Why study when you can go to the beach?
Laguna Beach (2004 - 2006) was a Reality TV knockoff of The O.C. (full title was Laguna Beach: The Real O.C.) that follows a group of spoiled white teenagers with obscenely rich parents who live in the seaside town of Laguna Beach, California. Said teenagers spend 95% 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.
It's no secret that most, if not all, of the encounters between the characters on the show are scripted by the 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".
The teenagers who are the focus of this show are often shallow, spoiled people. In most cases, they don't have jobs (except for Stephen, who works at a surf shop). They are so blinded by their arrogance that they partake in activities and situations that are sure to end in failure, such as using their status on the show to get themselves better job opportunities etc. 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.
While the show featured a lot of secretive back-stabbing and numerous relationship woes in the first two seasons, the third season took this to extreme lengths. A girl named Tessa (who one would assume to be the focal point of the season) was a social outcast, due to the fact that she once had a debilitating health condition. She wouldn't let some of her friends see her, which led them to ostracize her from their group.
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 Cavalieri) 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.
- An Aesop: Yes, even MTV has them in this show.
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: Jason Wahler
- 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
- Big Fancy House: Lauren's house is prominently featured throughout the first two seasons.
- 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). There are also very strange (or just plain wrong) lessons taught throughout the series.
- 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!"
- Character Development: Averted; there is none
- 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.
- Clingy Jealous Girl: Take your pick.
- Continuity Nod: the appearance of Kristin's sidekicks in season three's opening episode.
- Deadpan Snarker: Lo
- Everyone Meets Everyone
- Fallen Princess: Tessa
- 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.
- Follow the Leader
- 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).
- 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.
- Hollywood, California: outside of Hollywood (Orange County) although the stereotypes are still there.
- 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.
- Meddling Parents: Chrissy's parents in Newport Harbor
- Melodramatic Pause
- Mr. Exposition: Kristin, Lauren and Tessa ("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!
- Overprotective 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.
- Pair the Spares: Lampshaded with Sasha and Grant, 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...
- 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). Newport Harbor moved the setting miles down the coast to a completely different town, 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.
- Rich Bitch: some more than others, but Kristin would probably be the more classic example.
- Rich Idiot with No Day Job: Most of the cast appear to be characterized in this way, with the exception of a handful of people.
- 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).
- Scenery Porn: lingering shots of the city and its shoreline 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.
- 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: Played over most montages and transitional scenes
- Slut-Shaming: Stephen (and others) do this Kristin if she so much as talks to another male.
- Spoiled Brat: Several of the students can be charitably characterized as this.
- Stock Footage: The town of Didsbury (in Greater Manchester) is shown during Newport Harbor. Why is anyone's guess.
- Stupid Statement Dance Mix}}: it got so bad that MTV Canada, of all places, made several remixes about their lines.
- Surfer Dude: Talan.
- 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
- Unlimited Wardrobe: When it's all funded by MTV, why not?
- Upper-Class Twit
- Valley Girl: Like, so totally all over the place, Omigod!
- Welcome Episode: Tessa in season three.
- Where the Hell Is Springfield?: Newport Beach, judging by the Stock Footage.
- Will They or Won't They?: Stephen and Lauren. This unresolved tension even carries on to Stephen's appearance on The Hills.