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April 28, 2009

'Hills' to continue without Lauren Conrad

Heidi_and_spencerBy James Hibberd & Anthony Crupi

While Lauren Conrad has had her fill of The Hills, MTV is extending the series’ run with an additional clutch of episodes set to air this fall.

As part of its upfront announcements to advertisers, MTV said Tuesday the docu-soap will continue without the 23-year-old designer, building a new storyline centered around newlyweds (and Conrad antagonists) Spencer Pratt and Heidi Montag.

"MTV viewers will find out life in Los Angeles only gets more complicated as friendships, relationships and loyalties are tested like never before as The Hills returns this fall with more episodes of season five," said MTV.

Note that's "more episodes of season five," not another season per se.

At PaleyFest last week producers said they were planning to continue shooting footage beyond the season finale of the remaining characters. MTV will likely decide how many episodes will air based on how compelling the resulting footage is. The show could end up effectively become a show focusing on Heidi and Spencer that was long-discussed as a possible Hills spinoff.

An MTV rep confirms Heidi, Audrina, Spencer, Brody, Stephanie, Lo and Justin Bobby will be back. Patridge has said she is leaving the show after the current season to star on her new solo project for Mark Burnett (the fall episodes are still considered the current season by MTV, which would have to re-up deals with the cast if they continued to another official season).

Along with news of an L.C.-free version of the hit show, MTV unveiled its 2009-10 programming roster, prepping nine new shows and returning four series. The network indicated that its development slate will “continue to reflect a directional shift geared toward the millennial generation, with shows that are aspirational, escapist and optimistic.”

Several of the new shows were previously broken by THR, including the fashion reality competition series Stylist, DJ AM's new intervention series Gone Too Far, and animated shows DJ and the Fro and Popzilla.

Other new shows include:

-- The Buried Life: Aspirational new show from Reveille: "Four young  men on an epic quest to prove that anyone can do anything ... everything from kissing Rachel McAdams to Getting in the Guinness Book of  World Records. But they also made a promise to themselves: for every goal they achieve on their list, they help a stranger do something on theirs."

-- Also from Reveille, The Alexa Chung Show, a new one-hour daily live show with this kitchen soup description: "Hosted by smart and witty British television personality and model Alexa Chung, the program will include celebrity guests, musical performances, and the best of the Web." The interactive chat show  will allow viewers to interact with guests in real time via Twitter.

-- Ultimate Parkour Challenge: Interesting sounding competition series using free running: "Athletes run as efficiently as possible from point “A” to point “B” but unlike a track and field race, Parkour is performed on any and every environment. Walls, cars, stairs, railings,  rooftops and ten-foot gaps between five-story buildings, force runners to  leap, roll, climb, vault and fly, using the obstacles in their way to increase  speed."

-- Pranked: "A weekly 30 minute show of the very best pranks pulled straight off the Internet."

“There’s a palpable generational shift in attitudes that’s informing a new point of view as we develop content and the brand,” said Tony DiSanto, head of programming for MTV. “The change in our audience is reflected in new formats, tonal voices and storytelling cadence. ... Just as we’ve shifted with our audience in the past, we’re now embracing a new brand filter––one that inspires us to break boundaries, bust our mold, and reinvent.”

In addition to The Hills, MTV is also cooking up new seasons of America’s Best Dance Crew, Run’s House and Nitro Circus

While MTV is the top-rated ad-supported cable network in total day among viewers 12-24, the network has struggled in prime of late. In April, MTV’s average nightly delivery fell 12 percent to 841,000 total viewers, while the 18-34 demo dropped 11 percent (468,000, good for fourth place).

Anthony Crupi is senior editor at Mediaweek.


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