To turn on the tube these days is to be blinded by blondeness.

Like a wet dream that has leaked out of Brian Wilson’s brain, California Girls and their clones are cavorting and oh-my-God-ing all over your flat-screen. Consider, for starters, Sunset Tan, a hit reality show of such remarkable vapidity that it makes The Simple Life look like a Tom Stoppard production. If Sunset Tan has a Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, they would have to be the blonde, two-headed Barbie-beast known as the Olly Girls. Toned but jiggly, with a tendency toward Valley Girl chatter and hair that looks as though it turned snow-white after a nuclear blast, Holly and Molly (last names are unnecessary) represent the California Girl in extremis. Which is to say they’re, like, totally fake, totally ditzy, and totally irresistible.

The running joke about the Olly Girls is that nobody can tell Molly and Holly apart, but it gets way more confusing once you throw in the three platinum-haired vixens (Holly, Kendra, and Bridget) who orbit their pajama-clad crypt-keeper, Hugh Hefner, on The Girls Next Door, and then you factor in Lauri and Vicki and all the other mannequin MILFs and their mirror-image daughters from The Real Housewives of Orange County, and then you register Heidi and Lauren and Whitney from The Hills and Chrissy and Allie and Sasha and Taylor from Newport Harbor . . . and, well, after a few hours of this you would have an aneurysm and turn into an aging Jeff Spicoli, cradling a drool cup and mumbling the word awesome.

And there is something awesome about it—in the sense that these shows inspire awe. Not since the late seventies, when the Frosted Flakes—eating tykes of Generation X garlanded their preadolescent walls with those iconic posters of Farrah Fawcett, Cheryl Tiegs, Cheryl Ladd, and Suzanne Somers, has the Pacific Coast sex bomb been a force of such dominance and ubiquity. Even though a man of reason and good taste might insist that he is drawn to women who represent something far more intellectually and aesthetically exalted—Tina Fey, for instance—the eternal-summer babe, doe-eyed and dumb and hott with two t’s, still strikes his cerebral cortex like a bong hit of catnip.

The veneer of the 405-freeway blonde beckons to us the same way orange-crate art beckoned to poor Okies escaping the Dust Bowl. When she was casting the original Laguna Beach series for MTV, creator and executive producer Liz Gateley knew that flaxen-haired babes would be an essential ingredient. “Had they all been brunette, the show wouldn’t have been as good,” she says. “It represented a certain life that every kid across the country, especially in the middle of the country, wishes they could live.” As Gateley points out, California itself long ago turned into a full-fledged brand—a mass-marketing El Dorado. “I mean, just walking in Times Square,” she says, “you’ve got a Quiksilver store and a Billabong store that are doing the same business as Toys “R” Us and the Disney Store.”