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Bubblegum and Empty Designer Handbags: CW's "Gossip Girl"

I'll admit it: I just turned 30, which puts me a little outside the intended audience for the CW's newest teen drama, Gossip Girl, which launches tonight on the netlet at 9 pm ET/PT. That said, I was completely hooked on the early seasons of The OC, which is probably a good thing as Gossip Girl, based on the ever popular line of novels, comes from showrunners Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage.

Before you ask, yes, that is Veronica Mars' Kristen Bell lending her voice as the eponymous Gossip Girl, a sort of Perez Hilton for the Noxzema and Marc Jacobs crowd, who dishes out dirt on the Upper East Side denizens via her popular website. Into her withering gaze comes former It Girl Serena van der Woodsen (Blake Lively), who fled Manhattan following a mysterious incident, and has now returned home after time at boarding school.

Her return to the rarefied world of upper crust Manhattan causes turmoil of all kinds, especially towards her former best friend Blair Waldorf (Leighton Meester, here channeling her rich inner bitch) and her boyfriend Nate (Chace Crawford). Things have been weird between the two since Serena left and that could have something to do with the very reason why our girl S. took off in the first place...

Across town, Serena's reappearance is noted with amusement and infatuation (respectively) by siblings Jenny (Taylor Momsen) and Dan Humphrey (Penn Badgley), whose father Rufus (Matthew Settle) is a former rock god and was once the lover of Serena's mother Lily (Kelly Rutherford). Still with me? It's a twist that's rather unnecessary, given the already serpentine nature of interpersonal play going on here, but at least it gives the adults something to do. (Unlike The OC, the adults aren't nearly as well-drawn as the teens, unfortunately.)

Dan and Serena, of course, meet cute over a dropped mobile phone and the two become allies together in their battle against the popular kids, embodied by Blair and Nate's best friend, the sociopath Chuck (Ed Westwick), who takes an interest in freshman Jenny. The resulting confrontation should set up enough drama to last an entire season.

I'll admit that while the pilot episode is beautifully shot and, well, filled to the brim with beautiful people doing all sorts of cruel things to one another, Gossip Girl felt rather hollow and empty to me, rather like a discarded designer handbag.

Sure, it's got a fun and bubble-gummy tone along with a king's ransom of sex, drugs, and rock and roll, but I want my teen angst with just a hint more intelligence rather than superficiality... which might be why Gossip Girl made me miss Veronica Mars so acutely, despite the fact that both series' pilots were directed by Mark Piznarski and, yes, that Bell is providing the narration for the series. As Gossip Girl herself might say, jaded TV writer Jace seen checking out the series, but will this slippery scribe stick around for seconds? Only time will tell.

Gossip Girl launches tonight at 9 pm ET/PT on the CW.

What's On Tonight

8 pm: Kid Nation (CBS); Deal or No Deal (NBC); America's Next Top Model (CW); According to Jim/According to Jim (ABC); Back to You/'Til Death (FOX)

9 pm: Criminal Minds (CBS);
Last Comic Standing (NBC; 9-11 pm); Gossip Girl (CW); Come Rain or Come Shine: From Grey's Anatomy to Private Practice (ABC); Kitchen Nightmares (FOX)

10 pm: CSI: New York (CBS); Primetime (ABC)

What I'll Be Watching

8 pm: America's Next Top Model.

The ninth "cycle" begins with this season opener ("The Girls Go Cruisin'"), with 33 aspiring models jetting off to the Caribbean, where they participate in a beach-themed photo shoot before the rejects are promptly demoralized and whittled down.

8 pm: Back to You.

A former network president I was talking to a few weeks ago called the Kelsey Grammer/Patricia Heaton series "time capsule television," and I'd have to agree. It definitely seems like a throwback to a different time in TV but there's something vaguely comforting about that. On tonight's series premiere ("Pilot"), Chuck Darling (Grammer) returns to Pittsburgh after a televised freak out and is reunited with his former co-anchor on the local news.

9 pm: Gossip Girl.

The CW's brightest hope for this season launches tonight with its pilot episode, in which former Queen Bee Serena (Blake Lively) mysteriously returns to Manhattan, stirring up all sort of delish gossip in her wake and throwing the social order of her elite private school into chaos.

9 pm: Kitchen Nightmares.

I loved the UK original, so I'm a little concerned that the US adaptation won't quite live up to its British predecessor. In any event, catch a (somewhat) softer side of Gordon Ramsay with this new reality series, in which he travels the US attempting to save some sinking restaurants. In this episode ("Peter's"), he visits an Italian restaurant. Can he work some magic with some tough love?

10 pm:
Top Chef on Bravo.

On tonight's episode
("Manhattan Project"), the five remaining chefs head to New York City, where they must dazzle some of the industry's most accomplished chefs, including guest judge André Soltner of Manhattan's famed Lutece. Bon appetit!


The CineManiac said…
I too was let down by the pilot. I was excited because of two of the leads and of course the Narrator, but I was looking for more of an OC vibe, with more humor, less straight drama.
But I'll at least watch the second episode before dropping it.
Anonymous said…
Both OC and Veronica Mars had me hooked on the first episode. With Josh Schwartz's involvement I thought this would present fairly similar to the OC, instead it left me thinking back to the 80s prime time soaps. I will likely check out a second episode but am already thinking this will not be in my keep list for long.
I don't know why but I actually enjoyed the pilot and found it to be a great guilty pleasure. I really like the cast and the tone of it. And Bell's narration adds just the right zip. Could it be better? Sure. But it at least made me want to tune in to the next episode.
Anonymous said…
I liked it because we haven't really seen a teen soap set in New York City. (At least not one that I can think of.) And it's fun and snappy and everyone is impossibly gorgeous. Definitely a guilty pleasure.
Anonymous said…
I liked the script better than the finish pilot. I wanted the pilot to be a lot more fun. I am hoping ep 2 picks up some juicy fun.
Anonymous said…
Ally and the Cinemaniac i agree with you. I guess i expected too much from you said Cinemaniac i guess i was expecting the OC vibe and yes more humour and for me - a faster pace. God did it move slowly...not too keen on Serena, Nate or Jenny. But love Mr Humphrey, Chuck and Blair.

All in all not bad, will definitely watch next week; why? They set up enough drama and intrigue between the leads to keep me interested.
Scott said…
more teen drama cliches than you can throw a stick at, but not dreadful. Probably worth giving it another couple of episodes. I really HATE the narration though. For me, it seems Gossip Girl is the worst thing about Gossip Girl.
Anonymous said…
Teens High Schools are schools where the teens can overcome their fear and shyness. Many other sorts of problems like hesitation, insecurity, depression, stress etc can be avoided in these high schools. Teachers help students in solving their problem.

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