Simply Mindless 

Celebutantes Hilton and Richie think we’re laughing with them.

Hilton is said to be worth a cool $30 million in hotel money. Richie, her best friend, is the daughter of pop singer Lionel Richie. There’s a 3-year-old pornographic sex video of Hilton circulating on the Internet. (That’s one way to jump-start a new series.) And Richie recently pleaded guilty to a charge of heroin possession.

Yes, it’s true: The filthy rich are very different from you and me.

In the series debut, Hilton and Richie leave behind their fabulous lives in California and New York to spend some time down on the farm — the Leding farm in Altus, Ark. (population 817), to be exact. There’s nothing special about the Ledings that isn’t special about a lot of American families. In many respects, they’re hardworking, salt-of-the-earth clichés. The have a herd of dairy cows, raise their own chickens and pigs, and lead respectable lives.

What I can’t figure out is why these decent people agreed to put up with Hilton and Richie’s maundering antics for a whole month. Maybe the Ledings — grandparents Curly and Richard, parents Janet and Albert, and teenage sons Justin and Cayne — needed the money Fox paid them so they could beef up the kids’ college fund.

But there’s more than a trace of mean-spiritedness about the way Hilton and Richie handle life on the farm. Sure, it’s funny when they go grocery shopping and don’t understand what “generic” means. It’s laughable when they think that Wal-Mart sells “wall stuff.” Richie even got a chuckle out of me when grandma Curly asked her to help pluck some chickens for dinner: “I’m not plucking anything — except maybe my eyebrows.” But it’s not so funny when they deliberately screw up routine chores or plot the sexual conquest of 17-year-old Justin. “He’s cute,” Richie says. “Maybe we should have a threesome with him.”

Hilton and Richie are supposedly the stars of “The Simple Life,” but the real stars are the Ledings. With the merest elevation of one eyebrow, Grandpa Richard can say more about the witlessness of the two rich girls than the two hip hotties could say with help from a dictionary, a thesaurus and a flock of Hollywood writers. And careful, girls — Justin isn’t as na‹ve as you think. Speculating on what might be in store for the family, he suggests that “if they’re snotty bitches, paybacks are hell.” Well, Justin, they are, so let the games begin.

With a hillbilly music soundtrack and a narrator who tries his darndest to sound like the voice-over in a Disney nature flick, “The Simple Life” does feed the seemingly insatiable American craving for “reality” on TV. The series debuted to an audience of more than 13 million teenagers and young adults.

But if Hilton and Richie think the audience is on their side, here’s a word of warning: Girls, the joke is on you. Actually, the joke is you. S

“The Simple Life” airs Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m. on Fox TV.

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