One of the most buzzed-about new shows this fall is the appropriately-named “Gossip Girl,” the latest vapid teen drama that chronicles the trials and tribulations of a bunch of rich high school kids.
The brainchild of “O.C.” creator Josh Schwartz, “Gossip Girl” forgoes the sands of Manhattan Beach for the sidewalks of Manhattan’s Upper East Side. It’s based on Cecily von Ziegesar’s young adult book series, which reportedly has 4.5 million copies in print.
“Gossip Girl” takes the concept of hallway hearsay and fuses it with the practices of celebrity blogging and citizen journalism. It’s TMZ.com: High School Edition, as the title character, an anonymous blogger whose disembodied voice-over is provided by “Veronica Mars” star Kristen Bell, documents the hookups, breakups and catfights of (presumably) her fellow students. The student body laps up her posts, feverishly checking their Blackberry’s and cell phones for the latest updates.
Even setting aside the notion that so many of their peers would wait with baited breath to read about the latest developments among the school’s “in-crowd,” which is preposterous, Bell’s play-by-play gets a little tiresome.
The show’s characters all possess an infuriating sense of entitlement. Remember Oliver, the subplot misfire from Season One of “The O.C.”? Multiply him about 10 times and form a plot around that group. You get the idea. The teen’s parents are stereotypically oblivious, either using their children for bragging rights or business deals, or acting like teenagers themselves. Sandy Cohen, where are you?
Blake Lively, who plays main character Serena van der Woodsen, honed her acting chops in “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants,” as an overdeveloped teen who hid an angsty side. In “Gossip Girl,” Lively takes a departure from that role to play an overdeveloped teen who…oh, wait. Maybe the roles aren’t that different.
These types of teen dramas are known for using flashy cars, invitation-only parties and gorgeous co-eds to glamorize a time period most adults would rather forget (I’ve yet to meet anyone who feels that “Beverly Hills 90210” accurately mirrored their high school years). But “Gossip Girl” takes that absurdity to a new level, most egregiously during a hotel bar scene in which two of the main 17-year-old characters are shown casually sipping martinis. Think “Saved by the Bell” meets “Sex and the City,” with nary a Screech in sight.
From the opening credits over Peter, Bjorn and John’s “Young Folks,” “Gossip Girl” bombards the viewer with background music in nearly every scene. If that’s an attempt to distract from the melodramatic dialog, it fails. At this rate, the show might run into the same music licensing problems that “Beverly Hills” did, which delayed its release on DVD for years. But at the same time, “Gossip Girl” is on pace to rival “The O.C.” in terms of soundtrack releases, so that should generate some revenue.
The show undoubtedly has a guilty-pleasure appeal among the same viewers who revel in the plot twists and tabloid headlines of “The Hills.” But for me, it just reiterated something my mother often told me while I was in high school â€” nobody likes a Gossip.