By: Aleks Chan
HIGH SOCIETY is very much a reality show of the post-Lauren Conrad HILLS era: starring the exotically boring socialite Tinsley Mortimer and some of her associates in the New York social scene, it does not try to hide the fact that its cast is frequent tabloid fodder (one cast member even flaunts his own infamy in tonight’s premiere). But there seems to be little consensus on how to handle the cross-section of reality with “reality”: parents were none too pleased over the behavior exhibited in NYC PREP and the cast of JERSEY SHORE have fielded their fair share of controversy, from punches in the face to the determining whether the glorification of a racial epithet is in fact more derogatory than the show itself.
The CW has been caught goosing the production to make up for Ms. Mortimer’s lack of real life drama – it seems that they didn’t learn from MTV, who after previously shooting a series with Mortimer and having difficulty using the footage, scrapped the production altogether. But even if we abandon the pre-tense of accuracy when it involves reality television and just consider it a form of fiction, a style chosen for effect and for its extra cheap price tag, HIGH SOCIETY is made so scattershot and disorienting by the producers’ thirst for drama that it’s difficult to engage with even at a purely cheesy-fluff level. The show feels pieced together by an unhappy girl on the town: she flocks to party after party, looking for anything worth looking for.
They won’t find it with Mortimer, who is portrayed as a pleasant, mildly out-of-touch blonde who’s trying to move on after separating from her high-profile (though rarely seen) husband. She hops in different clothes to different parties all over the city and is dutifully dull at all of them. More focus is directed to the supporting cast, which includes her equally uninteresting sister Dabney and her out-of-touch interior designer mother Dale, who is vehemently against Tinsley’s break-up for reasons twofold: she just finished decorating their Upper East Side apartment and they had the same initials.
There’s an ongoing feud between “trust fund partier” Jules Kirby and “’Page Six’ scandal boy” Paul Johnson Calderon (“But everybody just calls me PJC”), that involves arson, theft, cancer, and projectile alcohol. (To go into further detail would be to court depression.) Both are of the repulsive reality TV character breed, though they seem especially guileless. Says Jules upon our first meeting: “I think people are jealous of me because I’m smart, I’m pretty, and I don’t have a censor button.” Indeed. She continues to say that her friends “do not tend to be homosexuals, fat or Jewish people and black guys. And I only like white guys.” She also lacks the self-awareness to realize her own irony, as stated in this beautiful soundbite: “I think it should be okay to use the n-word. My dream is to work for the United Nations.”
Paul, who’s living off a trust fund and is ready to settle down to “publish a book” and “have a family” confesses: “I desperately wanna, like, be loved.” Part of it could be them purposely playing up their personalities for the show (they were cast for that very reason) and there’s always the questions of manipulative editing. Still, even as vile and preening as these two prove to be, their ability to disgust us quickly grows tiresome. This battle of the reprehensible rich is just as boring as Tinsley herself. Grade: D
HIGH SOCIETY premieres Wednesday March 10 at 9:30PM on the CW