Reality TV shows are often closely watched by keen-eyed viewers for signs of just how “real” they are. Often, there are some pretty obvious clues that a reality show has been edited to fit a particular narrative or that parts of the drama have been scripted.
When it comes to The Simple Life, though, fans had to get clever to figure out that the dairy farm episode was fake.
‘The Simple Life’ was a predecessor to today’s reality TV
In many ways, The Simple Life helped pave the way for today’s obsession with reality TV. At the time, the show was a natural extension of a tabloid culture that had become positively laser-focused on the day-to-day lives of rich celebrities.
Paris Hilton (heiress to the Hilton Hotel fortune) and Nicole Richie (famed party girl and daughter of Lionel Richie) were then best friends. The fervor around their celebrity was a precursor for shows like Keeping Up with the Kardashians and certainly helped usher in the use of social media to keep up with celebrities in their daily lives.
The premise of the series was basically that two spoiled, rich girls would step into a simpler way of living by giving up access to their credit cards and cell phones. The show followed them around as they performed stunts like farming in Arkansas or working as interns in New York.
By the time the show concluded, it was clear that the friendship had sizzled, and the series couldn’t hold a candle to the real-life drama of the stars’ actual lives. It wrapped up after five seasons.
‘The Simple Life’ dairy farm episode was fake
The draw of The Simple Life was definitely the juxtaposition between Hilton and Richie’s actual lives of luxury and the scramble it took to make ends meet in the outlandish scenarios of the show.
Along the way, fans got to laugh at how little the women knew about things like doing laundry, and their ditzy personas provided plenty of quotable one-liners. In the years since Hilton has opened up about how painful it was to live such a narrow persona, but — at the time — fans ate it up.
One episode that really illustrated the dynamic was set on a dairy farm in Arkansas. At one point, the girls are tasked with filling bottles on Danny’s Dairy Farm, and they’re scrambling to beat the clock. Danny, the farm’s purported owner, mentions that the milk is unpasteurized.
This little detail, according to The Things, tipped viewers off. The women were spilling milk everywhere and water was getting into the bottles, giving the impression that they were spoiling someone’s groceries. However, “it’s illegal to sell unpasteurized milk in Arkansas. That milk could never actually be sold, making the crazy rush to fill bottles and fact that they sloshed water into half of them nothing to worry about.” The whole thing was just a concocted scenario for the cameras.
Will ‘The Simple Life’ get a reboot?
Paris Hilton more or less faded from the public eye for many years. The entire landscape of reality TV shifted so drastically that the fame she experienced in the early 2000s feels like a touchstone from another world.
Recently, though, Hilton has stepped back into the spotlight — this time on her own terms. She’s speaking out about celebrity culture and the harm it causes, pointing to her own struggles with mental health as evidence that we need to do better when it comes to how we treat celebrities — especially women.
As Paris Hilton returned to headlines and high-profile appearances, some wondered if there might be a reboot of The Simple Life in the works. Hilton made it clear, however, that wasn’t on her agenda.
She cited her busy schedule and the fact that she had no desire to pack up and head to the middle of nowhere. In addition, “the show is so timeless and iconic, you can’t remake that,” she explained.