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Why We Love New York, or The Quick and the...Fashionably Shod?

Two weeks ago, I wrote that “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.”

I still am– but the thing is that over the week or so that followed, I also watched ABC’s Dirty Sexy Money, and then I watched ABC’s Big Shots. While I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy each one individually, I did notice that by the time the Big Shots premiere had ended, I wanted to close my bank account and move into a yurt, preferably somewhere as far away from New York as humanly possible. (Side note: In actuality, I got on a bus the next day to New York–but only because I’d already promised to.)

What is the fascination with NYC’s extremely wealthy this season? My first idea was that it was supposed to be some sort of emotional panacea in the aftermath of the subprime mortgage crisis, that although Wall Street had been shaken, the rest of us wanted something mindless and over the top to entertain us even as our available credit shrank–but obviously the turnaround time for that would have had to have been way too quick.

I was clearly being silly.

Is it possibly just a reaction to the general downturn in the economy? I’ve been watching the dollar grow weaker and weaker against the euro and the yen for a couple of years now, but then how to explain the ‘80s phenomenon that was Dallas and Dynasty?  It was  the middle of an oil boom, and we wanted to watch people who’d profited far more extravagantly than most from the boom, and we wanted to watch them behaving badly.

Maybe that’s just it. Maybe the networks believe that everyone wants to watch the extremely wealthy behaving extremely poorly.  Maybe the setting is just a fluke and has nothing to do with the tax bracket it’s setting up. California had its run, from Beverly Hills 90210 and Melrose Place up through The O.C. and even now, with Private Practice. Yes, there were some extravagant lifestyles portrayed in those shows, but there were also decidedly middle-class inhabitants, too–just super-shiny Hollywood versions of them, of course.

Then suburbia had its day–the antics of the fairly rich on Desperate Housewives, Weeds, Brothers and Sisters. Of course, we know from Las Vegas that the uber-rich behaving badly sells, and we know from Sex and the City that New York social life and society sell. So maybe this was just the next logical step–maybe the networks figured we had to step it up to the fantastically rich in NY.

Really, when you look at it that way, they had no choice, did they?

Thing is, I don’t think that all three of these shows can sustain an audience. It’s just too much to take in at once.

So which will it be? The class warfare between the scions of the rich and the scions of the middle class on Gossip Girl? The old moneyed, overstepping Darlings of Dirty Sexy Money? The self-made, self-combusting men of Big Shots?   Gives new meaning to the phrase “an embarrassment of riches,” doesn’t it? (Yes, even I cringed as I typed that.)

One last thing, and one of the big reasons I’m pulling for Gossip Girl–I get a big kick out of any show or movie that makes reference to Dartmouth. Especially after last night’s episode, when we got a second, more positive representation of my alma mater besides the heinously-pushy, heartless “Dartmouth Dad”, as some of us have taken to calling him.  I get sick and tired of explaining that it’s in New Hampshire sometimes, you know?

Go Big Green! And, um, also, yay NYC! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ve found the perfect place to build my yurt, way up in the Great White North . . .