''Get This Party Started" is a new UPN reality series featuring Kristin Cavallari, the drama princess of MTV's ''Laguna Beach." But it's not another airbrushed portrait of Orange County power-cliquers who perform PDAs in hot tubs and get SUVs for their birthdays.
''Party," which premieres tonight at 9 on Channel 38, is something a lot less fun -- a do-good reality show that makes a big deal about how morally superior it is. It's ''Extreme Makeover: Wingding Edition," as it nobly ushers an extravagant event and lots of expensive swag into the lives of the little people. Hosted by Cavallari and Ethan Erickson, ''Get This Party Started" squeezes every last tear of gratitude out of its subjects with gift after gift after gift. ''You'll laugh, you'll dance, and YOU WILL CRY," it demands.
In each episode, the show throws a surprise party for someone who's downtrodden, or depressed, or needy, but still photogenic. Tonight, the beneficiary is the Jones family, and gorgeous daughter Alexis in particular, as she turns 21. The Joneses lost much of their home in Hurricane Katrina, and they are living in a hotel as they put their lives back together. Secretly, Alexis's sister Arin works with Cavallari, Erickson, and the ''Get This Party Started" team to throw a fabulous surprise birthday bash for Alexis in Las Vegas. They lure their victim to a Sin City hotel under the guise of an ''American Idol"-like talent competition, and then they bring it on.
And what they bring on is a day or two worthy of Paris Hilton herself. Alexis and Arin are given outfits worth more than $1,200 each, time with stylists, professional photos of their family, a deluxe hotel party featuring Mardi Gras beads and pink cotton candy, an opportunity to sing with their favorite band, and plenty of other things including a new car (whose brand name is prominently mentioned). As if under contract with the show, the Joneses respond with all the right moves -- tears, hugs, tears, exhilaration, tears, thanks.
Cavallari is surprisingly bland in this context. She's not amusing as a saint, and she comes off like Brittany Snow's stiff character in the late ''American Dreams." She's been partnered with a guy who seems to be modeling himself after Ryan Seacrest, but without the humor. Erickson, who has worked on ''Extra!" and ''Guiding Light," only adds to the phoniness of the series, adding yet another reason not to crash this ''Party."
Matthew Gilbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.