Tuesday, July 13, 2010

'The Hills': EP Liz Gateley doesn't feel responsible for Heidi and Spencer's choices

In its six seasons, "The Hills" has made several of its graduates famous, such as original lead Lauren Conrad, "The City's" Whitney Port and soon the star of her own reality show, Audrina Patridge.
By the same token, some of its stars have become more infamous, such as "Hills" castoffs, Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt.
"I've worked with a lot of castmembers and a lot of people who have been through this journey," Liz Gateley, the creator and executive producer of MTV's "The Hills," tells Zap2it. "I look at the Lauren Conrads and the Whitney Ports and the Audrinas who have maneuvered it and maneuvered it well. Certainly working in this industry, you see people who can handle it and people who can't."
Gateley tells us that while she and her producing team do indeed walk a fine line when it comes to its hybrid "semi-scripted" reality style, she's confident in the decisions they've made over the course of the MTV show.
"At the end of the day," she says. "Editing can go a long way toward amping up the drama that happened."
She goes on to explain, "There's lots of tricks of the trade. Our test is, did this actually happen? And is it true to what really went on? And if it didn't, then we would throw it out."
That's a refreshing statement in a time when reality television has become just as popular (if dare we say more popular) than scripted. And with its popularity comes its critics.
Some say that reality TV has gone too far in exploiting its castmembers personal issues and sometimes their emotional stability, such as capturing the apparent mental breakdown of Kelly Bensimon on Bravo's "The Real Housewives of New York City" or even "The Bachelor," which, despite its drawn out system for picking mates, continually churns out messy breakups.
On the final season of "The Hills," we watched as Spencer seemed to spiral into a constant state of paranoia and rage while his wife, Heidi, shocked fans with her overzealous plastic surgery. Gateley has no doubts, though, that she and her producing team treated the storyline responsibly before ceasing to film the couple altogether.
"We love Spencer and Heidi and their storylines," Gateley told us. "They were going through a lot of personal stuff. And at some point you as a producer and editor, you have to draw the line. So, we followed their stories up until we felt it was relevant to the audience."
And when it came to Heidi's plastic surgery specifically, Gateley believes the show delivered an important message to viewers.
"For me personally, I'm glad we got out there that this is a choice people make," she tells us. "But when her mom said, 'What happened to the Heidi that I knew and love?' and 'There is only one Heidi Montag out there. I don't think you look better.' It was what everyone was talking about in America. I think we told that story this season responsibly."
With the final season coming to a close on Tuesday (July 13), Gateley feels comfortable saying the show did all it could for the now possibly separated couple.
"I know that we've given Heidi and Spencer all the support that we can over the years as a friend and an executive producer," she says. "You know they chose a certain path. So, I do not feel personally responsible."

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