It can't be this simple: The key to a great reality show is ... little dogs. Sharon's puny pooch stole the show on "The Osbournes," and now E!'s "The Girls Next Door," about the lives of Hugh Hefner's girlfriends who reside at the Playboy mansion, is peppered with freakishly fluffy canines that yelp and yelp.

It can’t be this simple: The key to a great reality show is … little dogs. Sharon’s puny pooch stole the show on “The Osbournes,” and now E!’s “The Girls Next Door,” about the lives of Hugh Hefner’s girlfriends who reside at the Playboy mansion, is peppered with freakishly fluffy canines that yelp and yelp. It’s also stuffed with some of the dumbest women you’ll ever want to switch places with (or date), ladies whose day revolves strictly around hair appointments, the gym and premieres.

But that actually makes for some good television, and the basic cabler, which has had more misses than hits in the genre it supposedly lives on, finds itself with something it shouldn’t be embarrassed to tout. While E!’s last “big” show, the Anna Nicole Smith circus, was indeed buzzed about, it eventually became too uninvolving. This one also contains blondes and boobs but comes off as a bit enlightening. Really.

That’s because viewers actually get to go behind the scenes at Hef’s palace. A venue that hosts several bashes a month — everyone in Hollywood has been there for something — it’s still seen mainly from afar, as guests, of course, are never allowed to see the inside infrastructure: the kitchen, the phone system, the security cameras, the pool hall, etc.

“Girls” breaks down all of those barriers and takes you inside not only the strange emotional connections between Hefner and young lasses like No. 1 girlfriend Holly and side squeeze Kendra but also to the plush bedrooms, the dormitory-style living arrangements and the help’s quarters. All with the complete acknowledgment that anyone watching this will be completely floored by how empty it all is.

And even that gives way to some interesting subtext: At the end of episode one, Holly admits that she wants to live her life with Hefner and get rid of the other girls. All because he once admitted she’s the best relationship he’s ever had.

Geez — a guy will say anything.

The Girls Next Door

E!, Sun. Aug., 7 9 p.m.

Production

Filmed in Los Angeles by Prometheus Entertainment, Alta Loma Entertainment and Fox Television Studios. Executive producer, Kevin Burns; co-executive producer, Bryan O'Donnell; producer, Scott Hartford.

Crew

Camera, George Feucht; editor, Kevin Benson. Running time: 30 MIN.
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