Who is the target audience of Hollywood Heights? That’s the biggest question that comes to mind after watching this “sneak preview” (read: “pilot”) of Nick At Nite’s new soap opera, an adaptation of the 1990 Mexican telenovela Alcanzar Una Estrella. Falling somewhere between the low-budget comic absurdity of The Secret Life Of The American Teenager and the glamorous drama of Gossip Girl, Hollywood Heights is uninspired in every way. The stiff dialogue and one-dimensional characters don’t inspire much confidence for the next 79 episodes of the first season, and it’s hard to see this series sustaining an audience of tweens and housewives for that long.

After some stock Los Angeles skyline footage, the action begins at the end of a concert, where our leading lady Loren (Brittany Underwood, One Life To Live) is waiting for hunky Eddie Duran (Cody Longo, Fame) to get off stage. He greets her with a cheesy slow motion kiss, and Loren wakes up in bed. Fake out! She’s not dating a pop star; she’s just dreaming. It’s the day of the big Eddie Duran concert, and Loren has been waiting for this for months. She’s been anticipating it so much that she never bought tickets (damn you, Ticketmaster!), and has instead given her best friend, Melissa (Ashley Holliday, Huge), the responsibility of procuring tickets. Loren’s not the smartest girl, but she’s a very lucky one, as this episode will prove. She’s also an aspiring songwriter. That’s going to be important.

When Melissa first appears, she’s wearing an incredibly garish bright red shirt that is begging for attention. The white polka dots and ruffles around the collar and sleeves suggest that she selfishly needs all eyes on her at all times, and the addition of an offensively yellow belt, jean shorts, black leggings put her on the very cutting edge of fashion. At least that’s what Melissa’s mother and brother (and the episode’s writers) would like us to believe. She’s wearing a totally normal outfit that would go unnoticed by most anyone, but this show works hard to create an illusion of edge when the story is duller than a butter knife.

Eddie Duran has the number one manager and the number one girlfriend; I know this because he explicitly said that in the first 10 minutes of this episode. His parents were pop stars in the ’80s, and his mother died in a car accident before his first album dropped. He’s an amazing musician and actor because everyone says so, but his final musical number is indistinguishable from any other prepackaged pop you can find littering YouTube. Granted, it’s also what I’m expecting from an original soap opera on Nick At Nite, and most of the fun of this episode is getting a good laugh at how silly it all is.

The adult storylines tend to be the worst part of any teen TV drama, and because Hollywood Heights is on Nick At Nite, there’s a greater emphasis on the older members of the cast. Loren’s free-spirited mother Nina (Jama Williamson, Parks And Recreation) wants her daughter to ditch school so they can get ready for the concert together. Meanwhile, Melissa’s paranoid bitch mother is convinced her daughter is drinking, on drugs, or engaged in some other kind of shenanigans. Her suspicions would make more sense if Melissa appeared at all antagonistic or rebellious, but she’s completely harmless.

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There’s not much dimension to a lot of these character beyond “pretty.” When Eddie’s pretty model girlfriend arrives at her home to find her pretty bad boy actor ex on her couch, they have an argument and then put their pretty lips together. The pretty girl with the overprotective dad is dating Melissa’s pretty bad boy brother, and they’re both really stupid, but very good looking. The show quickly tries to establish as many plot points as possible to get enough story fodder for 80 episodes, but the results are insubstantial and unbelievable.

When the tickets Melissa bought from her scalper brother end up being invalid, Loren is able to convince Eddie’s manager to let them into the show because she’s so passionate about Eddie’s music. Keep that disbelief suspended, because the episode ends with Eddie seeing Loren in the audience and reaching his hand out to her, pulling her on stage as the episode abruptly cuts off. The editing on this show is a mess, and the episode’s ending plays like someone cut the film just before the scene’s climax. The final moment doesn’t pique interest for the next installment, and concludes the episode on an unsatisfying note. It’s going to take a lot more fine-tuning if this show is going to sustain an extended season, but I’m not going to be sticking around for the ride.

Stray observations:

  • Adventures in abbrevs: “Mo” = momentum, “Detensh” = detention, “MILTTMS” =  Mother I’d Like To Take Me Shopping
  • How many times can two men fist bump in one episode? Never enough.
  • After hearing Loren sing one line of music, I completely agree with Melissa: she’s definitely going to be a huge star. (I’m lying.)
  • “Look, I know you’re probably blind from wearing that shirt all day…”
  • Adriana: “Me, Nicole, and Brooke.” Dad: “The Three Stooges.” Adriana: “It’s only an insult if I know who you’re talking about.”
  • “It’s rated G, for ‘get out of here.’”
  • “You’re Chloe Carter; you don’t get serious about anyone.” “Well, I’m seriously going to the club.”

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