Paris Hilton’s My New BFF (MTV, Tuesdays at 10 p.m.) is a ladies-in-waiting game show, a bubble-gum farce, a boot camp for red-carpet wannabes, a princess fantasy about princess fantasies, an insidiously snappy production. Therein, Miss Hilton, whose life’s achievement has been to advance empty fame as performance art, holds auditions for a new pal. Thus, the program sparkles with a certain structural purity. Though contestants are expected to demonstrate the traditional attributes of a desirable friend (trust, loyalty, deftness with malicious gossip), the winner will have proven her mastery of pseudo-celebrity in itself and will be rewarded with a touch of what one aspirant, Natasha, calls “celebrityism,” as in, “Being Paris’ friend would definitely mean instant celebrityism. I’m over just walking into a room and people wondering, ‘Who is that?’ OK, well, now it’s like you gotta know who I am.”
There is nothing to say in response to a sentiment so merrily craven but to gasp a Warhol-esque wow. The competitors have candidly been asked to perform the self-objectification and personality fabrication that are often just reality-show subtext. They demonstrate their worthiness as hangers-on by hanging out, and the program is giddy with their efforts. It’s like watching children play—instead of house—Entourage. And Natasha is hardly alone in her entertainingly bizarre sense of self. Consider the thoughts of Baje—pronounced “beige”—on why her position on the show was at risk after her sluggish performance in the “Party Like Paris” challenge, a kind of Ironman competition of going out. “There are two reasons I can be up for elimination,” Baje said. “One, I wasn’t gonna partay, and another thing can be cuz I’m a bitch.”
Or ponder Lauren’s response to the question of why she and Paris are meant to be “besties”: “I think we have a similar bone structure.” Well, if your coffee dates are going to be documented in Us Weekly, that does have a certain logic to it. Lauren spent a lot of time during the “Party Like Paris” challenge—during its eight-hour nightclub crawl, before its sunrise yacht trip—flirting with guys. Inadvertently revealing that her name-dropping skills need polishing, she disclosed to one, a little anxiously, “Paris Hilton. We’re kicking it with Paris Hilton. Just lettin’ you know.” The gentleman, proving himself well-schooled in contemporary etiquette, did not fumble in finding the most correct reply: “That’s tight.”
Hilton narrates the episodes from a perch on an overstuffed chaise longue, her hairdo and wardrobe echoing old Hollywood sirens, her face tilted to its best angle with something like machine precision. She steps down from that throne to appear in the main action quite often, but the camera never lingers too long on her, lest she start looking dull.
What does she want from a “friend”? You have “to look hot in any situation”—hence the “Freestyle Posing” challenge, which asked the competitors to look like paparazzi-ready glamourpusses while riding a roller coaster. You must, like any true courtier, be skilled in flattery: There’s a bit where the prospective friends make toasts to Paris and her mother over country-club mimosas, and the best of those speeches sound like the valedictorian’s address at the Brown-Nose Vocational Academy. You’ve got to have confidence in your confidante: BFF’s answer to a trust fall is a mandatory makeover. You must, above all, work it. “Working it,” says Paris, not at all kidding, “is a skill that takes time and effort to perfect.”
Thus far, contestants have been eliminated for partying too hard, for failing to party hard enough, for social climbing in a club by dawdling at the DJ booth, for various other betrayals of the Parisian ideal. They were brushed off in the argot of a catty text message: “TTYN”—talk to you never. That is an air-kiss of a kiss-off, delivered by the glossed lips of a show with a pleasantly phony smile always in position.