The L.C. Effect: Why 'The Hills' Fails Without Lauren

You can take 'The Hills' out of Orange County, but you can't take Lauren Conrad out of 'The Hills'. At least not without some pretty big consequences. Season 6 opened sans its blond starlet, who decided to move on after half a decade on the reality show circuit.
After Conrad announced her decision to bail on TV in the hopes of leading a more private life focused on her fashion career, producers brought in Conrad's old schoolmate, Kristin Cavallari, as a replacement. Alongside Speidi, Audrina and the rest of the well-tanned Cali kids, Cavallari reprises the role she stepped into as a teenager on Hills precursor 'Laguna Beach': a flirtatious, manipulative man-eater, all shiny locks and come-hither stares.

On 'Laguna' she battled Conrad for the affections of pretty boy Stephen Colletti, and it seems she's up to her old tricks in Hollywood, setting her sights on Audrina Patridge's on-again-off-again, Justin Bobby. But so far Cavallari's episodes have failed to elicit the spark we've come to expect from the drama-filled half hour.
And viewers seem to agree. Ratings were down 30% for Cavallari's premiere episode, pulling only 2.1 million sets of eyes as opposed to the 3 million who tuned in to last season's opener.

This seems to be a pattern for MTV: Ratings plummeted on 'Laguna' after Conrad left the sandy shores of her hometown for the glitz of Los Angeles. A poorly received LC-less third season sent the Laguna High kids packing.
Perhaps that's because Lauren Conrad offers something very essential to her shows. She's the grounded protagonist, ambitious and relatively normal. For the viewer, Conrad is the identifiable core, a filter through which to experience all the chaos that goes on around her. Whereas Cavallari was introduced as the anti-heroine off the bat, a role already occupied to perfection by Heidi Montag. Having wasted no time feuding with the girls and playing all the guys, Cavallari leaves us without a gal to root for.

Perhaps this will change as the show's new lineup settles into itself. But so far, without Lauren Conrad, 'The Hills' is barely even 'The Knolls.'
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I agree and I disagree. I totally miss Lauren but I think what's killing the ratings is all the scripted drama. I'm not interested in seeing Brody and Jayde fake fight. In fact I'd be happy if they got rid of Brody & Jayde altogether. I'd much rather the show focus on the girls. I think we are all still rooting the show to succeed but the producers made it hard when they don't give the girls enough screen time. Frustrating...