Wednesday October 12 8:33 PM ET
By Marcus Errico
First her fiance, now her TV show--it's been a rough patch for Paris Hilton.
Just two weeks after the celebutante confirmed the end of her engagement to Paris Latsis, Fox has announced that it has deep-sixed the show that made her famous, The Simple Life.
In a statement Wednesday, the network blamed a stacked schedule as the reason for the cancellation.
"At Fox we have a unique midseason situation," the network said. "In January we have to accommodate 2 1/2 hours of new programming with 24 and American Idol. We also have completed episodes of both scripted and unscripted series in the wings. We're enjoying solid performances by our returning shows and we've also already ordered full seasons of Prison Break, Bones and The War at Home. Collectively, we did not see a place for The Simple Life on our schedule this season."
Meanwhile, the show's producer, Twentieth Century Fox Television, expressed hope that The Simple Life might go on.
"We're disappointed that The Simple Life will not continue on Fox where it has performed so well, but we believe this series starring Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie is still a dynamic and valuable franchise," the company said Wednesday. "We hope to be able to announce a new network partner in the coming days."
TV Week reported that NBC and the WB were both interested in picking up the fish-out-of-water reality series.
Despite Fox's stated rationale for pulling the plug, programming conflicts were small potatoes compared the behind-the-scenes brawl between Hilton and Richie. The former BFFs have refused to speak to each other for months.
Though no official reason was ever given for the dissolution of the friendship, Hilton claimed Richie was well aware of why the split came about.
"It's no big secret that Nicole and I are no longer friends," Hilton said in April. "I will not go into the details of what happened. All I will say is that Nicole knows what she did, and that's all I am ever going to say about it."
Hilton openly lobbied for pal Kimberly Stewart to take over as token blonde sidekick on the show, but that plan was scuttled as Fox picked up the options on Hilton and Richie's contracts and vowed to figure out how to do a fourth season of The Simple Life.
"Both have been picked up, both will be ready for work, and we'll work it out," Fox Entertainment President Peter Liguori told the Television Critics Association press tour in July.
The network toyed with the idea of separately following Hilton and Richie and they planned their weddings. (Richie's union with Adam Goldstein, aka DJ AM, is still a go.) But that option fell through when Hilton and Latsis uncoupled.
With no detente in sight, with the start date looming (shooting was scheduled to begin by the end of the month), and with its midseason schedule in good shape, Fox decided to end The Simple Life.
Bunim-Murray Productions, which coproduces the show with 20th Century Fox Television, didn't seem too fazed about the state of Hilton and Richie's relationship or its impact on The Simple Life's future. "We're very excited about the creative plans for the next group of episodes, and are confident this situation will be remedied quickly," the company said in a statement. Meanwhile, Us Weekly, which first reported the show's demise, says Fox has discussed offering Hilton her own TV deal separate from Richie. The network declined comment.
Neither Hilton nor Richie were immediately reachable for comment. But in a brief statement to Us Weekly, Hilton said, "I'm really excited about my movie projects, my new album and all my various other business ventures."
In addition to fashion and fragrance lines and her nightclub venture, Hilton continues to work with producer Scott Storch on a long-delayed CD for Warner Bros. She also has two films in the pipeline, National Lampoon's Pledge This!, due out this year, and Bottom's Up, coming in 2006.
Richie is also keeping plenty busy. Aside from planning her nuptials, she recently published her first book, The Truth About Diamonds, is working on an album of her own and will make her big-screen debut later this year in the film Kids in America.