I don’t know about you, but my mental health has taken a beating in the past year or so because, well, you know. I’ve found there’s not much that can grab and hold my attention these days, let alone bring me joy – so when I stumble across something that does, it feels pretty momentous, and I just want to tell everyone.
This brings me to Whitney Port and her husband Timmy’s The Hills reaction videos. Twice a week, the pair sit on their couch, and watch an episode of the show that made Whitney a star, offering their commentary and insight about each episode all these years later. I’m not exaggerating when I say these videos are the highlight of my week.
Whitney and Timmy’s reactions combine the best kind of comfort viewing: nostalgic rewatches with impassioned commentary that’s more fun than the show itself (I’m aware this is blasphemous). It’s like Gogglebox, if it allowed you to watch the show people were reacting to in full, and those people were actually part of the show. In other words, it’s approximately 367 times better.
It’s distracting but not stressful, allowing you to revisit the drama of The Hills while also being privy to the dynamics of Whitney Port and Timmy. The Hills or otherwise, these guys are very entertaining on their own. They have great chemistry (convenient, since they’re married and all) and bounce off each other so well.
They talk to the camera – to viewers – like friends, building a comfy parasocial relationship that makes you feel included. It’s hard not to grin when Timmy enthuses about how gorgeous Whitney is for the 54th time (he loves her so much, guys, and it’s not even a touch annoying), or when Whitney starts putting on strange voices or singing off-key (“weird Whitney”, as she says, was rarely let out on The Hills, but is actually a delight to see).
Then there’s what they bring to The Hills and the act of rewatching it. Whitney, of course, was on the show, while Timmy is a reality show producer (he didn’t work on The Hills, but he did work on The City – which is how he met Whitney). Together, the duo nail the perfect balance of behind-the-scenes details, personal anecdotes, and genuine reactions.
What makes it work is that Whitney, while one of the main cast, was never the star of The Hills. Her role, as both she and Timmy mention often, was to act as a confidante to Lauren Conrad, deliberately outside of her inner circle in order to function as an attentive listener (and active questioner) for convenient exposition.
This means Whitney often doesn’t have a major personal stake in what’s playing out on screen. What I love most about these videos is the way both she and Timmy come to The Hills first and foremost as fans of the genre. They genuinely get excited when shit is going down, and talk about which episodes were most exciting, like any normie viewer might.
Of course we all want to know what was really “real” on the show, and Whitney and Timmy can offer some insight into that – but not a lot. Because Whitney was an outsider, she genuinely doesn’t know all the ins and outs of the personal drama that was happening (my mind was low-key blown when she said producers kept her from bonding too much with Lauren off screen so that she was able to maintain that confidante role on screen). What she can share, along with Timmy, is what they know about what goes into the making of a show like this.
It’s not surprising at this point, but there is still a certain thrill in hearing about how scenes are actively produced. Instead of making you feel disillusioned with the unreality of reality TV, it actually makes you appreciate the craft involved, and how hard it is to wrangle a decent show out of pretty ordinary twenty-somethings who are just interested in partying all the time (um, sorry LC and friends, I do love you all) (well, some of you).
What’s really interesting is that, because so much of it is conjecture, Whitney and Timmy don’t always agree. Lauren and Heidi’s big break-up, for instance? Whitney thinks it’s all genuine, and that a real friendship fell apart. Timmy maintains his theory that the friendship only ever existed for the show, and that Lauren at least was never interested in reconciling with Heidi, no matter how much that particular plotline was dragged out.
Watching Timmy and Whitney makes me remember my own reactions to watching the show the first time around (Spencer was TOXIC TRASH and Heidi should have dumped his ass! Lauren cutting ties with Heidi was devastating!!), and also rethink them and form new opinions (Spencer is still TOXIC TRASH but maybe he’s playing it up for the show and actually Heidi seems really happy with him and she chose him over Lauren so she couldn’t have valued that friendship all that much?) (I am not fully Team Timmy on this topic, but I think he raises very valid points!).
Basically, Whitney and Timmy’s reaction videos have ruined me for all other forms of rewatching. I now require every nostalgic show to come with a side of real-time commentary from someone involved. I realise I’m not likely to get this request — but in the meantime, I can watch Whitney and Timmy twice a week, letting go of my problems for half an hour at a time and getting caught up in 15-year-old tea. In 2021, it’s the best kind of escapism.
Start your Whitney Port 'The Hills' reaction videos journey right here:
Written by Jenna Guillaume, an entertainment journalist and author of YA rom-coms What I Like About Me and You Were Made For Me. Follow her at @jennaguillaume.
You can also catch Whitney Port on the new season of The Hills: New Beginnings, which airs on Thursdays at 8:30pm on MTV Australia (channel 122 On Foxtel and 104 on Fetch). Don't have Foxtel or Fetch? No sweat, you can download a season 2 pass for access to every new episode as it drops on Google Play and Apple TV.