Take the OC. Throw in a pinch of Sex and the City, a dash of Mean Girls, and a squirt of Judy Blume. Here you have Gossip Girl. Based on the novels by Cecily von Ziegesar, anonymous ‘you know you love me, xoxo Gossip Girl’ narrates her blogs on the private on-goings of decidedly affluent Manhattan Upper East Side school kids, as they do all the naughty things teenagers are well known for doing it. The only difference is, with all their parents money, these guys do it in style.
Lead girl Serena (Lively) is back from boarding school, have left the year previously under mysterious circumstances. Her reputation as one-time hardcore party girl and general alcoholic falls a little flat at Lively’s feet, as even when her character momentarily slips back to old ways, she retains her butter-wouldn’t-melt wide smile - there’s just nothing naughty about her. BFF Blair (Meester) is however superbly cast as complicated teenager, neglected child, and Queen Bee. We follow their various shenanigans with Dan (Badgley), Nate (Crawford) and Chuck (Westwick) - a moment please, while we revel in the all-American names.
Executive Producer and writer Josh Schwartz was, unsurprisingly, the creator behind The O.C., and in and uncanny likeness the kids in this show are never just down at the local youth club, oh no. Birthdays are celebrated with expensive meals out followed by staffed sleepovers, parties are multi-thousand dollar events to which one would be seen dead in anything other than the most expensive Manhattan designer clothing, and that most archaic of American traditions, the debutante ball (where young women are ‘presented’ to society – grrr) is kept alive and well. With another nod to an O.C. plotline, in steps the Humphrey family to retain a bit of political correctness, as loveable Dan rivals for Serena’s attentions against so-rich-I’m-rebelling-against-it Nate, Dan’s sister Jenny (Momsen) discovers being part of the IT crowd isn’t necessarily always all it cracked up to be, while dad Rufus (Settle) tries to hold together a disintegrating family without much money. The Humphrey family is the most watchable and enjoyable element of the show, which would be Clueless and vapid without them.
There is a social ‘event’ of some description in every episode, on which to hang the messed up love octagons and reveal some naughty secret or another, and although at first the narration is possibly the most annoying thing to listen to since Carrie Bradshaw, as with SJP, she becomes part of the show’s essence, to a point which one couldn’t imagine it ever working without her. It’s pretty easy to slate these programmes for just rehashing what has gone before, but I have to admit to loving Gossip Girl, if not just to chuckle wisely at how self obsessed the younger generation are, and gawp at the incredible, and I mean INCREDIBLE fashion. It does exactly what it says on the tin - easy watching with the usual ‘gritty’ teenage sagas, but generally well executed, with notable nods of recognition to Leighton Meester and Ed Westwick who will most certainly never be far from our screens for years to come.