been seen in the background of several prior episodes (including the younger sister of one of the previous lead characters).
- Due to a lack of interest in casting for the show's setting, the producers moved the show several miles up the coast to a completely different town (Newport Harbor), brought in another group of high-schoolers and dialed back the suggestive sexuality of previous seasons to focus on an "puppy-dog love" plot between the two lead characters. Despite this, the show still retains the signature theme song (Hilary Duff's "Come Clean") and much of the standard episode structure.
- Rich Bitch: Some more than others, but Kristin would probably be the more classic example.
- Rich in Dollars, Poor in Sense: Happens to Allie on Newport Harbor; she's so used to getting whatever she wants (a scene has her asking her father which of his seven credit cards she can use) that she has trouble adjusting when she's forced to get a job at a clothing store.
- Ridiculously Average Guy: This is what Stephen on Laguna is supposed to be: a young man who doesn't come from money, works a decent (if not high-paying) job at a surf shop, and is not overly dramatic or flashy like the rest of his friends. Of course, he has the two central female characters (Kristin and Lauren) vying for his affection, and there's no shortage of other girls interested in him.
- Riding into the Sunset: Lauren literally does this when she heads towards Los Angeles (and her new series) at the end of the second season.
- Scenery Porn: Lingering shots of the city and its shoreline are often set to a generic, manufactured pop song.
- Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Several of the characters (including Kristin and Allie) believe themselves to be above everyone else because their parents are rich. This comes back to bite Allie when it turns out that her parents are cutting her off financially and she'll need to find a legitimate job.
- Ship Tease: Tessa and Chase (her longtime friend/musician) were set up to start a relationship during the third season. Despite the opening credits (which shows the two of them embracing), and several moments where it looks as though they'll finally start dating, their relationship never comes to pass. Tessa would later admit in interviews after the fact that both of them were Just Friends and never seriously considered having a relationship, [[Reality Is Unrealistic despite the producers playing it up as such.
- Sidekick: Most secondary characters are sidekicks to the main characters (Kristin has Alex and Jessica, Lauren has Lo and another girl named Alex, etc.)
- Silly Love Songs: Pop music of the time is played over most montages and transitional scenes, lending a stylized, often-romantic atmosphere to the proceedings.
- Slut-Shaming: Stephen (and others) do this to Kristin if she so much as talks to another male.
- Spoiled Brat: Several of the students can be charitably characterized as this, with some characters (like Allie) bragging about how much money they have, how they don't care about what they spend it on, or flouting their wealth for the benefit of others.
- Stock Footage: The town of Didsbury (in Greater Manchester) is shown during Newport Harbor. Why is anyone's guess.
- Time-Compression Montage: The senior students packing their suitcases for Cabo during the first season.
- Tonight, Someone Kisses: Several episodes were hyped up in this way.
- 24-Hour Party People: The series gives off the impression that the students are spending the majority of their time partying, hanging out in clubs or going on dates, to such a degree that Raquel's home life (living with Amazingly Embarrassing Parents and holding "movie nights") is played up as something that is completely alien to other characters, including Tessa and Allie.
- Unlimited Wardrobe: Part of the conceit of the show — the high-schoolers have functionally-unlimited funds to buy whatever they want, supported by their parents' credit cards. In actuality, however, the actors' wardrobes were provided by MTV.
- Welcome Episode: Tessa in season three, who meets and interacts with most of the major participants in the town during the third-season premiere.
- Where the Hell Is Springfield?: Newport Beach in the U.K. airings of the series, judging by the Stock Footage.
- Will They or Won't They?:
- Stephen and Lauren's unrequited, sort-of feelings for each motivate much of the plot in the first two seasons. This unresolved tension even carries on to Stephen's appearance on The Hills.
- Clay and Chrissy's "puppy-dog love" story, and their attempts to find time to see each other in the midst of her overbearing parents, forms the basis for the first season of Newport Harbor.