Gossip Girl recap: Class Warfare

In a world where social networking is everything, what happens when the portal to it all stops working?

Yes, I’m talking about the unthinkable. If Facebook can crash for a few hours, so too can Gossip Girl. As with Twitter I’m betting there is a fail “headband” for such emergencies.

In what was the first of several bizarrely post modern interludes in the episode, Blair posed the Descartes-esque question: “How is my first day supposed to matter if Gossip Girl is not around to tell people about it?” A question Tweet-happy people like Stephen Fry might well emphathise with.

But no matter. Summer is over, the Parisian adventures a distant memory. School is back in session, with Blair in her rightful home of Columbia.

It seem’s less Serena’s rightful home when her biggest concern about starting university is revealed to be what to wear.

OK, we all think it. But you don’t say it!

Actually, what matters for the first day is entrance to some swanky student club. Blair gets in, but in a distinctly unusual twist of fate, Serena doesn’t. Mainly because Nate’s stalker girl is the gatekeeper and she has some bizarre vendetta against serena, ostensibly because she fancies Nate, but as we learn later due to some strange convict dude. Oh and Penelope, erstwhile Waldorf minion, is also a member.

Stalker girl tries a divide and conquer strategy with B and S, but they out fox her with a live-streamed faux fight complete with Polyester hair and judgemental sniping (as I said, post-modern). Then Lily makes sure she’s in the club, because apparently she’s on the board (is there a single pretentious organisation she’s not involved in the entire New York area?).

Still, good to see nepotism alive and well on the streets of Manhattan.

Back in Brooklyn, the woman most likely to steal Lily’s mother of the year crown has left Dan holding the baby. A baby who, as Rufus explains, is not actually his. And it seems Georgina has been at a spa for the better part of a century. Not ideal.

When said spa turns out to be St Barts, Danessa come up with a stellar plan to live in the loft and practice parenthood based on the guidelines of a very awesome early 90s fatherhood comedy starring Tom Selleck. Sadly for their domestic bliss, Georgie returns with a sob story and takes Milo with her. Bye bye, baby Humphrey. But hello, new and inevitably troublesome living arrangements.

Chuck, meanwhile, is a changed man. So besotted with European blonde is he that he discards his prized Little Black Book with the comment: “If a good woman can change me.” Bleugh.

Imposter-Chuck waxes lyrical about how she nursed him back to health (apparently we’re actually in the Manhattan of 1810) so Lily does what every loving stepmother would do and invites the pair to a fashion show avec the family.
Except, the family in question comprises of Rufus, Eric and the absent-but-not-missed Little J.

As in, the girl he nearly raped in season one, and successfully deflowered in season three (as Eric helpfully reminds Rufus during a touching bow-tie fixing scene). So, obviously, Rufus is just thrilled to have Chuck back.

Cue drama, but French girl doesn’t mind. Unsurprising, given that Chuck goes all Richard Gere on her and takes her on one hell of a shopping splurge – provoking possibly the best snobby socialite monologue Blair has yet delivered.

Luckily by then Gossip Girl was back up and running to tell the world about it.


Conference season via Twitter

I’m not at the Labour party conference, although at the risk of exposing just how much of a politics nerd I am, I really wish I were.

But even though, physically, I am in London not Manchester, I’ve still felt far more engaged with the proceedings this year than in the past. And it’s not because of the Miliband-drama – although that hasn’t hurt – because the same was true during the Lib Dem get together last week.

Why? Simple, really. With the help of Twitter, I’ve enjoyed a step-by-step guide to the conferences.

Whether it has been snippets from speeches, snarky observations about what people are wearing or overexcited MP sightings, the hash tag #Lab10 has kept me more than up to date.

I’ve felt the excitement as the new leader arrived on stage for his speech, read otherwise unreported comments from fringe meetings, and laughed at various off-the-wall offerings. It may not be first hand exactly, but it’s not bad.

Live blogs are great, video footage brings a speech into your TV room. But with Twitter it feels like you are part of it, involved in the discussion and debate.

I’d love to be there in person one year. Still, this serves as another reminder that social networking is far from being a useless and self-indulgent tool. Because democracy is about participation, and Twitter provides a pretty good way of getting involved.

Gossip Girl: Double Identity

Happily, I’m no expert on Parisian morgue body identification. But I am fairly sure it doesn’t normally involved an outfit of sparkly jacket, electric blue clown trousers and an up-do that could double up as St Paul’s Cathedral. But as I said, not an expert.
Why the morgue? Despite Blair’s prediction, it’s not a skanky dive. Rather Serena (with Blair still living it up in fantasy-France) gets a call from Lily regarding the police.

Naturally with her criminal history she assumes it is about her (with that hair the mug shot will be interesting) but turns out it’s about fake Chuck – now to be referred to as Chake.

Because the alternative would have been problematic . Think.

Across the Atlantic Nate and stalker-blonde are getting close, now that he has “little black booked [Serena] away”. In fact, she even volunteers to be his life coach. With his inability to use the brain the writers once-upon-a-time pretended he had, and her SVdW obsession, what could possibly go wrong?

Really though, he should realise something’s up when SB volunteers to change baby Humphrey’s nappy. On what amounts to a first date? Hello, totally against The Rules.
In fact, she and Nate get embroiled in a convoluted plot to “take Dan out of the equation” vis-a-vis Serena. Ergo, drama and a mildly amusing tiff with both the boys wearing different variations on the same checked shirt. Outcome: Danessa are on, Nate and stalker-blonde are go.

So Serena goes from two boys to no boys in the space of one episode. The situation undoubtedly confuses her, given that she distinguishes Nate and Dan as “shoulders” and “nice shoulders”.

 The real drama, as ever, is with Blair, who amidst frolics with her prince, has a meet-not-so-cute with Chake. Instead of throwing a “Hey. Would’ya look at that. You’re not dead” shindig for him, she comes to the obvious conclusion that she is being stalked. So Serena plays good stepsister and goes to find him herself.

Because if you were AWOL, an idiot blonde with absolutely nothing between her ears is who you’d want on the trail.

But Chake, with his own stalker-blonde (is this a new Gossip boy accessory? Like the omnipresent waffle of season three), isn’t playing ball. In fact, he’s playing someone else entirely; with grand plans to do a Mossad-in-Dubai and play pass the passport.

So Serena teams up with a comedy cop and plays Cluedo in Harry Winston. But rather than deal with the drama, Blair busies herself trying on tiaras.

It can only be a matter of time before Messrs William and Harry get Blaired.

When she finally comes to her senses, it involves (what else) a race to the station in a flowing red ballgown. Only it’s a different, softer Chuck Bass – apparently being shot made him Eat, Pray and Re-evaluate – and the reunion is a bit crap. Conclusion, Chair is off.
Oh, and obviously Vanessa is a baby whisperer. Vom.

Nice Balls and a dull campaign


The leadership hopefuls (photo: J Lipman)

It’s interesting, isn’t it, what a difference a campaign can make.

Reading Anne McElvoy’s interview with Ed Balls in today’s Evening Standard, I had to pinch myself to remember that her subject was the same man who spent years as Labour’s comedy bully.

Ed Balls was the unreconstructed Labour man, the union champion, Brown’s enthusiastic and angry number two.

But lo, here he is after a summer seeking the leadership, and he appears articulate, thoughtful and even rather human. Anecdotes about novelty cake and his marriage abound from this “Newly Nice Ed”.

Shame, because he’s not going to win. A metamorphosis for nothing, though he’d probably be happy enough in the chancellor’s seat – and he’s certainly got the best economic credentials out of the gang of five vying for the top spot.

But it’s funny isn’t it. I went to a debate at the beginning of it all, the day Diane Abbott joined in. None of what was said was particularly remarkable; what I took out of the event most of all was the animosity between the Ed’s – patronising replies, furious glances across the podium. This would be a campaign of tension, anger, drama. With Balls around, surely somebody would get into a fight.

But it hasn’t and they haven’t – and any Labour friction has been entirely New in its making, courtesy of Mandy and Blair.

It’s been the campaign that wasn’t.

Sure we’ve had some sniping between the brothers, but beyond a few manufactured media stories that’s been pretty minimal. Diane Abbott has restricted herself to some low-level grumbling from the sidelines, and Andy Burnham – well, he was always going to be nice, wasn’t he.

Can it be that the New Labour drama really is over? If you can’t even rely on an election with five high-profile contenders, including Ed Balls, for a fuss, then maybe so. The party seems to have grown up.

Which, one the one hand is great for Labour’s political rehabilitation.

But on the other, well, it doesn’t exactly make for a nailbiting contest, does it?

Gossip Girl: Belles de Jour

It couldn’t have been a more dramatic previously on Gossip Girl. Which was apt, because it was a pretty dramatic opener for Season Four.
We rejoin our cast of fashionable folk in Paris, a city of paintings, pavement cafes and pretentiousness – in other words, a Paris dreamt up in a writers room in Manhattan.
Yet while we are far from New York, when it comes to Serena and Blair we’re back to the good old days. S is slutting it up (bartenders, waiters, guys with Vespas – she’s as discriminating as ever) and B is, well, not.

But of course, summer must come to an end.

Blair is off to Columbia, while Serena is off to Brown and out of Blair’s jealousy zone. Right? RIGHT?

Well, no. Despite being possibly the most ridiculous and brainless blonde ever to grace TV screens, S has been accepted to Columbia too. Columbia alumni include both Roosevelts and Supreme Court judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg, so clearly it’s just the place for our Serena.
Maybe the admissions officer drives a Vespa.

Of course, the college clash creates a typical B versus S bitch fight, played out in their tried and tested passive aggressive boy rivalry. In a nutshell: Blair meets a man over a Manet who has almost as appalling an accent as the fake British prince / duke / random aristocrat from season two.

He’s a Grimaldi, Blair discovers – European royalty. History suggests this will end well. History is right.

Prince turns out to be more pauper, with the real deal Serena’s date for the night. With the inevitable consequence of Serena being pushed into the fountain. Been there, seen that.

Back in America, Nate, in his bid to become the male Serena, is working his way though a veritable yellow pages of one night stands.

They are all hideous caricatures of women, necessitating a particularly hammish meet-cute with a blonde-with-book. Naturally, she’s the new woman in Nate’s life, and just as naturally, she’s stalking him.

Why is that most stalkers look, well, like stalkers, and on Gossip Girl they look like they have stepped out of America’s Next Top Model?

Dan meanwhile, is doing the Dad Thing. Which, because this is an in-no-way-plausible teenage drama, is actually going OK.

Shocking, given his Gina Ford of choice is Nate – who, come to think of it if current behaviour continues may find himself in a similar predicament.

In case he isn’t aware of how insane the situation is, Vanessa is back from saving the world to tell him. Complete with even more hair extensions and some choice ‘wacky’ traveller bracelets.

 She sums up the crazy in Dan’s new baby-centric life with the phenomenally Gossip Girl term ‘George-gina’. A euphemism I am certain will soon make it into the OED.

Rufus, sporting a dashing new haircut, is missing his psychotic daughter (guess absence really does make the heart grow fonder) and being left out of Lily’s life again. And Dan’s, although Georgina clears up baby-gate for him soon enough (then ups and leaves Dan holding the baby).

What is preoccupying Lily is Chuck, last seen stabbed in fake-Prague. He’s in financial trouble – this show being all about the politically resonant storylines.

So Lily gets all Harriet the Socialite and starts digging – suspecting something is up from the “second class train tickets” charged to his card. Turns out he’s gallivanting around Europe in Shakespearean tragedy mood, and what do you know, he’s headed to the same place as Blair.

Though Lily thinks he is dead, which means we may still get the answer to that age-old question; who exactly would come to Chuck Bass’ funeral?

Lots of new haircuts, same old angst. A fine return, on balance, though one criticism. Katy Perry? On the Soundtrack? Josh Schwartz, I expected better of you.