The Simple Life 2

After the success of The Simple Life, a second installment was inevitable. But, given how miserable Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie claimed to be throughout their stay in Altus, Arkansas, a change of premise was equally predictable. The Simple Life 2: On the Road has the girls embarking on a cross-country road trip from Miami Beach, Florida to Beverly Hills. Driving a pink truck and towing an Airstream trailer, the two will make pit stops at assorted “backwater” destinations, where they’ll look for “work” and continue to give vapid B-list celebrities a bad name.

Even for reality TV, On the Road is overloaded with contrivances. In the season premiere, Nicole and Paris give up their credit cards and cash, setting the scene for their first fiscal challenge when they reach a toll plaza a few minutes later. A sympathetic attendant asks for Paris’ license, which she has conveniently “forgotten.” After failing to barter saline solution and gum for 75 cents, Nicole hops out and begins begging other drivers for money. The mooching continues later at a gas station, where they cajole bystanders into handing over their cash.

Securing the financial backing needed for the first leg of their odyssey, Paris and Nicole eventually make it to the Batten Ranch, home of the Bull-it rodeo and their first employer, affable owner J.O. After a brief lesson in regional colloquialisms — the girls learn that “britches” are pants — they set to shoveling manure. They’re not at work long before a mini-drama unfolds: Paris falls off a horse. Airlifted to a nearby Tampa hospital for a thorough examination, the heiress is released the same day and returns to the ranch with a few bruises, some free PR, and the perfect excuse to shirk further responsibilities. Whimpering Paris and supportive Nicole persuade J.O. to buy them ice cream and to expose his buttocks in a pair of leather chaps.

From here they travel to a Central Florida trailer park. As they explore their new environs, Paris wonders, “Is this a real trailer park?” When Richie points out that some of the residents are permanent, Paris is horrified: “Oh, my God!” In search of cash, they try babysitting. Despite a list of care instructions, Paris and Nicole deliberately ply their young charge with candy (none after 8pm) and try to persuade her to swear (another no no). They even lose track of the child a few minutes before her mother arrives to collect her, and remain unfazed when telling her they’ve done so. Though the little girl turns up quickly and all ends well, the same cannot be said for the big girls’ audition for a water show down at the theme park. But that leaves them with time to party at a local Coyote Ugly bar.

In addition to diversifying their resumes, the series gives Hilton and Richie multiple opportunities to show off their “spoiled, rich girl” personas. At the trailer park, Nicole tries flirting with an unenthusiastic 13-year-old boy, and Paris causes a microwave meltdown when she heats soup in a metal pan. Richie remains the more likeable of the two. When Paris dons a sexy mermaid outfit for their water show auditions, she’s left with a cumbersome turtle costume and looks game and good-humored next to icy Paris.

This time around, Paris and Nicole are obviously in on the “joke,” which will be increasingly strained by upcoming “situations,” which have the girls stuffing sausages, working in a detention facility, crawfishing in Louisiana. And this week, amateur porn star Paris and self-proclaimed sex fiend Nicole will work as maids at a nudist colony. Lacking even the seeming freshness of the first season, On the Road just looks simplistic.