Saturday, January 03, 2009

Rachael Here, with a Season One Gossip Girl Review

When I started Gossip Girl a measly five days ago, I expected a soapy, fashionable dramady. Thanks to Kelly’s enthusiasm, I also expected to like it. I didn’t know how much I’d love it.

See when Gossip Girl first premiered, I watched the Pilot and found a barrel full of meh awaiting my troubles. None of the characters, save possibly Blaire, really compelled me, including the Seth Cohen-esque Dan and the resident psychotic jackass Chuck. But I’m happy to say five tv-filled (and very happy) days later, I was an idiot.

I just finished Season One, so here goes my review:

Lots of the characters follow an OC-esque archetype. The bitchy brunette best friend can as easily be applied to season one Summer as it applies to the substantially more deliciously evil Blaire. The troubled wafer thin blonde is clearly a Marissa throw back. The desperate to be popular ignored younger sister Jenny could stand in for Kaitlin. The nerdy outsider jewish looking smart boy is Seth Cohen as much as he is Dan Humpfrey. And the daddy-issue’d pretty boy is Nate as much as it ever was Ryan. And don’t get me started on how much Lily and Rufus resemble Kiki and Sandy. By this argument, I suppose, the only original character is Chuck Bass.

But the thing is, Gossip Girl ISN’T just The OC transported to the Manhattan locale. It maintains a ton of the good stuff from that series (the escapist soap-opera’y ness, the witty dialogue) and adds on its own charms.

The Rufus and Lily storyline is fascinating. Although near the end it seemed sort of inexcusable to me that Lily was willingly marrying Bart (a man who the show completely failed at making me believe Lily loved), watching Rufus and Lily stumble and flutter their way through discovering twenty year old love was as interesting an epic love as any the pimply set has ever created. Plus, the adults on this show act like adults, flawed and ridiculous adults, but adults. Lily gives up sexy goodness with Rufus for her daughter’s sake, and seems genuinely worried about the melodramatics surrounding both son and daughter, even if occasionally incompetent in dealing with said melodramatics. And tell me you didn’t tear up at least a little bit during Serena and Lily’s finale-episode reconciliation.. Mrs. Waldorf, although depressed and selfish, legitimately cares about the feelings of Blaire. And the near-perfect family dynamic of the Humphrey clan, even when going through a messy separation, is just as anchoring as the love between the Cohen’s on The OC.

Blaire Waldorf is, not to take anything away from Summer, a unique silver screen creation worthy of torrents of praise. First of all, it’s freaking fantastic to watch a character so smart she instantly cuts through all the other characters’ complicated bullshit. It doesn’t matter how complicated the scheme, Blaire uses her intelligence and badass bitchery to solve it (I’m thinking in particular of the scene in the Debutante Ball episode where Blaire, just by looking at Chuck’s face, unraveled an episode’s worth of scheming). As played by Leighton Meester, Blaire is full of heart, deliciously bitchy, and the chemistry between her and Chuck is enough to make a gal forget his date-rape escapades in that pilot. In fact, Chuck and Blaire’s relationship (which I’ve been promised is explored even more scrumptiously in Season Two) is probably the hottest thing I’ve ever seen, ever. Admittedly, I have a bad boy problem. In fact, for the first half of Season One, I found my growing adoration of Chuck Bass as the biggest, and possibly scariest, indication of how bad my bad boy fetish had gotten. But then they just kept adding layers upon layers onto the characters, and made him more fascinating and sexy and intelligent.

And S and B. Has there ever been a more compelling TV couple than Serena and Blaire? Whether they’re fighting, or most importantly when they’re protecting each other, S and B are compelling enough on their own to make this show worth watching.

And Serena, as played by Blake Lively, is way more compelling than Marissa ever was. The character is better written (and her romance with Dan way more interesting), but that’s not all of it. Even with all that, I occasional find the bad girl gone good storyline a bit boring. But Lively is surprisingly adept at navigating the melodramatics surrounding Serena’s life. And the relationship between her and Dan is surprisingly… adult. In the pre-Georgina era, the couple avoided the pitfalls of a TV-relationship. Misunderstandings were settled by honest communication, feelings were discussed openly, and sex was given a level of importance and reverence that I was led to believe Gossip Girl completely lacked.

Then, of course, there was Georgina. Up until Georgina, I pretty much thought Gossip Girl was a perfect show. There were some characters I found boring, and I always found Vanessa as a threat to Serena and Dan’s happiness kind of annoying, but I basically thought the creators and writers had a strong grasp of the characters, almost all of whom acted within reason and sanity. But then there was Georgina, a character so obviously created just to mess things up in the tidy(?) Gossip Girl universe that it was painful. First of all, she’s underwritten. Her own motivations never seemed to be anything more than “hey, I’m pissed at Serena’s goodness, let’s fuck shit up!!!” And the ending Dan and Serena mess- well I said earlier how much I loved the way they avoided the “misunderstandings equal break up” thing. And then G shows up, and suddenly it’s all “misunderstandings equal break up.” I understand why the characters had to break up, but it pained me the way they did it, because it seemed like these two reasonable and adult characters deserved better.

In fact, almost everything about the finale annoyed me. Serena and Dan, Dan and Vanessa, Serena and Nate. Lily with Bart. Rufus with… his band. Actually that wasn’t that bad. And despite my intense desire to see Chuck and Blaire make sweet relaxing love, I was kind of okay with the final ridiculousness of Blaire taking off with Mr. Wasp-y hair and Chuck making eyes at the help, especially since I can’t wait to watch them further flirt and torture each other next season. But the mess left over from G’s escapades was just annoying, and I’m infinitely glad that the ex-Ms. Dawn Summer’s wont be gracing Gossip Girl next season.

All in all, though, damn was Gossip Girl fantastic. It was everything a soapy teenage drama should be, plus the addition of truly great, compelling, unique characters who improved upon the archetypes that gave birth to them. And I can not wait to start up Season Two.

Until then,

You know you love me.


1 comment:

Dorv said...

Good review of a completely underrated Television show.

I would tend to disbelieve, however, that they copied as blantently from the OC. The novels which GG are based on started in 2002, whereas the OC premiered in August of 2003.

I don't think the show was trying to get us to believe that Lily really loved Bart. I think that Rufus is her "one true love" (TM), but with Bart she falls into back into the pattern that she has since her relationship with Rufus ended. I'm with you, in that I think that their relationship is the backbone of the show (whereas the delicious Blaire/Chuck combo have become, in my eyes, the main characters of a supposed ensemble cast).

I haven't read the books other than listening to the first on audiobook (the one that came with the S1 set), but I think the the TV version of Blaire may be considerably more complex and interesting than her original. At least from what I gained in the first novel.

I too didn't like Georgina that much, until she was paired in the one scene with Blaire. I have heard though, through the internets, that she might be making more appearences down the road, but as of yet she hasn't.