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You Know You Love Me, XOXO Gossip Girl
on 21 May 2008
There are 18 episodes in total that make up GGs first season, there would have been 22 episodes overall but the Writers Guild Strike in America this year crippled much of the TV industry, and GG therefore was interrupted in production and had to have its episode order shortened. The post strike episodes (episode 14 onwards) were very good albeit slightly rushed as Josh Schwartz, the showrunner and head writer, had to condense what would have spanned nine episodes into five.
GG was based on a series of books which I have some limited knowledge of but have never read. I don't think it's a good idea to come into the TV version of GG expecting an adaption of the books because that's most certainly not what one will get -- indeed, they are at this point two disparate entities. The show, in essence, takes the characters from the books along with the setting and then creates its own storylines. As a result it's a catty, glossy and just plain fantastic ride. A lot of shows based around teenagers seem to be pretty mindless but GG is actually very well written and there's always interesting psychological depth to the story and characters. In a nutshell GG is set in the glamorous Upper East Side of New York, and is depicting the scandalous lives of Manhattans elite. Gossip Girl is a mysterious blogger who basically enjoys exposing these rich inhabitants secrets.
Now, I was a huge Veronica Mars fan so I only watched this show initially because the wonderful Kristen Bell is acting as the voice of Gossip Girl. So I came for KB (not expecting much in the way of good plot etc.) but ended up staying for the awesome writing, acting and colourful characters. When I first saw the Pilot I was rolling my eyes a great deal and nearly did not come back to watch the next episode; I'm glad I gave the show another chance because I would have been missing out. The Pilot is literally the worst episode of the season and the whole show improves leaps and bounds from thereon in. Really, the Pilot doesn't make much sense in context of the rest of the show -- there's a lot of contiunity errors and characters like Chuck act out of character, as they decided after the Pilot to go in a different direction with his character. So, it's best to ignore the events of the Pilot. Apparently the Pilot would have been re-shot if the CW had more money.
My favourite characters by a huge mile are the two fan favourites Chuck Bass and Blair Waldorf. I have to give the writers huge kudos for putting them together in the middle of the season, I always thought they would be an interesting pairing but never thought they would actually get together. Chuck and Blair's immense popularity as a couple and as individual characters is a testament to the excellent acting of English actor Ed Westwick and Leighton Meester -- who literally always steal any scene they appear in. Westwick and Meester also have the most explosive and heated chemistry of any of the cast. Blair is at first presented as a nasty, vindictive girl, although it's this ruthless mean side to her is part of what makes her lovable; her scheming is particularly brilliant in episodes like The Roman Holiday. You can't help but root for her. Blair is truly the shows real protagonist.
'I'm Chuck Bass' Chuck is wonderful, the sexually promiscuous and a somewhat nasty person. He is even more vindictive and scheming than Blair. He's a Machiavellian figure but as he falls in love with Blair the audience is shown with some fantastic writing/acting that he's far more complex than he first appeared to be; of course Chuck would not be half as interesting without Westwicks charisma and acting nuance, indeed it's a testament to his skill that someone as vile as Chuck in the Pilot could become the most popular male character of the show. Together Chuck and Blair are a post modern Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler.
The other characters Gossip Girl focuses on are Nate Archibald, Serena Van Der Woodsen, Dan Humphrey, Jenny Humphrey, and various other secondary characters. Dan and Serena's not so torrid relationship is the focal point of the season along with the Nate/Blair/Chuck love triangle, which is pretty much taken from Chucks perspective throughout. As the triangle culminates in episode thirteen a new arc begins with guest star Michelle Trachtenburg, who is evil to delicious degrees. The first thirteen episodes of the season are well written, acted and all the episodes tend to contain various amounts of symmetry and subtext, particularly episodes like Hi-Society which exposes the weaknesses in Chucks character in a very Shakespearian manner. The post strike episodes are well conceived but some plotlines are rushed and lacked cohesion.
When all is said and done the most stabilising relationship of the show is between Blair and Serena, without it the show would be the poorer. The familial bonds and friendships are often touching and a key component of GG, particularly C's friendship with N -- indeed I think Nate will always love Chuck more than any other person in his life. The season finale 'Much I Do About Nothing' is great fun albeit slightly rushed. It centers around a wedding which involves all the regular characters. Gossip Girl is a fantastic show which I would highly recommend to anyone, it's most certainly a step above the average teenage drama.
Extras: Deleted scenes, gag reel, a fantastic featurette about the making of Gossip Girl from page to screen. There's no commentaries unfortunately, but I think said featurette more than makes up for that.
Highlight episodes include: The Wild Brunch, Victor Victrola, The Roman Holiday, A Thin Line Between Chuck and Nate and Much I Do About Nothing.