The premiere of the CW’s Gossip Girl lived up to its title.
The show is, simply, based on gossip. It’s also based on a series of books, but you don’t need to have read them to watch the show.
As a culture, we love hearing stories of the privileged elite–there exists a rubbernecking fascination with wealth and those who have it. Gossip has beautiful actors, beautiful sets and beautiful clothes, so it’s definitely fun to look at.
The story hovers above a line of believability, hopping between There’s-no-way-that’s-even-plausible vs. I-want-to-think-people-live-this-way. Oddly enough, the least plausible moments were the ones in which the characters did “normal” things; would the kids from such a ritzy private school ride the city bus to school? I doubted it. Would they be served in bars without question? I was pretty sure they would be, assuming they knew where to go.
The show reminded me of the late ’90s version of the movie Cruel Intentions, except that the Gossip kids seem to actually go to school. That movie was not terribly good, but it has developed a cult following and Gossip Girl seems to be a 2007 reworking of its themes, jazzed up with pop culture to make it more teen-friendly.
Just to age myself here for a moment, what surprised me the most was how wired every kid was, and how quickly information—gossip—was disseminated. Beepers were somewhat popular while I was in high school, but very few kids had cellphones. Certainly the Sidekick didn’t exist. And no one had an Internet connection at home that was particularly quick.
The premise–a shadowy “Gossip Girl” hosts a site that is beamed out to every student in her world instantaneously, its updates narrating the story for home–couldn’t have worked when I was in high school. I’m not saying it couldn’t happen now–I’m saying I have no idea if it could happen now. Partygoers find out that another student has arrived not because they see her across the room, but because they read on their Sidekicks that she’s there.
Kristin Bell, the former star of Veronica Mars, reads the narration and sounds deliciously evil as she dishes.
The existence of a narrator of course allows for a lot of back-story to be brought up fairly quickly, and it’s because of this that the show hits the ground running. Speaking of back-story, there is quite a bit of underage drinking, and this has definitely created tension on some message boards out there. It seems as if Serena’s drinking is going to play a large role in her back-story, and will come out in future episodes.
For this reason as well as the fact that most of what is portrayed in the show is entirely implausible to the majority of its audience, I don’t really think it’s something to get up in arms about. If the lead character always had a good time when she drank, I could see it being a concern for parents whose younger kids might be watching. But it seems to be something that plays a major part in her previous downfall.
I’m looking forward to watching next week. Gossip Girl doesn’t purport to be serious TV–it’s a fun fantasy world, a primetime soap opera, and I’m enjoying it so far.
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