It’s Laguna Beach. But no Laguna. And a different Beach. Newport Harbor: The Real Orange County, debuting tonight on MTV, moves the Laguna Beach formula up the coast. The original Laguna, of course, also gave us The Hills, whose third season debut–which I still have to catch up on–drew around three and a half million viewers, a massive audience for MTV. It also developed a new vocabulary for docu-soap storytelling, combining a scripted-drama production style (musical cues, story editing) with lush cinematography and a dry, verite approach to the falling together and falling apart of teen relationships. (Update: You can preview Newport Harbor here, if you do not, like me, use a computer that will explode upon trying to view MTV online video.)
The makers of Laguna Beach, by the way, are also producing one of my most-anticipated fall shows, Fox’s Nashville, which applies the LB technique to aspiring country stars. (It’s still in production, and Fox hasn’t yet sent a screener, but a preview reel at the upfronts in May looked pretty gorgeous.) They took the same approach a couple years ago to Rollergirls, A&E’s series about roller-derby queens, which remains one of my favorite reality series ever. I’m hoping they can make country music sing.