Review: Gossip Girl 1×1

Gossip Girl

In the US: Wednesdays, 9/8c, The CW

In the UK: Acquired by ITV2

From the Ratings Bible, II Teen Girls 12, verses 16-20

And lo! It came to pass that The OC did finish. The CW did look and It was pleased. For It knew that teens were Its domain, to be trespassed upon by no other, particularly not that satanic Rupert Murdoch’s Fox. 16

And at the end of this time, The CW did say to Itself, “How can We can get some of that hot teen girl viewing action? How about if we get the Creator of The OC to come up with something for Us?” 17

And The CW did wander in the desert that was Palm Springs and Hidden Palms for 40 days and 40 nights, although it felt like more like nine weeks. And there was much musing about copyright infringement and other terrible fates, if The CW did blatantly rip off The OC. 18

And at the end of that time, The CW did say to Itself, “Book adaptations. That’s where the clever money is. And we’ll set it in New York. Let’s clear that with legal, then green light it.” 19

And The CW did smile for the plan was good. 20

Actually, for all that cynicism of mine, I really rather enjoyed the second half of Gossip Girl. Which is surprising, because I really, really hated the first half.

Plot (adapted from a series of pages on the Fox web site)

The privileged prep school teens on Manhattan’s Upper East Side first learn that Serena van der Woodsen (Blake Lively, “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants”) is back in town the way they learn all the important news in their lives — from the blog of the allknowing albeit ultra-secretive Gossip Girl. No one knows Gossip Girl’s identity, but everyone in this exclusive and complicated vicious circle relies on her website and text messages for the latest scoop. Even Serena’s closest friend, Blair Waldorf (Leighton Meester, “Entourage”), is surprised to find that Serena has suddenly ended her selfimposed exile to boarding school and returned to Manhattan.

Once the Upper East Side’s most notorious party girl, Serena’s reasons for returning are mysterious, although they may have something to do with her younger brother Eric (Connor Paolo, “Alexander”). Whatever the reasons, the change in Serena is obvious, especially to Blair, whose friendship with Serena has always been competitive and difficult. When Serena was out of the picture, Blair enjoyed her time in the spotlight and she has no intention of going back to living in Serena’s shadow. Their uneasy relationship is further complicated by Blair’s boyfriend Nate (Chace Crawford, “The Covenant”), a young man uneasy with all the privileges that have been handed to him by his high-powered father Howie “The Captain” Archibald (Sam Robards, “The West Wing”). Now that Serena is back, Blair will have to fight to hold onto Nate’s attention. It also remains to be seen whether Blair’s loyal lieutenants — Katy (newcomer Nan Zhang) and Isabel (newcomer Nicole Fiscella) — will remain by her side or break ranks to follow Serena.

The tension between Blair and Serena isn’t lost on anyone in this crowd, since they all live for gossip and scandal — along with fashion, shopping and partying in Manhattan’s trendiest hot spots. This is a world you have to be born into, full of wealth, power, and people like Chuck (Ed Westwick, “Children of Men”). A friend of Nate’s since childhood, Chuck leads a reckless life, and constantly pushes Nate to explore his dark side.

The proverbial fish-out-of-water at the prep school are Dan (Penn Badgley, “John Tucker Must Die,” “The Bedford Diaries”) and his sister Jenny (Taylor Momsen, “Paranoid Park,” “How The Grinch Stole Christmas”), middle-class kids whose background keeps them on the fringes of this exclusive clique. Dan and Jenny are attending the school at the insistence of their father Rufus (Matthew Settle, “Into The West”), a former rocker turned art gallery owner, determined to give his kids a first-class education. Rufus has a history with Serena’s mother Lily (Kelly Rutherford, “Melrose Place”), a socialite who hides her past as a dancer and rock groupie. When a chance encounter brings Dan to Serena’s attention, he suddenly finds himself dating the girl of his dreams. The more Dan discovers about the real Serena, the more he’s challenged to make sense of her world. Dan’s sister Jenny is the youngest of the group and wants desperately to be accepted. The price she’ll have to pay for popularity will take a toll, but at the moment, Jenny is just thrilled to have entry into this glamorous world.

Dan and Serena’s relationship is further complicated by the arrival of Dan’s friend Vanessa, a Brooklyn rebel and loner who doesn’t approve of Serena’s world of money, fashion shows and fundraisers. Vanessa’s attempts to pull him back to his roots will cause friction between Dan and Serena.

Keeping track of the shifting friendships, jealousies and turmoil in this wealthy and complex world isn’t easy, but it’s what Gossip Girl does best.

Filmed in New York and based on the popular series of young-adult novels by Cecily von Ziegesar, “Gossip Girl” is from Alloy Entertainment in association with Warner Bros. Television and CBS Paramount Television Inc. with executive producers Josh Schwartz (“The O.C.”) & Stephanie Savage (“The O.C.”), Bob Levy, Leslie Morgenstein (“Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants”) and Felicia Henderson (“The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”), and co-executive producer K.J. Steinberg (“The Nine”).

Is it any good?

Made it through that plot summary? Blimey, you’ve got stamina, haven’t you?

So, as mentioned, I hated the first half. I don’t know whether its the terrifying effect of having The Great Gatsby as the defining novel for your country, or something to do with demographics, disposable money, etc, but all of sudden, all the new US shows are about really, really rich people who should be stabbed through the head.

At first, I thought it was bad when Brothers and Sisters emerged last year. But now it’s getting silly. I mean, here we have a show with people whose surnames start ‘van der’ and they don’t even have the common human decency to be Dutch. All the boys act like Ryan Phillippe in Cruel Intentions; all the girls act like they’re in Heathers. They say things like “I had to go to boarding school to get away from it all”. Oh did, you now, love? Poor little you.

Where’s a broken beer bottle when you need one?

Serena, a girl so blonde you suspect she’s borrowed her hair from the Platonic ideal of a blonde

Gossip Girl, like The OC before it, is crammed full of hot ‘teens’ (people who are still at High School being played by actors in their early to mid 20s) with these sorts of problems. They flatter their audiences into thinking that teenagers are more important than they actually are: one boy’s father insists that who he dates is of major consequence because otherwise the deal being arranged with another company with fall through. Man, that company better be private or its report to shareholders is going to be the laugh of Wall Street. Teenagers: take it from me, your love life really isn’t that important.

The show is also plagued by the tedious voiceover of the unknown ‘Gossip Girl’, who functions as the narrator – and could well be one of the characters since her omniscience grants her insights only God or CCTV should give us otherwise. Quite why every single teen in New York should be staying tuned to the love lives of some other teens they’ve probably never met, via SMS and web site, I don’t know. Nor how ‘gossip girl’ managed to get such a general title for her site, given her niche interests and the fact that some cybersquatter probably nabbed it years ago. It’s an irrelevant hook that the show could easily dispense and be better for, although I suspect someone, somewhere at The CW’s been to a Web 2.0 seminar on youth involvement and marketing and thinks otherwise.

Things can only get better
It has to be remarked that after a full twenty minutes of hating the show desperately, I settled down into quite liking it for the second half, mainly thanks to the emergence of a relatively poor person. Again, this semi-stalker will probably give the teen audience bad ideas, since his dodgy activities still manage to land him a date with the absurdly out of his league Serena van der Rich. All the same, despite this slight obsession with the rich Serena, a girl so blonde you suspect she’s borrowed her hair from the Platonic ideal of a blonde, he’s a stand up kind of guy who beats up rapists and his sister’s quite pleasant, too. His dad also levels a few good cracks about rich people, so I’m rooting for the whole family really.

Exposure to the poor people makes some of the rich people better, which as a moral thrust for the show, is certainly more interesting than, “God, doesn’t it suck being rich? There’s all that money and the Hamptons can be so tedious at this time of year.”

It’s all very soapy and obviously aimed at teen girls, but the cast is all pretty good and despite the slightly tedious nature of the various teens’ problems, I imagine it would be very easy to get addicted to it. I’ll certainly be watching for the next couple of episodes, but I’m can’t really envision myself watching it long term. But, hey, I’m sure there’s many an adult who’s said the same thing about The OC.

Here’s a YouTube trailer for you.


Blake Lively (Serena van der Woodsen)

Leighton Meester (Blair Waldorf)

Penn Badgley (Dan Humphrey)

Chace Crawford (Nate Archibald)

Taylor Momsen (Jenny Humphrey)

Ed Westwick (Chuck Bass)

Kelly Rutherford (Lily van der Woodsen)

Matthew Settle (Rufus Humphrey)

Nicole Fiscella (Isabel Coates)

Nan Zhang (Katy Farkas)


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.