Gossip Girl recap: Salon of the Dead

Serena Van der Woodsen is many things – sister; friend; brother-lover; walking blonde-joke punchline; advert for how not to wear appropriate attire, ever – but she’s not known for being malicious. Or at least, she never has been during Gossip Girl’s colourful history.

But there she was, this week, doing her best to torpedo new it-girl Lola’s burgeoning showbiz career, not to mention ruin a party hosted by her supposed BFF in the whole wide world.

And then she had the nerve to get mad at Lola, for outing the fact the La Fembot is actually Mommy Dearest (and Nate’s former bedroom buddy). And to ask Lola to keep shtum about her Gossiping ways, to avoid her reputation (Ha, as if Serena still has one of those) being tarnished forever.

The problem with Gossip Girl this season is that it has lost sight of who the characters are. Serena works best when she is inadvertently – but never intentionally – stupid and hurtful, when she is caught up in her emotions and blind to the idiocy of her behaviour.

I’d believe it (in the sense that one should never accept anything on Gossip Girl as remotely plausible) if any one of the other girls on this show had opted to wield the laptop of power and hold it hostage from the real Gossip Girl – but not Serena. Blair, Little J, Vanessa all have it in them – they’ve all had a taste of power and enjoyed it. Serena, not so much.

It’s not just Serena, though. The writers seem to have reinvented their characters this year, and while I’m all for the gang growing up (hello, these crazy kids have now reached the grand old milestone of being above the legal drinking age – major maturity!), it’s too much.

Gossip Girl needs to get back to its roots. Blair is a schemer – as an adult her schemes should be more complicated and intricate, and the consequences should be worse – but after months of her kowtowing to Prince not-so-Charming, it’s time for her to regain her place on the steps. So instead of feuding with Dan about Brooklyn’s merits, she should have conspired to have him turn up at the hottest party of the year, trussed up like the escort she wants him to be.

And Nate? It was never plausible to have him in a seat of power, but while it was all part of Grandpa Archibald’s plan, it sorta worked. But why is he still being portrayed as a media mogul? Nate is at his best when having inappropriate flings with older women, getting high while the world around him erupts into crisis or flashing his dimples to get him out of any awkward fix. He should be in a fraternity house right now, engaged in hi-jinks to steal the rival house’s pet hedgehog, or something, not playing Murdoch to La Hurley’s Rebekah.

As for Dan; I never thought I’d say this, but bring back Little J and Vanessa. At least they have identifiable personalities, and at least their hair has the decency to be fake. Without them as a buffer, and a reminder that life is gosh darn tough when you hail from the wrong side of the Brooklyn Bridge, Dan is just another suited and booted piece of arm candy. Let’s have him working as the ice cool undercover reporter he thinks he is and getting into scrapes with devious drug dealers and dastardly crime kingpins, not fawning over a girl who made his life miserable for years and still doesn’t feel bad about it. He’s no longer a rebel and he no longer has a cause – even house-trained Rufus has apparently worked out that that’s not OK.

In fact, the only character who keeps it interesting anymore is Chuck, who delivered one of the greatest lines in Gossip Girl history this week as he slammed his newfound mother for her general awfulness. If he can find a way to publicly humiliate her and seize control of her media empire, all the while wearing an awesome cravat or somesuch, I might forgive some of the crud that has passed for storylines this series.

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 recap: Memoirs of an Invisible Dan

So the book has hit the fan (at a showbiz party, naturally).

“Inside” is out and everyone knows exactly what Dylan Hunter thinks of Sabrina, Derek, et al.

Basically, Dan’s characterisations are pretty slim. Serena is a massive train wreck with a penchant for professors and dirty martinis, while Chuck has no friends and dies a Wilde-esque death.

Nate, as every true Gossip Girl obsessive has speculated for some time, is actually gay.

It’s not so much that that upsets him as the fact that he’s only a minor character, conflated with Eric. The revelation prompts some world-class pouting from Chase Crawford.

Of course, because everyone on the Upper East Side has suddenly developed superfast reading abilities, the author, though loved by the New York Post and Times, is soon public enemy number one.

Serena is mad because he got everything about her right, while Blair is pissed because he got everything wrong.

Specifically, he wrote that he and Blair did more than kiss, and Prince Dullard, who doesn’t have enough imagination for fiction, believes it. The plot threatens to torpedo their engagement, but unfortunately doesn’t succeed.

The person most upset by this – and this really was heartbreaking – was Rufus, confronted by his son’s belief that he is a gold-digging trophy husband with no career of his own. Which, clearly, is true.

But come on Dan. You don’t just announce a thing like that to the world!

In other news, Liz Hurley has fembotted her way into learning the truth about Ivy and now has the blonde fake working for her in her malevolent plan to unearth all the muck of Manhattan life. Too bad Dan got there first.

Next week: Gossip Girl does Yom Kippur, No, seriously. Watch the clip:

Gossip Girl: what would Blair say about Leighton’s drama?

Sometimes, life and art are very far apart, for example when teen dramas feature characters who change clothes 18 times a day, wear hotpants and sparkling tops as dressed-down breakfast wear or pose as long-lost cousins in order to con heiresses out of their fortunes.

At other times, life and art are scarily interlinked.

It turns out Leighton Meester, known to the world as the Machiavellian mixer with a penchant for headbands on Gossip Girl, has something of a dramatic personal life.

Reports the Daily Mail: “Meester wants full custody of her younger brother because she believes their mother isn’t prioritising his welfare.

Leighton, 25, sent $7,500 each month to Constance Meester, to help pay for her illness-plagued brother’s ongoing medical treatment.

But in a lawsuit filed last week, the Texan-born beauty asserted that the money was spent on cosmetic surgery for her mother instead.

And now she wants to removed Alexander from her mother’s care in California, so he can live with her permanently in New York.”

It’s only the tip of the iceberg: read more here and here.

As Leighton’s on-screen persona would probably say; how gauche to have such scandals palyed out in the pages of the tabloids. That said, with Gossip Girl on summer hiatus, bring on more of the same.

I’d like to hear how Blake Lively has insured her cleavage for gazillions, or how Ed Westwick is now a sworn teetotal.

New TV shows on the menu

I’d like to pretend that as a mature 20-something with a full time job, I’d be over all those silly American shows of my childhood. But Dawson’s Creek is currently queued on my Sky Plus box, while I’m in mourning over the end of the Gossip Girl series (recap to come). Clearly, I still care.

But with Life Unexpected and Greek (two of my favourites) canned this year,it’s time to find something new to series-link.

Every May, the US television networks announce their “fall schedules” – translation, the list of the good, bad and often horrendous television series they will be showing from September. I’ve looked through them all and it seems a good list, although there are far, far too many Lost-wannabees and sitcoms hoping to jump on the Two and a Half Men publicity bandwagon, not to mention a healthy dose of supernatural adventures. (Note to Hollywood. Get over Twilight).

The good news (in my view) is that Gossip Girl has been renewed for a fifth year, meaning that it has outlived Josh Schwartz’s previous foray into the dark underbelly of the lives of the rich and glamorous.

But one cannot dine on Gossip Girl alone (seriously, all you’d be eating is waffles), so what else is on the menu?

Hart of Dixie:

Fast-talking New Yorker and brand new doctor Zoe Hart has it all figured out…but when her dreams fall apart, Zoe decides to accept an offer from a stranger, Dr. Harley Wilkes, to work with him at his small practice in Bluebell, Alabama.   She quickly finds that Southern hospitality isn’t always so hospitable.”

This sounds a lot like something that should be on the Hallmark channel, with characters in flowery dresses going to church all the time. It may well turn out to be, but the interesting thing about this is who is involved.

Rachel  (aka Summer Roberts) will star as the newly graduated doctor who finds a last-chance job in a stuck-up southern town and has to fight her way through inevitable bitchiness and rivalry and romantic drama. So far, so yawn. I bet she meets a gorgeous stranger who looks after, I bet the mean girl isn’t so mean after all. Original. Er, no.

But she’s reuniting with Schwarz and Savage on the show, the team behind both OC and Gossip Girl, so, while it sounds like soppy drivel, it has potential.

Ringer:

“A woman who, after witnessing a murder, goes on the run, hiding out by assuming the life of her wealthy identical twin sister – only to learn that her sister’s seemingly idyllic life is just as complicated and dangerous as the one she’s trying to leave behind.” 

This is a return to television for Sarah Michelle Geller or, if you were a TV-watching teen in the noughties and spent those years watching a small blonde girl battle (and occasionally romance) the genetically blessed undead, Buffy’s back!

However, judging by the summary, this isn’t Buffy at all. Identical twins? Life on the run? Wealthy? So far, so Sunset Beach.

Not that that’s such a bad thing. Sunset Beach had its charm (no, really, remember the demonic Jesus statue and the sinful shirtless priest? Exactly) But if you’re wanting a return to Joss Whedon’s smart and knowing pop-culture genius, I don’t think Ringer will be where you will find it.

But on the plus side, it also stars Nestor Carbonel (as in, freakish ageless eyeliner man from Lost). Speaking of Lost…

Alcatraz:

“From executive producer JJ Abrams…the chilling new thriller centered on America’s most infamous prison and one-time home to the nation’s most notorious murderers, rapists, kidnappers, thieves and arsonists. ”

And guess who it stars! Hurley.Well, no, Jorge Garcia, but, but Hurley is back!! Phew, too much excitement.

Basically, the idea is: what if those creepy Alcatraz maniac inmates disappeared, then reemerged in modern life without ageing? Huh? Sounds deep.

It could be very good. After all, everyone was a wee bit sceptical when JJ Abrams said he had a show about a mysterious island, a plane crash, and the survivors’ battle to get home. (Hello, why wouldn’t they just Tweet HELP ME?). And Lost was a runaway success, not to mention the most baffling and mindboggling piece of entertainment around.

But, then there were the polar bears, smoke monsters, bearded evils and French crazies hiding in the trees. For all Lost’s awesomeness, it required a helluva lot of patience and a passion for obscure sites like Lostpedia.

So, note to Alcatraz team. Avoid the temptation to put in every ludicrous idea you have, and just stick with the really, really good ones.

Oh, and don’t kill off anyone called Charlie, either.

2 Broke Girls:

“A comedy about two strikingly different young waitresses who form an unlikely friendship.”

 This show should be crud. The premise (metropolitan waitresses with baking business plan) is ridiculous and you just know that the girls will live ridiculously lavish lives that there’s no way they could ever afford if the title were true. Ref, Carrie in Sex and the City, Rachel in Friends, or anyone in what Hollywood imagines a minimum wage life to be.

Plus, it’s about baking. I bet they’re going to make it look really easy to make beautifully iced cupcakes and perfect pies. But they so won’t show the endless washing up once your cakes are in the oven, or the fight to get flour out of your hair, or the time the icing sugar packet breaks from both ends.

That said, Kat Dennings is awesome – both in the brilliant Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist and Charlie Bartlett. Great comic timing, realistic looks, hair that you just know goes frizzy when she walks out in the rain. So, definite potential.

Pan Am:

“Passion, jealousy and espionage… They do it all – and they do it at 30,000 feet. The style of the 1960s, the energy and excitement of the Jet Age and a drama full of sexy entanglements deliciously mesh in this thrilling and highly-original new series.”

Wednesday Adams (Christina Ricci) as fesity air hostess. Curious. You can imagine the production meetings where they came up with this.

Writer: “So, I have this idea. It’s a bit like Mad Men…” Money guy: “Sold.”

But I do adore Mad Men…


Gossip Girl: Blair is getting engaged…

…but who to?

 Judging by this trailer for the final five episodes in the series, Chuck, Dan and the long-forgotten prince are all contenders. I for one, cannot wait to find out how this happens, who it is, and most importantly, whether Blair will have a better ring than Kate Winslet had in Titanic.