High life as a Hilton

Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie may not be the hottest socialites on the scene for much longer. Now the everyday working class has an opportunity to trade in their day jobs for a life in New York City high society with the aide of Kathy Hilton and her new reality TV series on NBC.

In I Want to be a Hilton, 14 blue-collar citizens ranging from a New York plumber to a Las Vegas showgirl compete for the chance of a lifetime — to be a Hilton. Divided into two teams — Team Park and Team Madison, named for the suite they stay in at the Melrose Hotel — they compete in challenges gauging etiquette, style, culture and dealing with the press. After a crash course in the nuances of high living, members are put to the test in a real-life scenario.

The series debut on Tuesday night examined the behavior of each team’s representative at a high-profile dinner party in honor of Mrs. Hilton. The dinner was studded with Hilton’s close friends, such as Ted Allen, Billy Bush and Prince Dimitri, who helped her judge the contestants. Challenges including gift selection, wine choice, food trial and speech performance proved Team Park worthy of a private jet to a vineyard for a tour and tasting.

The cast is sure to be entertaining to the point of infuriation. Contestant Ann Pookasem — a former Miss Tampa and USF graduate student who can break into song at the drop of the hat or the threat of elimination — brings a diva dynamic to the show. Already there is discord between team members concerning dress and audacity.

The premise of the show may seem bogus, but the lessons shown are essential for those striving to be a part of the upper class. Viewers and contestants get a dose of doctrine from specialists and professionals on the distinctions of high society. Christopher Shipley, a sommelier, gave a lesson concerning wine tasting. Tyler Florence, a Food Network chef, taught dinner conduct pertaining to the manner in which to eat escargot and lobster.

With the combination of the comical characters and the promise of Paris Hilton cameos, the show is destined to be the next addition to the “Must-See-TV” line-up. Absurdity and embarrassment broadcast on national television is a proven recipe for success. Ordinary people getting the chance to “live the life” they’ve only dreamed of is true entertainment.

Rating: B+