POSTED BY MICHAEL SCHNEIDER
Now that headline-grabbing celebutant Paris Hilton has spent 23 days doing "The Hard Life," viewers apparently have been less interested in watching her navigate "The Simple Life."
Ratings are down for the reality staple, which returned for a fifth season (its second on E!, after a three-year journey on Fox) at the end of May. That came as a surprise to E!, which at first glance thought Hilton's legal problems -- coming right as "The Simple Life" returned -- might bolster interest in the show.
And even without Paris' Big Lynwood Adventure, E! expected that viewers would be interested in gawking at the reunion of Hilton and former B.F.F. Nicole Richie. The two party girls once again appear together in the show's new edition, "The Simple Life Goes to Camp," in which they work as counselors at a summer camp. (Season four was shot with the two separately prepping for marriage, after they stopped being B.F.F. amid a bitter feud.)
Now, E! execs believe Paris' jail stint actually hurt the show. The saga of Paris' jail time (featuring Sheriff Lee Baca in a co-starring role!) play out 24/7 on every channel for much of the summer -- giving auds a much more up-to-date and "real" take on Hilton than the pre-shot and semi-scripted "The Simple Life" could. Paris fatigue could also be setting in, they say.
Nonetheless, "The Simple Life" still performs decently enough for the cabler, and season six is still a very real possibility -- but no, even though the idea was (humorously) floated, it won't take place in an abandoned jail.
-- Michael Schneider