Imagine being a teen girl in a Southern California beach town surrounded by “Alpha Girls” with eyes for the guy you would die to date.
Thanks to Liz Gateley, you don’t have to try that hard. She lived that life and it partially inspired a show called “Laguna Beach” that then grew into MTV’s “The Hills.” As the show airs its finale episode on Tuesday (July 13), she’ll know exactly how you feel, too.
“To see it come to an end is bittersweet,” Gateley, the creator and executive producer of “The Hills,” tells Zap2it. “But, I feel really, really proud of the way we’re going out and that we’re going out on top and proud of all the stories we’ve told. The connection we’ve made with our viewers has been just amazing.”
From what we can tell, she isn’t taking any of it for granted. “As a producer,” Gateley says. “It’s rare that you’re going to work in your lifetime on a show that cuts through in such a big way. So, it’s pretty amazing and tear jerking at the same time.”
Zap2it spoke to Gateley about the decision to end the show, how it differed from what she had originally imagined and the scene she’ll never forget.
“Laguna Beach” and “The Hills” definitely broke ground in its shooting and editing style for reality shows. How did that all come together?
It was the first time someone said let’s take real lives and make it into cinematic entertainment. We were inspired by several things, but one of my reference pieces was ‘Heathers’ in terms of the same kind of tone that you could capture. But also ‘Dawson’s Creek’ in terms of the love triangle and the way that The WB when it first started was using music as a character. We knew we wanted to shoot and edit the show in a cinematic way, so that a lot of time long holds on looks told the story instead of the dialogue.
Was ending the show a tough decision?
Between seasons, me and [co-creator Adam Divello] always ask, ‘Can we do one more?’ And at this juncture, we said this show is becoming a show that isn’t a coming of age story anymore. That was a quick discussion.
Was Lauren Conrad’s departure the death knell for the show?
Obviously when Lauren decided to leave the show, we had a gut check. Where are we? Let’s look at what’s happening in the remaining castmember’s lives. We really thought Audrina [Patridge] was right in the middle of this very compelling story with Justin Bobby. And Heidi [Montag] and Spencer [Pratt] were just getting married. And Stephanie [Pratt] and Holly [Montag] were still dealing with their new respective in-laws. And there was a lot more story to tell. So, we felt strongly about continuing it and we were able to get two more seasons out of the show from there. Viewers still tuned in and love the show, so I think it was the right decision.
You had once said that you envisioned the show ending with Lauren’s wedding. How do you feel the real ending compares?
I think my dream was Lauren marrying [‘One Tree Hill’s] Stephen Colletti. That’s not how life works out and we followed where the stories went and it’s a different ending, but an equally good one.
Many of the castmembers have been much more open in interviews about the “scripted” sides of the show. Do you think they damaged the franchise at all?
At the end of the day, has Kristen [Cavallari] really been hooking up with Brody [Jenner]? Yes. Do we sensationalize it and say sit in a corner and talk about it? Yes. The words are not manufactured by us. They are completely authentic to what the person is really feeling. It’s kind of like a teacher telling two kids to work out their squabbles in a corner. What they say and what they’re feeling is real. So, how the castmember perceives it is up to them. I stand by that our test is did it really happen and if it did, we keep it in. If it didn’t, then it’s out.
Is there a specific scene from the show that you’ll always remember?
On “The Hills,” I think Lauren always had the most amazing quotes and soundbites, which is her gift. And when she was sitting on her couch with Heidi and she said, “I want to forgive you and I want to forget you.” It was that moment that every girl can relate to. You want to think in your heart that that friendship is going to get any better, but you know it’s not. And for Lauren to come up with that line was so great.
Liz Gateley is in the process of developing a “Teen Wolf” redux and the American version of BBC’s teen drama, “Skins,” for MTV.
Photo / Video credit: MTV