TV News

Trust-Fund Babies Invade TV Screens

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Oct 27, 2003 | 10:01am EST

There is a new celebrity breed sprouting in Hollywood: The offspring of the privileged. Over the next couple of weeks, HBO, MTV and Fox will allow TV viewers to see firsthand just how trust-fund babies live.

The first look into the lives of the rich and soon-to-be famous will come with HBO's documentary Born Rich. In the film, Jamie Johnson, heir to the Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical fortune, examines the ups and downs that stem from wealth and privilege among 10 young adults, including high school classmates S.I. Newhouse IV, heir to the Conde Nast publishing empire; Ivanka Trump, daughter of real estate developer Donald Trump; and Luke Weil, heir to the Autotote online gaming empire.

Johnson, 23, spent three years working on the film, which he produced and directed. He told The Associated Press last week that his motivation for making the film was personal.

"[My father] always told me from a very early age, don't talk about money, deny being wealthy if people ask you," Johnson said. "He was seriously against it and really discouraged me from doing it. It actually encouraged me and I thought this film needs to be made."

But not everyone shared his enthusiasm. Johnson was turned down by heirs to the Rockefeller and Campbell Soup fortunes and was sued by Weil, who claimed the documentary defamed his character. A New York judge dismissed the lawsuit in October 2002.

Although the film, originally a feature, never found a buyer for theatrical distribution, it caught the attention of HBO executives at this year's Sundance Film Festival, who secured rights to the completed project and will air it tonight at 10 p.m. EDT.

In December, Fox will premiere The Simple Life, a reality show in which two wealthy individuals, heiress Paris Hilton and Lionel Richie's daughter Nicole, are pulled from the luxury they are accustomed to and thrown onto a country farm in rural Arkansas and forced to live well beneath their means.

And just in case viewers still haven't had their fill of the progeny of the insanely rich comes MTV's Tuesday premiere of Rich Girls. The reality series showcases the lifestyles of wealthy teen socialites, Ally Hilfiger and gal pal Jamie Gleicher, as they travel and shop the globe.

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