Review: Gossip Girl 3×1

Jumping the Tiffany's shark

Blair and Serena in Gossip Girl 3x1

In the US: Mondays, 9/8c, The CW
In the UK: ITV2 again

When Gossip Girl first popped up on our screens, it had a certain something. Okay, it was aimed at teenage girls and was about ridiculously rich people having ridiculously privileged educations and behaving like spoilt brats. But it was sweet, it had its heart in its right, there were some decent male and adult characters, the dialogue was witty, and it was actually quite clever.

Over the next two seasons, it became the must-watch show for teenage girls and indeed older women, keen to find a Sex and the City replacement, as well as a few men. However, as it went on, things became a little sillier. Although the producers promised they weren’t going to make the same mistakes they made with The OC, it all started to go wrong. Ridiculous plots and sub-plots started to crop up (Jenny’s stab at a fashion business, for example); everyone started to play ‘musical boyfriends’, yo-yoing between them all without any real rhyme or reason; and soon the cast had forgotten it was a drama and began mugging it for all it was worth.

So have the producers taken advantage of the summer break to take stock, regroup and come up with some storylines that don’t want to hit your head against a wall at the stupidity of them all?

I’ll give you three guesses. You’ll only need one.

Yes, as you may have guessed, the first episode of the third season was very, very silly.

While Serena, Dan and the rest of the family Humphrey try to keep it together in the sensible stakes, there are a whole host of orbiting idiocies – primarily stemming from Chuck and Blair’s direction, but not restricted to, thanks to the covert Humphrey sibling who’s moved to New York without anyone’s knowledge, hoping to get to know Rufus and Lily, his real parents.

Carter, the stalker who isn’t a stalker helps, as does Nate Archibald and his tiresome attempts to rebel against his rich grandparents (who, of course, are going to use him for them own evil ends) with the assistance of Joanna Garcia from the doomed Privileged as Archibald family enemy and woman made of cheese, Bree Buckley (no relation).

A lot of all this ridiculousness is comedy of manners stuff, with Serena unable to tell everyone where she’s been and why because – well, because she doesn’t want to, despite the levels of daftness and embarrassment she has to stoop to to avoid telling them. But it’s also a heady combination of silly power-broking using teenagers (as if anyone would) and people not willing to listen to each other, cocking up then realising they really should have listened to what that person was trying to tell them.

The college years
Whether it’ll calm down once the kids have all gone off to college in later episodes this season, I don’t know. Gossip Girl, when it was at its best, was about relationships and the clashes between the worlds of the rich and the poor (or at least not as well off) in New York. It’s still the same show underneath, and there’s a degree of intelligence still going into the scripts.

The difference is that the emphasis is now on spectacle and “OMG! I can’t believe what just happened!” – Chuck role-playing the part of a waiter for Blair to jazz up their sex life? A “jump the shark” moment, if ever I saw one. Okay, the books could be plenty bizarre – Chuck adopting a monkey and carrying it around his shoulder – but the show had been doing admirably well in the first season at least of steering away from the books’ approach to maintaining interest.

In other words, it’s just a little bit dumber than it used to be. And for the first time in two seasons, I’m not sure I want to watch it any more. I still like the actors and the characters, but the plots are just too daft. I’m hoping that things are going to improve, otherwise I’m not going to have an excuse to watch Kelly Rutherford any more. But if they don’t, I think I must just have to stop watching.


  • 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.

    View all posts