Nick at Nite plunges into soap operas with “Hollywood Heights”

June 17, 2012

Launching a new soap opera is always a risk — particularly if the channel is more known for “Friends” reruns than a commitment to scripted drama.

Still, Nick at Nite is jumping into the primetime soap game with “Hollywood Heights,” airing every weeknight at 9 p.m., sandwiched between repeats of those old sitcoms. Based on a popular Mexican telenovela, “Alcanzar una Estrella,” the drama offers a mix of pleasantly forgettable story lines and characters who never add up to anything more than a “soap opera for beginners” show.

As with many scripted dramas, there’s no lack of unintended comedy. Following the scandalous world of a group of teens, their parents, dysfunctional celebrities and wannabe stars in Los Angeles, the show lands somewhere between “amusing way to pass the time” and “just not worth it” on the scale of summer TV guilty pleasures.

Packed with every cliche about the entertainment industry, “Hollywood Heights” introduces us to Loren (Brittany Underwood), a naive high school senior who gets straight A’s, is respectful to her mom and harbors a scary, obsessive crush on rock star Eddie Duran (Cody Longo). Eddie, the 20-something son of a famous singing duo, is as blandly attractive as they come, but he can sure write a catchy hook — and it’s earned him more Twitter followers than Ashton Kutcher.

“It was so much easier back in the day,” Eddie’s manager says wistfully. “A hit on the top 40 radio guaranteed you a sold-out tour and a million units. Now you gotta work the whole publicity machine 24/7 just to stay in the marketplace.”

It all manages to come pretty easily for Eddie. He is apparently a superstar, although instead of an entourage, he travels with a one-man band manager, Jake (Brandon Bell), and girlfriend, Chloe (Melissa Ordway). Jake neglects his wife to follow Eddie around, and Chloe, an aspiring famous person, is biding her time for a ring. Anyway, Jake is apparently easily persuaded by teen girls with sad eyes, because that’s how Loren and her BFF, Melissa (Ashley Holliday) manage to get into an Eddie Duran concert in the first episode.

This leads to Loren’s life-changing night at the show. Loren happens to have a magnificent voice and a talent for songwriting, but she’s shy. Luckily, her bubbly best friend is not. Melissa always has a cellphone handy to record Loren’s every move and seems willing to do anything to help Loren grab Eddie’s attention. The series description promises success. The series also doesn’t scrimp on the requisite cast of side characters — from the school mean girl to pathologically overprotective parents — and all of the dark secrets and tragic pasts they harbor.

Nick at Nite aired the pilot every weeknight last week to attract viewers; the show officially launches Monday with a repeat of the pilot and goes right into the second episode Tuesday. It seems unlikely that a sizable audience will tune in after the comfort food that is “Friends” reruns. At the very least, it’s the kind of show that’s easy to follow no matter when you tune in. Plus, James Franco pops up with a multi-episode arc in a few weeks, playing an eccentric movie mogul. And during the summer TV season, sometimes mindless programming and a random celebrity guest star is all anyone really needs.

Hollywood Heights

(60 minutes) debuts Monday night at 9 and airs every weeknight at the same time through October.

Emily Yahr covers pop culture and entertainment for the Post. Follow her on Twitter @EmilyYahr.
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