Gossip Girl recap: All the Pretty Sources

Was this week the start of the undoing of Gossip Girl? Probably not, but a couple of people took a good stab at it – La Hurley, Nate, Nate’s grandfather and of course, Louis the dark prince.

Back from his European exile, Prince Dullard takes a stab at buying Blair’s loyalty with sparkly and shiny things. When that doesn’t cut it, he decides to go on the offensive, and turn his princess-in-training against her friends.

As a short-term strategy it works, because Serena is planning Blair’s bridal bash and trying to conceal the glitziness of the proceedings with a series of lies about decor, menu and denim.

The shower is, this being Gossip Girl, a typical champagne and evening-wear affair, complete with a Tiffany’s lucky dip (never had that at my school fete). So, obvi, all is forgiven between “besties but actually frenemies” S and B. The whole plot though, of Blair being prima-donnaish about the event, was a bit weak.

The old Blair would have just found a way to seize control and organise new caterers etc, not merely whine about betrayal. Serena wouldn’t have known what hit her, while the minions would have become double agents.

Plus, what the hell was the dress she chose? And more to the point, what happened to the good old-fashioned hen do with women only, a semi-clothed bartender and phallic shaped party gifts? Surely Blair’s last hurrah should have involved something a little more scandalous than bubbly and ballgowns?

Into all the craziness comes Ivy’s ex, who, despite clearly being a couple of pennies of a pound, speedily realises that her “I wanted to see if you liked me or my money” excuse is total con. But if you can’t beat em con them; by episode’s end she is free of Diana’s blackmail but caught in ex-boyf’s web. Ex boyf, incidentally, is about to become Serena’s latest man plan.

Meanwhile, the bromance between Chuck and Dan continues, as the two of them mope about being rejected by Blair and sans invite to the shindig. Chuck’s solution is booze and call girls, but even getting stoned doesn’t do the trick and Dan manages to crash the party – that is, after disparaging a handful of stuck up guests in the lift.

Unsurprisingly, the lesson of this episode was that Dan is annoying and whiny when he is stoned, while Chuck is wise and disparaging. So,true to life then.

Over at the New York scheme-tator, Diana ends up out of a job, sacrificing her “career” – ha, please – because of her undying love (sorry, lust) for Nate. Seems this has been Grampy’s plan all along; to appoint a shrewd and capable teenager to run a media empire. Unfortunately, he temporarily forgot who his grandson was.

At one point Nate (re: the Gossip Girl upload) tells Diana he “hadn’t even thought” of posting the whole thing online. “I’m sure you hadn’t,” responds Diana, clearly not so blinded by love that she isn’t aware Nate is, well, Nate.

Diana is out of the building, but not out of the show. Her secret, which we can assume implicates grandpa and Bart Bass somewhere along the line, is destined to come out (at Blair’s wedding, probably).

And then there’s Blair and Louis. She calls time out on the relationship after she discovers Louis did the dirty with Gossip Girl’s correspondence (it’s not that her devious nature is out there for all to see that upsets her, it’s that he had the nerve to do something totally Blair-like that does), but having seen preview clips of the wedding, it doesn’t look like goodbye. I think we can assume that he’s not going to make it to the end of the series though.

He’s been taken by the forces of Gossip Girl darkness; in Gossip Girl terms, that’s like being got by the Lost smoke monster, You don’t escape its clutches too easily.

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Gossip Girl recap: The Big Sleep No More

Finally, Blair returns to scheming. The fact that her scheme – to manipulate the bassstard out of Bass – was so clearly a way of sneaking an “it’s ok, it’s for a reason” snog, is beside the point. Finally, Blair remembered she wasn’t just a society wife-to-be, but actually a bitchy college student (hah) with loose morals.

Ivy / Charlie / annoying blonde Serene surrogate, could have done with a bit of the Waldorf witchery. With the help of La Hurley, she’s about to be outed for being a fake-der-Woodsen. In a highly ridiculous, it’s-such-a-big-city-how-did-her-dull-ex-find-her plotline, her dreams of living happily ever after were thrown off kilter by the return of the boyfriend she dropped for a taste of the good life. Obviously, she had to attempt to stave this off by smooching Nate (clearly the only reasonable solution when a girl’s got a problem).

But to complicate matters, Serena’s “single-man-on-the-loose-dar” went off with the arrival of Max.

With a smile and a toss of that mane, he is swept away, off to become another victim of Serena’s romantic rollercoaster.

The real story of the episode was La Hurley. That she is in the pay of Nate’s grandfather (grandson, sleep with a shady cougar to restore your WASP reputation) is ridiculous, but it is far, far less ridiculous than the alternative; that we are genuinely supposed to believe in Hurley as a media baron and see the New York Spectator as anything other than a glorified gossip blog.

Grandfather’s plan appears to be to shut Gossip Girl down (the site, not the show, don’t fret), presumably so that Nate can concentrate on the serious business of making something of himself. The fact that a) Gossip Girl will totally kick his ass b) A copycat site would go live in five b) Um, this is Nate we’re talking about. Other than using those dimples to advertise toothpaste, what’s he really going to do except squander his fortune on botoxed beauties?, seems to have bypassed him.

But I look forward to the battle of old money versus new media.

And of course there’s Dan, whose week of writing success (OMG, a book launch, rave reviews, I’m so loved, now I am totally self-actualised) has disintegrated into a book tour of empty seats and disappointment. So he holes up in his room in Brooklyn (despite an old-time pep talk from Rufus) and mopes.

Pathetic. Surely his speedy rise and fall is fertile source material for the sequel: “Outside”.

Where are the women in The Ides of March? (The Telegraph)

Forget the polls. Forget what the pundits think and what the ordinary Joes interviewed on the street have to say. The best barometer of how we view politics and what state politics is in surely comes from fiction, from the bumbling leaders of Yes, Minister to the spin-doctored puppets of The Thick of It.

Nowhere is that more true than with regard to American presidential politics. When Americans have faith in their commander-in-chief – or wish for a leader different to the one they have – contemporary fictional leaders have Abraham Lincoln’s ability to unite a divided nation, Dwight Eisenhower’s physical valour, Franklin Roosevelt’s ability to enact change and John F Kennedy’s glamour. Think Harrison Ford as the action-hero president in Air Force One (1997), Michael Douglas’s Andrew Shepherd striking a blow for liberty in The American President (1995) or Grant Matthews in Frank Capra’ss hope-imbued State of the Union (1948).

Likewise, times of low public faith in politics are often accompanied by films where power and the pursuit of it is shown as dirty, dank and Nixonesque. That’s no new thing; as the Great Depression got underway a film called Gabriel Over the White House (1933) was made, featuring a vacuous, do-nothing president in Herbert Hoover’s mould.

The Ides of March, George Clooney’s drama about political aspirations gone awry, reflects a profoundly dismal approach to politics at a time when Barack Obama’s popularity is at a new low. The film, set during the Democratic Party primaries (and based on a play that was itself supposedly based on Howard Dean’s shortlived run) takes a Hobbesian view of the state of politics; everyone is a dealmaker, everyone will ultimately act against their beliefs and nothing is sacred.

The subtext is that no politician – and, in this adaptation, for politician, read Barack Obama, with “Yes We Can” style posters and all – can ever be the ideal he purports to be. It’s a film about how the audacity of hope will always let you down.

But as dispiriting as that message was, also noticeable was the lack of a single credible female political figure. The sum total of female characters stood at three; the intern, the journalist, and the First-Lady-in-waiting (a Laura, not a Hillary or even a Michelle).

This was a film filled with backroom deals, high-stakes conversations and political chess games and yet the women were eternally on the periphery. Involved, yes. But not the ones leading the country, or trying to.

This comment piece was first published in the Telegraph. Read the rest of it here

Gossip Girl recap: I am Number Nine

What if Sorkin wrote Gossip Girl (a girl can only dream)? That was basically the focus behind this episode, as Dan and Serena pouted about plans to Zuckerberg Inside all the way to the Oscars.

His book would be the Social Network, take two. Only with more parties, champagne and overly coiffed society girls.

Except between Serena’s inability to understand how the industry she is supposedly so expert in works, and Dan’s ego, the project is a goner.

“I’m done,” Dan wails, as if dropping out of the top ten of the bestseller lists means he is to be chained to a rock for all eternity and pecked at by bitchy columnists.

While Dan’s rise and fall was no shock, there’s no way in hell a poseur like him wouldn’t have secretly been thrilled that Sorkin was planning to write the script. He might not have watched West Wing – too mainstream – but Dan was blatantly into the woefully misunderstood intellectual supremo that was Studio 60.

Unfortunately, Liz Hurley’s character has gone from farce to worse. I have no issue with Nate and the cougar as a storyline (except that we’ve been there, done that) but she’s a cartoon character.When she gets all overexcited about how she’s going to destroy society one scandal at a time, I half expect to see animated dollar signs flash over her eyes.

She’s what teenage boys imagine successful businesswoman are like, and there’s no way in hell she’d have built a media empire when she was off in the back all the time doing the dirty with her staff.

Anyway, now she’s got Nate (be gone, random media celeb plus one) and she’ll be damned if anyone stands in the way of her teenage romance. Adorable. Or the opposite.

Meanwhile, the prince got some backbone.

Nah, just joking. He wouldn’t know what to do with a personality.

But he tried to pay Chuck’s therapist to spy on him and reveal the secrets of Chair, which backfired spectacularly with the sort  of party-showdown that back in season one would have prompted a Gossip Girl blast, but is now so routine that nobody even chokes any on their champagne.

It was quite dull (not exactly a plot worthy of his fiancée) but it prompted Chuck to see the light and apologise to Blair for his past misdeeds. Is that a rift in an engagement I spy. Gawd I hope so.

But despite the groom drama, Blair is all set for bridesmaids after hosting a minions-of-old gladiator contest. She ends up going with Ivy, which means she must have what Lily on How I Met Your Mother has – pregnancy brain.

As if Queen B would let another Van der Woodsen (even a fake on) steal the limelight on the big day.

Not a great episode. The prince storyline is really done to death, as is Liz Hurley. What happened to college bitchiness, friends their own age and, hell, people who drank something other than champagne.

The great thing about Gossip Girl was always its ability to balance high drama with biting social satire, to show the divide between rich and poor and to show rich and pretty teens playing havoc with people’s lives, consequences be damned. Right now, it’s just a soap, and a bit tired at that. News of Georgina’s return couldn’t come at a better time.