The Simple Life

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The Simple Life
GenreReality television
Created by
ComposersRoger Neill, Michael Suby
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons5
No. of episodes55 (list of episodes)
Running time22 minutes
Production companies
Distributor20th Television
Disney-ABC Domestic Television
Original network
  • Fox (2003–05)
  • E! (2006–07)
Original releaseDecember 2, 2003 (2003-12-02) –
August 5, 2007 (2007-08-05)

The Simple Life is an American reality television series. The series aired from December 2, 2003 to August 5, 2007. The first three seasons aired on Fox, and the final two on E!. The series depicts two wealthy socialites, Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie, as they struggle to do manual, low-paying jobs such as cleaning rooms, farm work, serving meals in fast-food restaurants, and working as camp counselors.

Production history[edit]


Paris and Nicole begin shooting The Simple Life.

The idea for The Simple Life was generated in Fox's comedy department. Brad Johnson, Senior Vice President of comedy development, said The Simple Life was born out of a challenge from Fox Television Entertainment Group Chairman, Sandy Grushow, and News Corp. President and Chief Operating Officer, Peter Chernin, to find another way to do comedies outside of the traditional sitcom format.

“The areas that seemed simplest and cleanest was to go back to those high-concept 1960s sitcoms and say let's do them for real,” Johnson said. The Simple Life was inspired by Green Acres, a sitcom about a New York society couple who moved to a farm. Johnson said they originally thought of moving an entire family to the South. Cameras would observe as the former socialites, deprived of access to their bank accounts and Beemers, attempt to get a job, buy groceries, and fit in with average Americans.

At the same time the comedy department was developing the idea, Paris Hilton was meeting with the studio's casting department. Sharon Klein, senior VP of casting at the studio, said she was immediately fascinated by Hilton and wanted to do a show with her. “I'm used to meeting with actors who are putting on a facade,” Klein said. “She was so real. She was funny. At that first meeting she did not come off stupid. She was in her own reality and not embarrassed to talk about it. There was a sweetness to her.”

The two departments talked and realized they had their show: Send Paris Hilton and her sister Nicky, who had never worked a day in their lives, to live and work on a farm. At the time, the studio was working closely with Mike Darnell, head of reality programming at Fox, who liked the idea. “They wanted to see stilettos in cow shit,” Klein said.[1] Paris was convinced to come on board, however Nicky, being somewhat shy to the limelight at the time, opted out. Paris told some media that she was in talks to do the show by herself,[2] but ultimately, Fox decided the city-living cast had to be a duo.

Paris allegedly asked several close friends on board, including Kimberly Stewart and Band Aid heiress, Casey Johnson. After Johnson declined, Hilton ended up making the agreement with Nicole Richie. Fox hired established reality producer, Bunim/Murray, to produce the show. Bunim/Murray found the Leding family in Altus, Arkansas, with whom Paris and Nicole could live. Production began on May 2, 2003.

Fox cancellation[edit]

Bunim/Murray originally had plans to send the cast on a trip to Mexico in its fourth season, but plans were quickly put on hold, and rearranged. In an interview with USA Today, Paris confirmed the longstanding rumor that Paris and Nicole were no longer friends, and that Nicole would not be part of the fourth season. Plans at this point were now to shoot on the Hawaiian island of Maui.

Instead, said Paris, the new co-star would be Paris' friend Kimberly Stewart, the daughter of rocker Rod Stewart, and someone Paris had wanted on the show to begin with. Kimberly said that producers would attempt to mollify Nicole by giving her a new reality show of her own, a Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica-styled effort focused on her then-upcoming wedding to Adam Goldstein, known professionally as DJ AM.[3]

Fox was quick to debunk what Paris and Kimberly had said. Fox Network head Peter Ligouri told the Television Critics Association press tour in Los Angeles that Paris and Nicole were actually both contracted for another two seasons. Kimberly was not going to be involved at all, and Paris and Nicole are, in his words "TV professionals, who will be ready to work together when the time comes."[4]

Fox then unexpectedly canceled its plans for any further seasons of The Simple Life in October 2005, both because it had filled its mid-season show quota, and because Paris and Nicole had had the falling out as friends.

Picked up by E! and production complications[edit]

After it was dropped by Fox, other networks, such as NBC, UPN, The WB, VH1, and MTV were all reported to be interested in obtaining the rights to air new seasons of the show.[5] On November 28, 2005, E! announced that they had picked up The Simple Life and had ordered production go ahead on the fourth season, along with the rights to re-air the first three seasons. Shooting for the new season finally began February 27, 2006.[6]

Despite the fact that the stars of the show had sorted out their differences and agreed to shoot the season together, the fifth and final season had many complications during production. It was originally set to begin production in November 2006 and air in March 2007 but was put on temporary hold, as Nicole had to enter a health care facility for her ongoing weight issues."[7]

Production resumed as of March 2, 2007; however more complications arose. Both Paris and Nicole faced major charges for DUI, and were at risk of serving jail time. Paris was sentenced to 23 days in jail, though this was after production of the season had finished.[8] Nicole accepted a plea agreement and was sentenced to 4 days in jail, again after production had wrapped.[9]

During some early shooting days, Nicole complained of illness. After she was examined by the on-set doctor she was taken to a nearby hospital where she received intravenous fluids for 15 minutes before being released. This incident set production behind schedule.[10] Despite all the problems, the shooting of the season finished in time and the season actually premiered earlier than otherwise expected.

Final cancellation by E! and attempted continuation[edit]

Nicole confirmed on KIIS-FM in Los Angeles that she and Paris signed a contract for a sixth and seventh season of the show.[11] Despite the initial hopes for continuation, E! announced they had canceled the show on July 30, 2007. E! networks final statement: "The Simple Life has been a wonderful addition to the E! Schedule for two years and we will always be grateful to Paris and Nicole for their hard work and graciousness."[12]

Paris herself made a statement at the premiere of Rush Hour 3 saying "It's been a great five years and we had so much fun, but I'm happy to end it at that," suggesting she had opted out of any continuation of the series.[13]

Kelly and Kimberly begin shooting a spin-off to The Simple Life that is not picked up.

Series producer 20th Century Fox Television held out hope another network would pick it up for another go-round. It was reported a new incarnation may not feature Paris and Nicole.[14] Other networks were said to be interested, including MTV as a strong possibility.[15] A new incarnation nearly occurred, in a newly developed spin-off that, following negotiations, was set to air on E!, featuring Kelly Osbourne and Kimberly Stewart in Paris and Nicole's shoes.[16] The show was not picked up, however, after Kelly opted out of the project after a few days' shooting, branding it "demeaning and juvenile".[17] Distribution rights to The Simple Life are still held by Disney-ABC Domestic Television (the successor company to the original incarnation of 20th Television), who may submit the series for syndication in the USA in future. In Australia, it is already syndicated, with various seasons now airing on Arena TV (on Foxtel and Austar).[citation needed]

Season overviews[edit]

The first season[edit]

In the first season, Paris and Nicole agreed to leave behind their cellphones, credit cards and celebrity status to move in with the Leding family in Altus, Arkansas for a month.

What was supposed to be an experiment in learning how to adapt to doing chores and getting their hands dirty turned out to be a failure. In the process they would ruin a dairy farmer's milk supply, wreak havoc at a local Sonic Drive-In and take advantage of an employer's credit card, ultimately getting fired from every job they took up. This was greatly upsetting to the Leding family. Despite all of this, the two would often get a reality check from the family themselves. Whether Paris and Nicole took it to heart remains to be seen.

The show debuted on Fox on December 2, 2003, to high ratings. The premiere episode drew 13 million viewers, increasing Fox's Adults 18-49 rating a “phenomenal” 79%.[18] The second episode drew 13.3 million viewers, an increase of 300,000 viewers over its premiere.[19] During the airing of the series, Fox added two extra episodes and a reunion special, which continued to draw ratings. The DVD of this season was released in U.S. on January 20, 2004. Some international releases included the bonus episode and the reunion episode.

Road Trip[edit]

A second season, subtitled Road Trip, began broadcasting on June 16, 2004.[20] In this season, Paris and Nicole traveled across the United States in a pink pickup truck (driven by Paris), pulling an Airstream trailer. They participated in such activities as catching crayfish, working as maids in a nudist resort, and sausage-making.

The premiere episode (drawing 9.8 million overall viewers)[21] showcased Hilton's horseback-riding accident, which made headlines when they were still filming.

The ratings continued to climb during the season, and Fox was quick to announce heading into production on Season 3, not before airing a special episode titled The Simple Life - The Stuff We Weren't Allowed To Show You on November 17, 2004. The special showcased several cut scenes from the season (some of which appear on the Season 2 DVD) as well as preview clips for the third season. The DVD of this season was released in U.S. on November 2, 2004. A CD-soundtrack for this season was also released.[22]


The third season began shooting October 27, 2004. The first episode premiered January 26, 2005. The third season, subtitled Interns, saw Paris and Nicole taking various internships with companies along the East Coast of the United States. Paris and Nicole traveled around the Northeast aboard motor coaches of the Greyhound Lines along intercity highway routes.

The season featured one memorable encounter with twin baby orangutans from Parrot Jungle Island in Miami, Florida. Nicole Richie's former fiancé DJ Adam Goldstein also appeared in this season when he surprised Nicole and took her on a date. In this season, there were episodes where they were given little or no money while interning, or their internships were shortened because instead of being professional, they would goof off or fail to do the work properly.

The episode “Mortuary” was set in a funeral home. It drew minor controversy among viewers because Paris and Nicole struggled with unloading a casket from a hearse, then spilling cremated ashes on the floor and using a vacuum to clean it up. In the last episode of the season, there was no party shown with friends or family. Instead, they were hounded by paparazzi, one of the final times the two were seen together on good terms for quite some time. The DVD of this season was released in U.S. on March 19, 2006.

'Til Death Do Us Part[edit]

The fourth season premiered on June 4, 2006, drawing 1.3 million viewers. While those ratings would have been dismal for Fox, it was actually more than four times E!'s prime-time average. And in key adult demographic groups, ratings more than tripled from the network's average.[23] The season features Paris and Nicole playing “Wife” to a different family every episode, in a similar manner to Wife Swap. Paris and Nicole alternate between the family each episode, with the family then deciding which of them was better in the role.

This season was also unique, as Paris and Nicole did not leave L.A. The families they stayed with were L.A. area residents, and the episodes often focused on Paris and Nicole's personal lives and careers as well as the challenge of being a wife and mother. This season also featured guest appearances from Paris and Nicole's well-known friends, family and associates. Since the season was set in their hometowns, Paris and Nicole had cell phone and credit card usage, previously denied to them in earlier seasons.

The season finale ended with Paris confronting Nicole, stating “We have to talk”, and Nicole answering “So talk...”, followed by a screen that read “To be continued... next season!” Many viewers were shocked and angry over this cliffhanger ending.[24]

On Thursday, July 28, 2006, several E! series were added to the iTunes Store. Among these series was The Simple Life Seasons 1 and 4. The DVD of this season was released on December 26, 2006.[25]

The Simple Life Goes to Camp[edit]

It was announced on October 9, 2006 that Paris and Nicole had rekindled their friendship and had agreed to shoot the fifth season of The Simple Life together. In an interview with Australian Cosmopolitan magazine in January 2007, Paris confirmed The Simple Life would resume shooting in March 2007, in Malibu, California. The tentative title for the season was Malibu: Camp Simple Life, but later adjusted to The Simple Life Goes to Camp.[26]

Paris explained how she and Nicole will be counselors for multiple camps, including, but not restricted to, a beauty pageant camp, a fat camp and a couples camp.[27]

It was subsequently confirmed that The Simple Life Goes to Camp has Paris and Nicole working as counselors at Camp Shawnee, a fictional camp on the site of an actual camp, Camp JCA Shalom. The camp was host to five different specialty groups: Wellness Camp, Pageant Camp, Couples Camp, Survival Camp and Drama Camp.[28]

The season began picking up where the last left off, with Paris and Nicole recreating their true-to-life reconciliation onscreen for viewers, and then being driven by limousine to the campsite.

At least one of the counselors, Hunter Cross, admits he is an actor who auditioned for the role.[29] The camp nurse, Jamie Sue Sherrill, also known as Nurse Jamie, is an actress[30] and a registered nurse.[31] Although most of the campers were in fact non-actors, one of them (the high maintenance girl who quit the camp early) from the survival camp was also seen on an Oust air freshener commercial and Dave from the Drama Camp is a commercial/TV actor as well. The only “real” individual from Camp JCA Shalom to appear on the show is Jorge, the camp chef.

The season premiere was on Memorial Day, Monday, May 28, 2007, and the show began its normal Sunday night time slot the following week on E!.[32] Jamie Sherrill appeared during the season as an on-air nurse to both Hilton and Richie.[33]

The complete fifth season was released to DVD on January 22, 2008. It contained no special features and not even the extended version of the first episode that was only shown on the premiere.[34] This season is also available for download on iTunes. Also released exclusively to iTunes on August 13, 2007 was a compilation of camp songs dubbed The Simple Life: Camp Songs. The album received no promotion and none of the songs on the album were heard on the show.


Awards and recognition[edit]

  • 2004, won ASCAP Award for Top TV Series
  • 2004, won BMI TV Music Award
  • 2004, nominated in the Teen Choice Awards for Choice Reality/Variety TV Star – Female - Paris Hilton and Choice TV Show - Reality/Variety
  • 2005, nominated in the Teen Choice Awards Choice TV Show: Reality and for The Simple Life: Interns
  • 2006, nominated in the Teen Choice Awards for TV – Choice Reality Star (Female) – Paris Hilton
  • 2007, nominated in the Teen Choice Awards for Choice TV: Female Reality/Variety Star – Paris Hilton
  • 2009, won Fox Reality Awards for "Innovator of Reality TV" – Paris Hilton

Media impact[edit]

International remakes[edit]

Quebec remake La Vie Rurale (The rural life) promo shot, with Jacynthe Millette-Bilodeau (left) and Anne-Marie Losique (right)

Paris and Nicole's rural misadventures on The Simple Life have proved so popular with viewers that Fox World has produced international versions for overseas television. While Paris's international counterparts aren't hotel heiresses, they are relatively rich and well known in their home countries, and the plots of the remakes tend to be the same. So far, at least eleven official remakes have been produced:

Countries Title Starring Network
 Brazil Simple Life: Mudando de Vida Karina Bacchi & Ticiane Pinheiro Rede Record
 Belgium Ciao Bella
 Canada (in French) La Vie Rurale Anne-Marie Losique & Jacynthe MusiMax
 Estonia Lihtne Elu
 Germany Gülcan und Collien ziehen aufs Land Gülcan Kamps & Collien Fernandes ProSieben
India Dil Jeetegi Desi Girl[35] Imagine TV
 Israel Y החיים על"פי
Ha Chayim Al-Pi Y
 Italy On the Road
 Serbia Jednostavan život Ana Mihajlovski & Marijana Mićić RTS1
 Turkey Her Şey Yolunda Tuğba Özay & Yeliz Yeşilmen
 Uruguay Cambio de Vida (es) Claudia Fernández & Tamara Venazúz Canal 10
 United Kingdom The Simpleton Life Amy Childs & Harry Derbridge[36] Channel 5

Some other international markets, such as Japan[37] chose to subtitle or dub the original.


I Want to Be a Hilton promotional image

Paris has released several other ventures into reality television. The first, titled This Is Paris, focused more around her personal life, and the recording of her debut album, very much in the vein of Madonna: Truth or Dare. It aired on MTV on August 8, 2006 and on VH1 on August 9, 2006.

A fly on the wall reality documentary titled Paris, Not France premiered on MTV on July 28, 2009. It featured Paris discussing several personal hurdles she had overcome and provided a look into her busy daily life and career.[38]

Paris has since gone on to produce and star in a new reality series centering on her search for a new best friend. The series, picked up by MTV and titled Paris Hilton's My New BFF, began airing in September 2008. It featured two seasons set in the United States, one set in the United Kingdom and one set in United Arab Emirates. Another U.S. season was planned,[39] but did not eventuate; Hilton later claimed she had "moved on".

The rumors of Nicole set to have her own show about her romance and wedding planning with then-fiancée Adam Goldstein were put to rest by Nicole herself, when she said she would never do a reality show about her personal life.[40] Nicole took time away from television for several years after The Simple Life finished, finding time to display her niche in fashion, writing books and raising a family with current boyfriend Joel Madden. She has since announced plans to produce and star in a sitcom to air on ABC, loosely based around her life.[41]

Ever since plans to appear in The Simple Life fell through, Kimberly Stewart has been working hard to develop her own reality series. A series pilot, titled Win Your Life Back featured Kimberly taking favorite personal belongings off two teams of young female contestants, and putting them through challenges to win their belongings back. Whichever team wins back the most belongings would win a $100,000 shopping spree. The pilot was presented to MTV, but was not picked up.

Kimberly then began shooting a direct spin-off to The Simple Life with Kelly Osbourne for E!, but after it was also not picked up, she finally secured an active reality show, shot in London, titled Living with Kimberly Stewart, in which she put contestants through challenges involving living arrangements. The winner got to live in a luxury London pent-house, rent-free with Kimberly for a year. The show premiered on Living TV in the U.K. in 2007.

In 2005, NBC produced a reality series titled I Want To Be a Hilton. I Want to Be a Hilton took the idea of The Simple Life, and reversed it. Hosted by Kathy Hilton, Paris' mom, the show saw several contestants from rural country and suburban areas having to perform certain tasks ranging from dog grooming to a fashion show and organizing a charity event, while learning etiquette and manners. The finalist of the competition received a prize package that included a $200,000 trust fund, a new apartment, wardrobe and the opportunity to live the life of high society for one year. Paris and Nicky guest starred in an episode, and Paris's dog Tinkerbell (who appeared in The Simple Life) also took part.

Unofficial remakes[edit]

The Simple Life has also been emulated by other less-official remakes. A good example of another reality series is E!'s Filthy Rich: Cattle Drive, which shared various unquestionable similarities with The Simple Life. It centered on sending several well known young socialites (including Kourtney Kardashian and Brittny Gastineau, among others) to live on a rural ranch, minus cellphones and other luxuries they have come to swear by.

In 2008, MTV produced Exiled!, a spin-off to its hit reality series My Super Sweet 16. Exiled! took eight former stars of My Super Sweet 16, who have grown up spoiled, self-involved and without any idea about real work, and sent them to live in third-world countries to teach them a lesson in how hard life can be for people other than themselves. The promo clips for the show were quickly compared to The Simple Life.[42] The series aired on MTV in spring 2008.[43]

It has also been said that The Simple Life has inspired other works such as Cow Belles and Material Girls; movies with very similar premises to The Simple Life.[44][45]

In the United Kingdom, Channel 4 broadcast Princess Nikki, a series based on the foundations of The Simple Life, starring reality TV star Nikki Grahame, who rose to fame after her popularity on popular reality show Big Brother 7. This included Nikki taking on jobs such as being a farmer, an extreme cleaner and a sewage worker. Nikki went on to win a National Television Award.

South Korean television channel KBS2 has produced a reality-variety show, titled Invincible Youth which is loosely based on The Simple Life, consisting of various K-pop girl group members. The show is centered on "the G7" - Girls' Generation's Yuri and Sunny, 4Minute's Hyuna, Kara's Goo Hara, Brown Eyed Girls' Narsha, T-ara's Hyomin and Secret's Han Sunhwa.

In the Netherlands, the show Joling & Gordon over de vloer ("Joling & Gordon in the house") was said to be inspired by The Simple Life, but instead of two blonde rich girls the show followed two famous gay singers/hosts: Gerard Joling (Popstars, Shownieuws, Hole in the Wall) and Gordon (Idols, X Factor, Singing Bee). The show became a huge success on Talpa and later on RTL 5, but due to conflicts between the two divas, Gordon decided to make his own reality show, Gillend Naar Huis ("Back Home ASAP").


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External links[edit]