FOX's 'The Simple Life' wraps up shooting early, leaves bad blood behind
By Wade Paulsen, 06/06/2003
Shooting on Fox's controversial The Simple Life reality show, starring LA socialites-dilletantes Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie, in Altus, Arkansas wrapped up a week early, apparently due to troubles between the "stars" and the crew, according to a RealityTVWorld.com poster from the area. According to this poster, Paris and Nicole threatened to quit the show after being reprimanded for spending four hours on the phone. Although the show still had planned to shoot for two more weeks, Paris and Nicole spent little time with the locals during the next week, and the production came to an unscheduled end that Friday.
The early halt was confirmed by the New York Post, which put a more crew-friendly spin on the events, claiming that hostility between the "stars" and the locals led to the early end of filming. According to the Post, the locals "loathed" Paris and Nicole, and Nicole was involved in a bar fight. Perhaps that's true, but the locals who described the show's events to RTW, as discussed in this prior story, seemed more bemused by the phoniness of the show than upset with its stars.
However, the producers and the crew clearly seem to have been "loathed" by the locals, for their apparent intent to portray the Ozarks and Arkansas as one step regressed from the Clampett family in The Beverly Hillbillies. The Fort Smith (AR) Times Record reports that the producers, for example, set up a phony "grape-stomping" booth at the Altus Spring Gala for Paris and Nicole (who wisely declined to take part) and filmed unkempt areas around town whenever possible.
Even an 11-year-old girl watching the filming got the point, stating that the producers "are making fun of us. ... They were saying, ‘They’re so totally poor,'" Only the mayor of Altus, who still hoped (forlornly?) that the show would portray Altus in a positive light, seemed comfortable with the filming. The same skepticism about the show was discussed in a story from KPOM-TV.
During the filming of The Simple Life, the United Mine Workers picketed Viacom (the parent company of CBS) over a planned reality version of The Beverly Hillbillies. The protests over The Real Beverly Hillbillies (which has not been cast and may never be made) have reached such a fevered pitch that even a once-reputable newspaper like the Washington Postfelt free to mock CBS in a 'news' article. However, we suggest that, as usual, the Post missed the real story: while covering the possible show that may mock rural people, it overlooked the actual show apparently doing the same thing at that time.
As for Paris and Nicole, yes, they may be beautiful and spoiled, but they at least seemed to be open to trying new things and avoiding rural stereotypes ... certainly more so than the producers and crew were.