CW’s Gossip Girl viable ‘soap’ for teens

By Monica Reida 2009

Perhaps you’ve heard of the CW series Gossip Girl, based off of the best selling books by Cecily Von Ziegesar; however, there are several differences between the books and the TV series. Chances are greater that you’ve heard of the stars of the show, mainly Blake Lively and Leighton Meester, who play Serena van der Woodsen and Blair Waldorf respectively, since they keep popping up on the covers of Vogue and Teen Vogue.

But this little watched show on CW is in fact a riveting, fascinating drama. The show focuses on privileged New York City Upper East Siders, many of which are teenagers that attend either the Constance Billard Academy for Girls or St. Jude’s School for Boys. In a way, the show is similar to the hit ABC series Desperate Housewives with the themes of a lovely façade being very thin, although it is thinner for the characters of Gossip Girl—and the presence of an omniscient narrator, in this case Gossip Girl, an anonymous blogger voiced by an uncredited Kristen Bell.

But the girls, boys, men and women of the Upper East Side, or Brooklyn in the case of Rufus (Matthew Settle), Dan (Penn Badgley) and Jenny Humphrey (Taylor Momsen) and Vanessa Abrams (Jessica Szohr), are conniving and scheme, sometimes even manipulating others in order to get what they want.

The teenagers attend extravagant parties where alcohol is consumed. They have sex and cheat on their significant others.

Yet, in all honesty, this is a mirror being held up to teenage culture. Many adolescents engage in these activities even in the dull Midwestern United States. The key difference here is that the characters on this show constantly have their lives under a magnifying glass where the slightest move they make can end up on Gossip Girl—which is a gossip blog, in addition to the show’s title and the name of the narrator—or Page Six, the gossip page of the New York Post.

But the show has some very realistic elements with it. Serena comes back to New York City after a year in Conneticut due to her wild child behavior.

The former queen bee of Constance Billard has been replaced by Blair, and throughout the series the two serve as “frenemies.” While there are people to welcome Serena back, Blair holds the reigns over her henchwomen and the school.

If anyone decides to cross either Serena, Blair or Chuck Bass (Ed Westwick), things will not turn out pretty. Blair wields such power at Constance that she could ruin someone, as viewers have recently seen in the last episode where she posted a rumor about a teacher on the blog Gossip Girl. Granted, Blair is used to getting what she wants by whatever means necessary. Chuck is very cool, cold, making revenge usually sly and sudden for his victims.

But not all of the characters are like the main characters mentioned. Nate Archibald (Chace Crawford) is one of the more respectable students, despite a history of smoking weed and dating several girls at Constance Billard. As is his girlfriend, Vanessa.

Serena’s gay brother Eric van der Woodsen (Connor Paolo) is frequently the voice of reason and, in addition to being really the sweetest character on the show, aided Rufus, who is dating his mother, Lily, in understanding The Magic Flute before the couple went off to attend the opera, which turned out to not be The Magic Flute, in a recent episode.

But what is really striking about the show is not the complex, scandalous storylines but the characters and how they’re portrayed.

The characters are incredibly complex making the show worth watching.

For example, Blair can be a vicious conniving spoiled brat but she also manages to look out for those she cares about, namely Chuck.

Recently, there was a story line involving the death of Chuck’s father and Lily’s husband, Bart Bass. With this there was Chuck’s anger over his father’s death, his feelings that he never received his father’s approval and the fact that he was being perpetually screwed over by his Uncle Jack (Desmond Harrington), who was his legal guardian until Lily adopted him. Westwick did a magnificent job of showing all of the emotions that Chuck was experiencing and the hole that he kept falling down. But even Chuck, who is seen as a womanizing teenager with many vices, has the ability to care about other people, notably Blair.

As the season continues, the show is bound to get more intriguing as the main characters finish off high school.

In addition, Gossip Girl promises some interesting guest stars, like the recently reunited group No Doubt, as well as bizarre cameos, like New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood.

The show is addictive, enthralling and well-scripted, making it TV’s best kept secret. Those that don’t object to the content mentioned above should probably tune in to the CW on Mondays at 7 p.m. Perhaps after one episode, you’ll find yourself addicted to the drama of the inhabitants of the Upper East Side.

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