I have to admit something. Even though I’m in my 30s I love high school set dramas. Maybe it’s all the John Hughes I watched in the '80s. Maybe it’s the hours of Beverly Hills 90210 I devoured in high school. Or maybe I just enjoy watching young, pretty people mess up their lives.
Whatever it is, you can imagine my excitement when I heard about Gossip Girl, the CW’s new teen sudser from OC mastermind Josh Schwartz and based on the popular books by Cecily Von Ziegesar. After all, Schwartz, who should be forgiven by now for flushing Marissa and the gang down the television toilet, writes snappy dialogue and has a knack for making spoiled brats seem likeable. Plus, I hear the novels are sort of like Jackie Collins for teens, so what could possibly go wrong?
Not much as it turns out. In fact, Gossip Girl is a taut, well-acted soap with juicy story lines, witty one-liners, and an engaging cast. Shot on location in Manhattan’s Upper East Side, the show is filled with glamorous sets and lush production values.
The title refers to “Gossip Girl,” a blogger who has all the dirt on her snooty prep school colleagues and also serves as our narrator (voiced by a gleefully bitchy Kristen Bell of Veronica Mars fame). Former “it girl” and Queen Bee Serena van der Woodsen (Blake Lively) has returned after disappearing for months at a boarding school. Former BFF Blair Woldorf (played by Leighton Meester) now rules the roost and is less than thrilled at the news. Blair is now happily dating Serena’s ex Nate (Chace Crawford) and would like to keep it that way. Soon secrets, drinking, and cattiness all unfold at a breakneck pace.
Of course no teen drama would be complete without the requisite popular jerk (here played by Ed Westwick), the emo outsider (Penn Badgley, whose pretty face seems ready to be hung in lockers across the land), and the gullible freshman (former “Cindy Lou Who” Taylor Momsen all grown up).
Clichés aplenty? Sure. Tragically hip soundtrack? You betcha. Predictably lame parents? Of course.
But is it an entertaining guilty pleasure? Totally. The NYC excess turns your run-of-the-mill teen rehash into a glittering playground for poor little rich kids. In short, Gossip Girl succeeds because instead of trying to re-invent the wheel, it covers the wheel in couture and parades it down Fifth Avenue.