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Like, Totally, Yeah: Cruising the Valley with Lily and Carol on "Gossip Girl"

I have to say that I was excited to see just what Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage had cooked up for their neon-colored 1980s flashback in last night's episode of Gossip Girl ("Valley Girls"), considering that it was the long-awaited backdoor pilot to a potential Gossip Girl spin-off centering on a teenage Lily and her black sheep sister Carol.

I tried to put aside the negative buzz emanating from the project, which some media outlets are saying is already dead at the CW after enjoying quite a lot of hype in the last few months and looking like a lock for the fall schedule. And yet after watching "Valley Girls," I couldn't help but hope that CW doesn't decide to go ahead with this project, which based on the flashback segments here seemed predictable and rather flat.

It didn't help matters that the putative star of the potential series, Brittany Snow--who plays a teenage Lily Rhodes without much depth or any real visual/spiritual connection to Kelly Rutherford's Lily--is completely upstaged by the always sensational Krysten Ritter (Veronica Mars, Breaking Bad), who here plays Lily's older sister Carol, a pariah in the Rhodes family who lives in the Valley and hopes to become an actress. That we've never so much heard the adult Lily mention a sister since the pilot episode of Gossip Girl is a slight misstep on the writers' part and could have been easily set up a few episodes earlier.

Throughout the flashback sequences, Snow irked me beyond belief. Yes, we're meant to see that this is a Lily that is still in the process of being formed, not yet the reformed bad girl and socialite that we see at the beginning of Season One of Gossip Girl but Snow's Lily was so bubble-gummy, perky, and naive that it was hard to take her seriously as a three-dimensional character, much less one that was meant to lead us back into Lily's secret past. Her Lily is a shallow shadow of Rutherford's and, if Valley Girls is to succeed, it needs a strong anchor in the lead role. Not sure Snow can pull this off here. Her surprised, determined, or aggressive displays of emotion all seemed rather the same to me. Unlike, Ritter who managed to dazzle with just a few lines of dialogue.

Not helping matters was the truly awful performance of Jericho's Shiloh Fernandez as Owen Campos, a waiter at the diner where Carol works (between acting auditions) and a possible love interest for Lily. To say that he makes even the most awkward cast member of Gossip Girl seem like an Oscar winner is an understatement. That he actually uttered a line about having to find family in other places (as he and Lily enter the club) made me literally throw up in my mouth, but the blame for that gem falls squarely on the writers who seem to be working way too hard to telegraph what's going on here.

And let's be honest: the montage involving Lily trying on an infinite number of ensembles from Carol's locker wardrobe stuck out as the sort of cliched stuff that this series should be avoiding at all costs.

I will give them credit for some fantastic music choices, which underpinned the era and played to their strengths. And I love Ryan Hansen (Veronica Mars, Party Down) in anything and it's a testament to his abilities that Hansen gives an energy to even a rather thankless role like Shep here. Kudos to Lost's Cynthia Watros and Lipstick Jungle's Andrew McCarthy for playing it straight as Lily's yuppie parents CeCe and Rick.

But, ultimately, Valley Girls is not something I would tune in week after week to watch on the CW, not if this backdoor pilot is an example of what we should expect in terms of story, characters, or tone. Certainly no XOXO's from me.

What did you think of last night's episode as a backdoor pilot for a potential series? Would you tune in to Valley Girls if it were a series? Or should Savage and Schwartz stick to the Upper East Side demi-monde on Gossip Girl? Discuss.

Next week on the season finale of Gossip Girl ("The Goodbye Gossip Girl"), Gossip Girl shakes things up by sending out a damaging e-mail blast during the graduation commencement ceremony, rousing Serena into action; Jenny is challenged by The Mean Girls to throw her hat in the ring to succeed Blair as Queen Bee next year; Lily and Rufus struggle to fix their relationship after Lily's betrayal.

Comments

Sam said…
Pretty much everything about that episode rubbed me the wrong way, from the corny montage to the awkward attempts to make the 80s story mesh with the prom story. If the most interesting thing in the spin-off is "OMG!! The bad guy is who she ends up marrying!", it's time to go back to the drawing board. Of course I agree with you on Ryan Hansen, though. If every episode somehow involved Shep's ridiculous dance moves, I'd watch a few more.

Also, it REALLY bothered me that last week's Georgina cliffhanger was totally ignored. Apparently getting revenge on Poppy Lifton and retrieving millions of dollars is not so important that it can't be put on hold for the Prom and some feel-good family bonding?

I'm viewing these past two episodes as strikes one and two. I'm hoping next week's "Gossip Girl is going DOWN!" episode will get them back on track, but if it doesn't, it might be time to give up on the show.
I agree. The best thing about the 80s spinoff was the music. By far.

Lily is one of my favorite Gossip Girl characters and Brittany Snow did not do her justice. She was definitely upstaged by the fabulous Krysten Ritter and her own parents (loved seeing Andrew McCarthy back in 80s style)! And while I adore Ryan Hansen, I wasn't crazy about the character of Shep but he was still a million times better than the wannabe Christian Slater, Shiloh Fernandez.

My thoughts on Valley Girls overall? Skip the show and buy the soundtrack.
Anonymous said…
Why don't you all just have sex with your Veronica Mars DVDs and get it over with? Krysten Ritter and Ryan Hansen are hardly great actors, but of course you're all talking about them like they're Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks because they were on some crappy teen detective show that 99% of the population never watched.
Pearl said…
As a self-proclaimed Valley Girl, it was a reach for Lily and Carol. The music, yes, was great, and I liked the way they edited the flashbacks to cue up the present-day scenes. But if it is picked up, I don't see it going very far.
Carrie said…
@Anonymous Wow, you're an asshole. Go get a grip, get a clue, and get lost. No one is saying that they are the best actors ever and I thought they were great and I didn't even watch VM. The rest of last night's ep was a disaster. Wouldn't watch this in a million years.

@Danielle

My thoughts on Valley Girls overall? Skip the show and buy the soundtrack.Totally agree with you. Rad soundtrack, lame show.
Ally said…
I agree with everything you said. Total disappointment.

Ok, not everything you said - I didn't love Cynthia W. I thought she was overdoing it just a bit. I know that's the character, but it came off as forced.

Seriously bad. And the whole "Lily suddenly has a sister" thing was so awkward. Really, I just wanted to watch Chuck and Blair make eyes at each other.
wackiland said…
Spinoff = fail.

Totally agreed - no xoxo for this one.
Harleypeyton said…
The problem in this house? My wife showed 'Valley Girl' (the movie) to the kids the night before. They loved it. And are absolutely certain that nearly everything in this episode of Gossip Girl was stolen from it.

including, btw, some of those music choices.
Anonymous said…
what a waste of an episode. i didn't like brittney snow either as young lily. i'd imagine someone more along the lines of serena's character filling that role ... snow's interpretation was a bit too sugary for my taste. can't wait for next week's finale! will chuck and B finally be together? and does anyone know how they are planning to pull off a season 3 with everyone going to different colleges?

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