The idea for The Simple Life was generated in Fox's comedy department.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 '60s sitcoms and say let's do them for real," Mr. Johnson said. The Simple Life was inspired by Green Acres, a sitcom about a New York society couple who moved to a farm. Mr. 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 Ms. Hilton and wanted to do a show with her. "I'm used to meeting with actors who are putting on a facade," Ms. 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," Ms. Klein said. 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, but ultimately, Fox decided the city-living cast had to be a duo.
Paris allegedly asked several close friends on board, including Bijou Phillips and Kimberly Stewart, and ended up making the agreement with Nicole Richie. Fox hired established reality producer Bunim/Murray to produce. Bunim/Murray found the Leding family in Altus, Arkansas, for Paris and Nicole to move in with. A band known as The Penfifteen Club recorded one of the show's themes, a tribute song called "Miss Hilton". Production began May 2, 2003.
Instead, said Paris, the new co-star would be Paris's 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-styled effort focused on her then-upcoming wedding to Adam Goldstein, known professionally as DJ AM.
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.
Fox then unexpectedly canceled its plans for any further seasons of the The Simple Life in October 2005, both because it had filled its mid season show quota, and because Paris and Nicole had the falling out as friends.
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. Nicole accepted a plea agreement and was sentenced to 4 days in jail, again after production had wrapped.
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.
Courtney Love described Paris's birthday party on her website as having a "big pile of white powder" in the bathroom. It was thought the description of the incident, which took place on the eve of the Oscars, might have cost Paris and Nicole the new season. Despite all the problems, the shooting of the season finished in time and the season actually premiered earlier than otherwise expected.
Nicole confirmed on KIIS-FM in Los Angeles that she and Paris signed a contract for a sixth and seventh season of the show.
In an interview on Larry King Live, Paris confirmed that she and Nicole would start shooting Season 6 by the end of 2007. "In a couple of months" in her own words.
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."
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 has opted out of any continuation of the series.
It appears Nicole will also be unavailable to shoot any further episodes of the show, having just had a baby and wanting to focus on her family in future.
While E! cancelled The Simple Life, and the stars seemed less than enthusiastic to continue, series producer Twentieth Century Fox held out hope another network would pick it up for another go-round. However, it was reported a new incarnation may not feature Paris and Nicole. Other networks were said to be interested, including MTV as a strong possibility.
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. The show was not picked up, however, after Kelly opted out of the project after a few days shooting, branding it "demeaning and juvenile".
Instead, E! picked up Keeping Up With The Kardashians, and no other network came forward to announce plans to pick up The Simple Life in any form. The series has finally come to a close.
Distribution rights to The Simple Life are still held by 20th Century Fox, who may submit the series for syndication in the USA in future. In Australia, it is already sydicated; with various seasons now airing on a few different pay-tv networks.
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 started airing on Fox December 2, 2003, to surprisingly well received ratings. The premiere episode drew 13 million viewers, increasing Fox's Adults 18-49 rating a phenomenal 79%. The second episode drew 13.3 million viewers, an increase of 200,000 viewers over its premiere. During the airing of the series, Fox added two extra episodes and a reunion special, which continued to draw ratings. With results like this, it was only natural that Fox would order a second season. 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.
A second season, subtitled Road Trip, began broadcasting in the summer of 2004. 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) 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.
The third season, began shooting October 27, 2004. The first episode premiered January 26, 2005. The third season, subtitled Interns, would see Paris and Nicole take various internships with companies along the East Coast of the United States. Paris and Nicole traveled around the northeast United States via the Greyhound Bus company's publicly available bus routes. But unlike season 2, this time around Paris and Nicole did not have a swanky home on wheels and instead were travelling around the northeast in a regular Greyhound bus that was also ferrying normal members of the public that are travelling to the same destination.
The season featured one memorable encounter with twin baby orangutans from Parrot Jungle Island in Miami, Florida. Nicole Richie's fiance 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. The show's producers claimed the casket was empty and the "human ashes" was just a stage prop made of cement and cat litter. 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.
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. 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 "Then talk...", followed by a screen that read "To be continued... next season!" Many viewers were shocked and angry over this cliffhanger ending.
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 will 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.
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.
At least one of the counselors, Hunter Cross, admits he is an actor who auditioned for the role. Also, the camp nurse is an actress according to IMDB. 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. The only "real" people from Camp JCA Shalom to appear on the show are Jorge, the camp chef, and Julia, the camp dog.
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. 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 not heard in the show.
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 nine official remakes have been produced:
Channel 4 were planning a British remake that would star young, rich English socialites, who are not currently famous or well known. Casting began August 2006, however the status of the project is currently unknown.
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 around sending several well known young socialites (including Kourtney Kardashian & Brittny Gastineau, among others) to live on a rural ranch, minus cellphones and other luxuries they have come to swear by.
In 2006, E4 ran a British show featuring Big Brother evictee Nikki Grahame called Princess Nikki. In a very similar fashion to The Simple Life she is 'employed' in different jobs (including fish gutter and farmer) to see whether she can last one day without being fired for her now-infamous tantrums. The many similarities between the shows were noted by viewers and critics.
In 2008, MTV produced Exiled!, a spin-off to its' hit reality series My Super Sweet 16. Exiled! will take eight former stars of My Super Sweet 16, who have grown up spoiled, self-involved & without any idea about real work, and send 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 have already been compared to The Simple Life. The series will air on MTV in Spring 2008.
Paris has released her own reality show. Titled This Is Paris, it 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. Paris is also currently set to star in a new reality series centering around her search for a new friend. The series, picked up by MTV and titled Paris Hilton's My New BFF, began airing in September 2008.
The rumours of Nicole set to have her own show about her romance and wedding planning with DJ AM were put to rest by Nicole herself, when she said she would never do a reality show about her personal life. The couple is also no longer together. Nicole seems less interested in reality tv now, finding her niche in fashion, writing books and raising a family with current boyfriend Joel Madden.
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 favourite 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.