Gossip Girl recap: New York, I Love You XOXO (the finale)

gg-finale

So Georgina Sparks is now Blair Waldorf’s aunt. Or should that be Mrs Chuck Bass? After 121 episodes, six long series, nigh on a thousand parties and too many love triangles to count, Gossip Girl is at an end. Josh Schwartz’s series about the privileged and genetically blessed going about their fabulous business on the Upper East Side is now consigned to the dustbin of television history.

Although it never attracted as many viewers as Schwartz’s first outing into the lives of the rich and glamorous – airing as it did at the dawn of the democratisation of illegal television downloading – there’s no denying that Gossip Girl made an impact.

From its two fingers up response to groups concerned about its risqué content – including an advertising campaign based on their criticisms – to the regular tabloid appearances of its young stars, Gossip Girl was more than just a teen soap opera.

Of course, by the end, what started as an unashamedly campy drama that pushed boundaries with its scandalous storylines had become a shadow of its former self. Still, the double-bill finale sent the show – and Gossip Girl HIMself – out with a bang.

First, a few criticisms. Ok, so Serena has maintained her slutty behaviour throughout, identifying new targets as each old week melts into the next, and Nate remains the same loveable dolt, dimpled and clueless. But all the same, between the fourth and fifth series it was as if the scriptwriters decided to start with a blank canvas. Gone was Blair the conniving, tawdry mastermind, the woman for whom no scheme was too big, only to be replaced with a damsel, working at the whim of whichever male rescuer she was being saved by that episode.

Toward the end, she became a parody of her former self, portrayed as a petulant child in her campaign against Nelly Yuki. The old Blair would never have fallen for the wimpy, wearisome prince, nor made a pact with God or allowed duty and responsibility to obstruct her relationship with Chuck.

The old Blair was no shrinking wallflower; she dictated events but never let herself be dictated by them. She did not need saving, ever.

boys-ep6As for Dan, in the first series he was the heart of the story; the innocent, thrown without a hope into a very different world. He was sweet, boyish and sympathetic – you rooted for him to win Serena’s heart, to triumph over the bullies, to be the outsider who was never, to quote his book, seduced by the inside.

Unfortunately, Dan’s undercover adventures on the UES saw him sucked in, until he was just another selfish, vain and airheaded brat. Gossip Girl thrived on the attempts to corrupt the innocent, to sully the virtuous. But by the time his book was printed, he was tainted almost beyond the point of return.

Chuck’s trajectory, on the other hand, was better. Taking him from heartless capitalist to fighter for justice and all-round good egg was a risky move, but the reason it worked was because throughout, he maintained his smirk, his insouciance, his utter contempt for the irrelevant or unfortunate.

Despite the flaws of the final series – Sage, Sage’s dull dad, the vom-worthy Ivy and Rufus fake-romance, Bart’s Sudanese oil dealings – the finale was delicious; an homage to the fans who have stuck it out through thick and very much thin, an ode to all the ridiculous, frothy fun of the XoXo collective.

First, the big question. Who was Gossip Girl?

Unlike Lost, during which audiences were encouraged to play a guessing game from day one, the identity of the mysterious tattle-tale wasn’t oft addressed. The decision to make Kristen Bell the voice of Dan Humphrey’s delusions was frustrating – what about how GG ruined Little J’s life, or incessantly mocked his actions? – but ultimately the best option.

Dan was the ultimate outsider, ever desperate to claw his way into the lives and loves of the Upper East Siders. Only he would have had the access and the ambition to chronicle ever good, bad and downright ugly detail of the gang. Only he wouldn’t think twice about sacrificing his father, sister, romantic interests and best friends on the altar of his quest for popularity and acceptance. GOSSIP GIRL

The great reveal wasn’t really that, what with everyone basically just chuckling and rolling their eyes in an “aw, Daa-annn” kind of way when they found out. Never mind how he had at various points paved the way for characters to cheat, be jailed, nearly die, face social ruin and widespread embarrassment.

It was more, darn it gang, why didn’t we figure that out!

But of course, this show has never been about Gossip Girl. It’s been about the girls (and guys) gossiped about. So the finale had to wind up every loose end, with heartwarming flashbacks of Vanessa (hair still dreadful, still not permitted to return to Manhattan), Little J (inevitably, Sage’s idol) and Eric.

No return of Scott, nor stalker Juliette, Hillary – threesome with Dan and Vanessa – Duff, nor Carter. But Michael Bloomberg made a cameo, and there was plenty of Dorota (her survival secret? She’s been downing vodka this whole time). And Bell, and Rachel Bilson, appeared in a marvellous meta movie-of-Gossip-Girl-moment that had more than a little trace of the Dawson’s Creek finale about it.

As for our gang. Ivy got her comeuppance, albeit at the hands of someone only a tad less morally questionable than herself. Lily found herself a new-old husband again, after redoing Bart’s funeral (I’m shocked that she didn’t use it as an excuse to plan another fabulous society soiree!) Sage was dumped (obviously – in the 20 year reunion, Nate will still be picking up random floosies and ditching them after a month, while Chuck advises him of the joys of settling down).

In any case, Archibald has a successful media company (good to know journalism will still be going in five years time) and a possible electoral run to consider. So, in essence, he has become exactly the man his grandfather wanted to be. But with better dimples.

minionsBlair and Chuck (it was never going to be Dan, or Nate, or anyone) found their happy ever after, with a nostalgic wedding starting at the steps of the Met, and spawned a darling mini-Chuck to love and adore (although with Dorota there for the tough parenting).

And Dan and Serena – less beauty and the beast, more arrogance and the dimwit – finally tied the know, five years after they fell back in love (although presumably with myriad splits and hiccups in the meantime).

So that’s it. No more blonde with her boobs out at funerals and other inappropriate times (S), no more smug, dastardly and ever so well-coiffed (Chuck), no more adorably clueless (Nate) and social-climber bordering on stalker (Dan), and no more bitchy, queen of mean, ne-headbanded Queen B. Unless, of course, you fancy rewatching it all from the very beginning?

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Gossip Girl’s Pacey and Joey moment

Watching this week’s installment of Gossip Girl (which was so bland that it didn’t warrant a recap), I was struck by how the Blair Dan love drama is reminiscent of another wildly popular and controversial teen soap.

I’m talking, of course, of Dawson’s Creek. Now on the face it, the exploits of the Capeside crew have little in common with those of the glamorous Upper East Siders we so dearly love to Gossip about.

The former were unfashionable, the high school pecking order’s outsiders. They were poor – not in the “I live in Brooklyn” mould of Dan and Jenni, but poor enough to have to waitress and put themselves through college.

They talked in long, luxurious sentences with the vocabulary of the Bard, and their dramas were invariably internal rather than the results of some convoluted plot or scheme.

And yet. When Dawson’s Creek began, the clear premise was that this was a love story about the boy and girl next door. The clue was in the title, this was about Dawson and Joey, about the obstacles they would face – but ultimately surmount – in their quest for happily ever after.

Yet from early on it was clear that the verbal sparring between Pacey – the intended “supporting actor” character – and Joey, was no match for her rapport with Dawson.

When they sailed off into the sunset a few series later, theirs was the romance we were rooting for.

I’m not sure if we’re yet at the cheerleading stage of Blair and Dan, but looking at it now, Dan’s relationship with Serena seems like the prologue.

Blair has always been the more engaging of the two girls, particularly in her days of scheming on the Met steps against the presumptuous Little J – but Serena’s character has barely developed from the flighty, whiny blonde we met at Grand Central. Her romances are fleeting and repetitive, whereas Blair’s are all great loves, marked by tragedy and anguish.

Perhaps that was what the Gossip Girl team was gunning for all along; the other happily ever after, the one you wouldn’t have predicted in the first place. I doubt it, just as I doubt that Pacey and Joey were anything other than a product of the writers seeing good screen chemistry that fans responded to.

But, as Gossip Girl moves to the twilight days of its fifth series (the point when Dawson’s Creek, too, was obviously doomed) it’s interesting to note just how pointless the majority of the supporting cast have become and how vapid the other plot threads are.

Gossip Girl: stop the Blair and Dan train-wreck

So, I’ve been somewhat rubbish with my Gossip Girl blogging of late. In fairness, the show went on hiatus over December and then I moved into a flat where we had a problem with the internet – in that, we didn’t have said internet.

I’m back online now, and I’ve seen the first two episodes of this year. In truth, they’ve been rather dull. After the Juliette-Ben-let’s kill drug Serena drama of 2010, we’ve moved back to the Gossip Girl standards of ice-queen Lily, clueless Rufus and Serena the absurd-romance chaser. Rather yawnsome, really.

The Chuck mixing business with pleasure is too predictable, and the girl (am too lazy to Google her name, so she will from now be referred to as ‘the businesswoman’) is one cliché after another. Is she supposed to be Chuck’s age? If so, how has she completed her college education (and postgrad, because in America a first degree is worth zilch) and gained so much experience, when she’s supposed to be around Chuck’s age?

I realise nepotism, but surely a savvy businessman would only give his privileged and well-dressed but unqualified daughter the perfunctory jobs, like, ooh, organising cocktail parties and picking out his ties.

Plus, she’s clearly crap, she keeps telling Chuck all the information he needs to take the Chicago duo down.

Eric and Damian, wherever the hell that’s going, is just odd. I like how the writers, in what I assume is a bid to keep casting-search costs down, have just decided Damian will be the villain in whatever implausible scenario they’re running this week. It’s like going to see a play where the ensemble play rotating roles, only in Gossip Girl there’s not even an attempt to disguise the fact that IT’S THE SAME ACTOR EVERY WEEK.

I expect the rest of this series to involve him a) doing something to screw up Blair’s ambitions b) being the other man in the inevitable next stage of the Rufus-Lily implosion and c) kidnapping Dorota’s baby to exact a hefty ransom out of the VdWs.

But all that is small fry. Now, I realise that since the dawn of unrealistic but fabulous teen drama, there’s been a tradition of romantic swapsies. Joey Potter had flings with everyone – Dawson, Pacey, random guys, even Jack before he came out) and I think they paired Jen with a fair few. But it’s not necessary to do it when it gives the viewer a desire to either vomit, or throw heavy objects at the TV.

Buffy, for all Xander’s adoration, never returned the sentiment. And Marissa didn’t go off with Seth, nor Summer (except, for a brief second in the first episode) try it on with Ryan.

I realise that the idea of a fine line between love and hate works well in a show so centred around witty barbs and disparaging insults. But Blair and Dan. No. NO. JUST NO. Yes, they are funny together. But only because they hate each other, not because of any underlying passion.

It is not necessary to complicate the unadulterated snobbery and rivalry of the Blair-Dan relationship with, as I expect will happen, a secret, purely physical fling, that will then be discovered (probably at a fancy party) and cause yet another rift between B and S.

To refresh; Dan has been with all the girls except Blair (and Jenny, for obvious reasons). Blair has been with all the guys except Dan. Serena has been with all the guys except Chuck (and even that’s not certain) and Nate’s been with every girl who even made a guest appearance on the show except Georgina.

Writers, dear writers. This is no longer a Dawson-Joey-Pacey love triangle. This is just the start of a bad comedy film where the groom has had flings with all the bridesmaids, the mother, sister and cousin, and possibly the wacky aunt too.

There is a reason why such films are critical and box office flops. DON’T DO IT.

Gossip Girl: Inglourious Bassterds

It’s kill or be killed in Manhattan this week and it looks like Jenny and Serena are taking that a little too seriously.

It’s Nate’s birthday, and Serena has planned an assassins themed birthday, complete with random fake guns and old-school Kodak photography. Everyone’s dressed in back, and everyone has something to hide.

 But this is GG. Of course everyone has something to hide. starting with Jenny, who has the hots for old-Natey and deals with it ever so maturely (it’s not her birthday) by hijacking the birthday boy for the day and messing with Serena’s plans.

Given Nate is wining (19! Grow up) because everyone is pretending to have forgotten his big day, this actually goes swimmingly, but despite an awkward sort-of-kiss S and N still walk off into the sunset together. Jenny smoulders angrily as they do, a fact not unnoticed by….

…Eric, who is back! Yayy. Apparently he’s been having love affairs in Japan, but now he’s back home to dispense wisdom, fall for floppy haired boys called Elliott and generally make this show feel as if it has a heart again.

At least someone has a heart. It’s certainly not Chuck, who, proving no good TV romance can go undestroyed, commits the ultimate betrayal against Blair to win the hotel back from Jack. Which, although I’m sad they’ve broken up, is actually kind of great.

Who doesn’t want to see those two on the rebound.

Something tells me we’re in for a treat – coupley B and C were getting boring. But top marks for having Blair ask Serena for advice on how to be slutty. It’s nice when the writers acknowledge character consistency.

Meanwhile, Dan and Vanessa have a ridiculous fight over who is being more honest in their commentary of the others dull self-indulgent creative writing, which is not even worth the mention were it not for the end revelation – V has applied to the same ultra-competitive writing as Dan.

Uh Oh. Troubled waters ahead for the most annoying couple on TV since Dawson and Joey were one.

 But if the episode wasn’t great, it was redeemed by the conspicuous presence of Dorota, initially clutching a smoking gun, and then (as if that little treasure wasn’t enough) with a diamond. Yes, Dorota dearest is engaged.

I for one can’t wait for her wedding. 

Filling the Gossip Girl gap: Life Unexpected

For all you teen show lovers out there, March is a long time away. But here’s a look at a new drama series about to hit US screens that could well fill the gaping gap left by Gossip Girl’s absence.

Life Unexpected

Life Unexpected premieres next week on The CW. For the uninitiated, that is the network behind such greats as Gossip Girl, 90210, America’s Next Top Model and One Tree Hill. Should be a guaranteed success then? Well no, because they also spawned the less successful (cancelled after a few episodes) The Beautiful Life, so it’s hit and miss.

Happily, based on the previews I’ve seen, Life Unexpected, which you can check out snippets of below, looks like it will fall firmly in the hit category. According to the reputable TeenDramaWhore, the premise is based around:

“15-year-old Lux […] a young girl who is seeking emancipation after spending her life being bounced around foster homes. Since she was never adopted, she needs the signature of her birth parents and sets out to find them. She does (in seemingly record time, mind you) and both are understandably shocked.  All three are then thrown for a loop when the judge, instead of granting emancipation, makes Lux’s parents temporary co-guardians.”

Plenty of dramatic potential. As Entertainment Weekly describe it, the show is “Gilmore Girls-esque and Everwood-y, with a pinch of Juno”. High praise.

But storyline aside, it’s the actors involved who are causing such anticipation (Google blogs gives 8,180,869 hits in a search for the show) .

Why? Because they aren’t exactly new to teenage soap success.

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Gossip Creek: What if Dawson and Joey met Blair and Chuck?

 Gossip Girl has gone on a break.     

  The show won’t be back on our screens until March.     

 I know what you’re thinking; fellow addicts or you closet ‘social’ watchers out there. How will you ever cope without following the trials and tribulations of a bunch of Park Avenue princesses every week. What will you do without your weekly fix?       

 There’s always re-runs, but when you know what happens in Season 3, Season 1 becomes that bit less exciting. But never fear,  I’ve come up with a vaguely post-modern distraction for the GG-less season.     

  Essentially – What if Gossip Girl met…?     

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Gossip Girl – The Grandfather Part II

If GG was one of those variety packs of chocolate bars, Nate Archibald would be a Milky Way. Nothing wrong with that – the chocolate is perfectly nice and the wrapping inoffensive. But not the most exciting pick, a little bland, uninspiring and unsophisticated.

Of all the characters he has been consistently the least engaging. Gorgeous, sure, but a tad dumb. Bit of a pothead, not very bright. Like most teenage boys then.

That was until this week, when we saw a new side to ole cheekbones – depth, personality, and even several unique facial expressions. Remember Tripp, one of Nate’s hugely irrelevant identikit family members? Well, he’s back and running for congress, with Nate, who at 18 has probably never voted, absurdly standing on the campaign frontline.

On election day, Tripp is caught on camera heroically saving the life of a drowning man, a feat that as audiences well know qualifies you for high political office. Except that the man wasn’t actually drowning but rather a trick pulled by one of the campaigns sinister puppet masters.

Putting a spanner in the works is Vanessa, who inevitably is documenting the campaign (because what every aspiring politician wants is some college activist privy to all his private moments).

But there she is, making yet another indie film. I wish the GG writers would realise that you can be arty and cool without always having a camera in your hand. And that having it doesn’t make Vanessa any less horrendous and pretentious.

Vanessa has the footage that proves the scam, and typically self-righteous, threatens to expose it as such before the polls close. In reality, someone so attention-starved wouldn’t have waited to sell it to a TV network, but put it straight out on YouTube. However she vacillates for a while, ruminating with faux concern about how much respect she has for the candidate whose chances she is likely ruining.

But Nate, the new improved Nate, seizes the day. With the shrewdness of a practiced politician, he plays Vanessa to stop her leaking the truth. Life sucks, V, doesn’t it.

Unfortunately, she just scams him right back and the truth comes out. So in a heartrending scene, he (although guiltless) takes the blame for the scandal so his cousin can win the vote.

In other news, Olivia reveals an embarrassing but highly dull secret about Dan on prime time TV (there is no way the bathroom boy scene would have been a YouTube hit).

More entertainingly, Serena and Blair are doing battle and B realises she needs to find a friend, stat (her lackeys not being good enough – “I don’t make friends with staff” she scoffs when one offers their services.) Blair’s pathological insecurities come out as she friend hunts with all the awkward anxiety of a spotty fourteen year old boy at a school disco

Naturally, she goes for the blonde with the good couture taste, and naturally, this is a disaster, because this psych major apparently doubles as a call girl, which is so NOT Waldorf-esque. It leads to some funny moments though, with Serena dunking Blair in a cake, and because when Serena gets all judgy about Blair’s new BFF, Blair makes the very valid point that Serena too is being paid to date her clients.

“If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck” she says, brilliantly serving Serena her just desserts.

At several points the characters seem to forget which show they are in. Vanessa berates Nate for his lack of moral compass (this from someone who lied to her roommate for the sake of a stupid speech). Similarly Serena says to Blair; “political connections aren’t the first thing most people look for in friends”. Excuse me?

The icing on the cake is Nate (he’s not totally lost his naivety) when he once again takes the prize for most oblivious teen heart-throb since Dawson didn’t know Joey was in love with him. “I wouldn’t exactly call revenge a good basis for friendship” he says. Uh, earth to GG. This is not the Hallmark channel, or an episode of Gilmore Girls. The show is ALL ABOUT being soulless, manipulative and vindictive.  HELLO, that’s what makes is so awesome.

Predictions for the future?  Blair looks set to spiral into a new low of unhappiness; good for us because sadness breeds spite which means Blair at her absolute best.   And with Serena and Tripp getting quite chummy at the end (and with him having an EVIL, SOULLESS wife), perhaps a love triangle with him, her and Nate?   Stranger things have happened on this show….