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The Simple Life

Much of fiction draws from the ideas behind Mark Twain's The Prince and the Pauper — by switching roles within a distinct class system, one can learn a lot about what's on the other side of the fence. Such is the driving force behind 2003's hit reality TV show The Simple Life, in which two spoiled heiresses are subjected to living in a rural Arkansas town for a month spent doing manual labor. The volunteers are Nicole Richie, adopted daughter of former Commodore singer Lionel, and Paris Hilton, a socialite best known for her family's Hilton hotel chain and her appearances in a series of poorly lit home movies. In the seven episodes of The Simple Life, Paris and Nicole disprove Twain's thesis that people can learn something from trading places, but the show does uphold Fredrich Nietzsche's beliefs on how morality is mostly a personal (and class-based) construct. For the run of the show, Paris and Nicole run amok over the town and are unable to complete the menial tasks assigned them. For every single job or assignment they have, the ladies show up late and find some way to either shortcut their work or be startling inappropriate during; to wit, when asked to fill milk bottles at a dairy farm — because they are moving too slow for their boss — they decide to mix some of the milk with water, and then hide some of the empty crates of unfilled containers. One is never sure if their unseemly actions are simply because that's just the way they are, or if they're encouraged to misbehave by the show's producers, but at no point does the disastrous duo ever seem to respect anyone they come in contact with. Their connection to "the real world" seems particularly limited (Nicole doesn't know how to drive, while Paris has never heard of Wal-Mart and refers to the sticks as being "ghetto"), while the one nice thing they do (buy their host-mother a birdhouse) is done through illicit means (they billed the birdhouse to one of their employers without telling him). But when questioned about their actions to get the birdhouse, the girls deny that it is stealing, because they assume it will get paid for, and when the person they billed it to shows up, Nicole pretends her cat died recently and she was just informed about it, covering her face in water-faucet tears. There are moments where their tomfoolery becomes amusing, but one then realizes this is how they behave all the time, and their behavior (as long as they have money) won't change. It's a fascinating sociological experiment, but as entertainment.... Fox presents The Simple Life in full-frame and 2.0 stereo. Extras include an eight-minute trial episode where Nicole and Paris work in a pet shop, and over 30 minutes of deleted scenes, including one where Nicole has no idea how to use a can-opener. Keep-case.
—DSH



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