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Beware the "Downtown Crowd": Watching MTV's The City

With the tragic demise of MTV's highest rated "reality" series The Hills, its lead star Lauren Conrad and marketers are proudly passing the baton to a lesser-known Hills character: Whitney Port, who is now three episodes into The City, her very own New York-based Hills spin-off. Far from the vanguard, The City is more or less MTV's flailing attempt to garner some sort of audience to build on whatever's left of Carrie Bradshaw's sex-infused storylines, and to ride Gossip Girl's coattails. But mere weeks after a suspiciously holiday-cloaked launch, the shelf life of The City already looks dire, thanks to Whitney's unavoidable, inexorable ordinariness. Even more so than her former cohort Conrad, whose empty life was at least cloaked by the entertaining backstabbers around her, Port is a cipher surrounded by ciphers. That said: We're sort of rooting for this statuesque, wide-eyed Carrie Bradshaw wannabe.

So far, we've seen the California transplant move to New York, land a job as an "image coordinator" at Diane Von Furstenberg's public relations department, and--presumably by contract--sport glamorous rags. Recently, Port's been set up in a sweet apartment with an entire crew, made up of mostly models, to support her wild ways.

Sadly, Hills-watchers already know: Whitney is not wild at all--quite tame actually. The drama, such as it is, is thus supplied by Whitney's coworker, Olivia Palermo--played by real-life socialite Olivia Palermo--and Whitney's sort-of boyfriend Jay. Palermo's cousin Nevan is the only non-attractive person thus far to appear on The City: Tellingly, her second episode contribution was a stern warning about the dangers of the "downtown crowd."

Despite a 30-minute running time, the show has already managed to squeeze in all the necessary reality tropes: a runway show, a glamorous dinner party, and a little bit of turbulence courtesy of Alex, Whitney's first New York hookup, who can't seem to get over her. Lately, the show's focus has turned to real estate, with last night's show recapping Jay's heroic discovery of an apartment for Port in Gramercy. Whitney had doubts about the place and wanted to keep her options open; Jay, his own best interest at heart, reassured her "it's great spot, babe" and that they would "finally have some alone time." Whitney took it.

Some of the most torturous scenes can be attributed to Erin, Whitney's friend and daughter of AC/DC bassist Cliff Williams, who says I love you to her long distance boyfriend only after a couple months of dating, prompting Jay to throw a fit about how it's not right to say the L word whenever you feel like it. In response, Whitney gave off some weird looks. So will Whitney be able to hold her own? Or will she be another New York casualty? Dibs on the apartment?--Araceli Cruz


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