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?

Advertisements

Gossip Girl recap: The Fasting and the Furious

So, the thing about writing an entire episode centred on a specific day in the Jewish calendar is, get the basic facts right.

Surely Josh Schwartz – the inventor of Chrismukkah – should know that Yom Kippur is a 25 hour fast, not a 24 hour one. Hello writers, ever heard of Wikipedia.

That said, Yom Kippur is all about forgiveness, and while they bastardised key aspects of Jewish life, it was a pretty decent episode.

In the circus that has become Dan “I’m an awesome celebrity writer” Humphrey’s life lately, it seems his book is the one every producer in Hollywood wants. Serena’s formidable boss – who, clearly, is a bit crap if she’s staking her career prospects on a now-notoriously slutty college dropout – is particularly desperate.

So despite still being mad that Dan wrote “Sabrina” exactly as her real life alter-ego is – dumb, ditzy, not overly concerned with clothes and rather self-centred – Serena goes on a breakfast bid to convince Dan to give her the rights to the book. It sort of works, until Dan realises just how much of a big shot he is, but in the end, after a dastardly media leak, Serena wins the day.

So, basically, she’s put her career on the line so that her trainwreck teenage years can come to a big screen near you, showing she’s every bit as bright as Dan wrote her to be.

Perhaps the high point of the episode was when her boss noted: “If something doesn’t fall right into your lap, you don’t have a clue what to do about it.” Never a truer word spoken about Serena. Although I’d add “someone” as well.

For Chuck, Yom Kippur turns out to be the day he finds Judaism, via an Asian-Jewish convert therapist who he meets walking his best friend dog. Discovering her religious identity – “probably a smart move in your line of work” he says, propagating the arguably–true stereotype that New York Jews are more neurotic than their non-Jewish citymates – he decides to pay a trip to Shul.

Well, sort of. Actually, he donates $100 dollars to Chabad then, when sexy-secretary therapists psycholanalyses him for the sad-case he is, has a moment of awakening about his life.

Chuck Bass at Chabad. Wow. Mostly they just ply people with sushi and alcohol (and, obvs, Jewish learning); this would be a sure-fire way to up their attendance.

In Nate and Ivy’s world of high-class muckraking, Liz Hurley is on the prowl. After some typically bizarre scenes involving him considering what JFK would do, Nate stays true to his moral compass, though Ivy hands over the secret incriminating files from the VdW safe.

What’s this we see? Liz Hurley in some kind of pre-season five Gossip Girl related scandal?

Perhaps it will be that she’s actually a fembot. It would explain her appalling acting.

Over at the Waldorf’s, Cyrus is back holding Yom Kippur (with kugel and, of course, champagne – the perfect remedy for more than a day of dehydration) and Blair’s baby secret is out.

After a big to-do with the royal witches, prince McDull chooses Blair over mummy. But with his discovery of Blair’s Secret Baby Daddy Envelope, it looks as if he’ll soon be regretting that decision.

Bring on the episode where the Prince is run out of town for daring to mess with the natural order of Gossip Girl.

First Look: Sarah Michelle Gellar in Ringer

What’s the deal? Remember that episode of Buffy where she and the gang came face to face with their bizarre other-dimensiony dopplegangers? Well, it’s happened again.

Ok, sort of. In her new series Ringer, Sarah Michelle Gellar plays Bridget, a cutely sarcastic ex-hooker with a heart, an addiction problem and straggly hair.

Sort of like Buffy, if she’d ended up on the bottle and become a bit of a wimp.

Bridget’s on the run from the law, so who better to see than the identical twin sister estranged from her for sister years?

As it turns out, Siobhan is an ice-queen society wife and doesn’t exactly approve of her wayward sister. So when she mysteriously goes awol, isn’t it just the most obvious thing for Bridget to steal her identity and take on her sister’s not-as-perfect-as-it-seemed life?

It’s unclear how the twin-swap will play out, though the pilot intriduces several threads – namely where is Siobhan, will the law catch up with Bridget and why did they fall out in the first place.

Will it work? The script isn’t horrible and the way it’s filmed – with lots and lots of mirrors to reiterate the “double lives” drama – is effective, though could become annoying.

The real problem though is that I still felt I was watching Buffy.

SMG hasn’t done much since that series wrapped, and she still looks basically the same and does all the wide eyed stares and snappy sarky backchat Buffy was known for.

In the pilot, each twin was essentially distinguished by hair (poor twin, down and unkempt, rich twin, up in a chignon so complicated several hairdressers would be required).

For Ringer to work, it’s going to need some thrilling storylines beyond the initial teasers, but also some serious character work. Bridget should be scarred by her experiences, Siobhan needs to be more than a bored Manhattan trophy wife with a distant husband.

What it shouldn’t feel like is an episode of Buffy where she’s been put under a spell and has fallen into someone else’s life.

Will I stick with it? Yes, to begin with. It’s an engaging concept, and there’s seems to be good stuff to come. But if three weeks in I still feel like I’m watching an unreleased episode of Buffy, I’m not so sure.

More about new TV shows to watch this Autumn here

When Carrie Bradshaw met Blair Waldorf…

As Gossip Girl heads towards its fifth season, even the most dedicated of fans must be coming to the realisation that this show cannot go on for ever.

Let’s face it, there are only so many times you can pair the same couples before each episodes feels like a horrible deja vu trip.

There has to be a limit to the number of times Serena can get pregnant / be drugged / fall for a bad boy / show her cleavage in an inappropriate situation.

We’ve already done murder, suicide attempts, kidnapping, fake cousinry, gay teen and fairytale endings.

Short of a nuclear apocalypse with Nate coming over all Jack Bauer-esque, or a plane crash which sends Blair into the hands of the Others and follows her struggle for supremacy, the show must not go on.

But it appears that even when the inevitable occurs, we will still be able to follow the exploits of a group of genetically blessed and deliciously caustic New York yoofs. Step in to scene, Sex and the City (the new class). According to Deadline:

“The CW has emerged as the leading candidate for The Carrie Diaries, a TV series project based on Sex and the City author Candice Bushnell’s recent book about Bradshaw’s high school years.

“There are no deals in place, and talks are in preliminary stages, but I hear that Warner Bros TV would produce and Gossip Girl executive producers Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage are being courted to shepherd the project through their Warner Bros TV-based Fake Empire banner. Former Sex and the City writer/producer Amy Harris, who is writing for Gossip Girl this season, will likely pen the adaptation.”

So, another scandalous show to attract the wrath of parental watchdogs. The fact is, most adult Sex and the City fans probably don’t want their favourite women tampered with.

I read The Carrie Diaries and it was bad. Really bad. Absurdly bad. And unless this show is set a couple of decades ago (i.e. without Blackberries, social networking and with pre-Hillary Clinton views on feminism) – a concept which would probably alienate plenty of viewers, I can’t see how this would work.

And yet. Gossip Girl is aimed at teenagers (I know, I buck the trend, what you gonna do?) so the demographic this adolescent SATC will be designed for probably won’t remember Carrie et al.

Sex and the City is the preserve of those of us born in the 1980s and before – the kids of the late 90s and the noughties probably haven’t been allowed to watch the reruns yet (at least, I seriously hope so).

Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda to rise again? If Josh Schwartz is on board, don’t bet against it.

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 recap: Easy J

Last time we saw little Jenny Humphrey, she had wrecked Blair and Chuck’s relationship and was being shunted out of New York city faster than you can say “bad hair extensions”. The good news is, unless they kill you off on teen TV (maybe even then) there’s always the chance to come back.

In an episode perfectly timed for Halloween, Little J and her ludicrous witchy eyes are back in town and haunting Blair’s dreams. Blair, because hello, she totally rules Manhattan, banishes the blonde menace, but gives her a stay of execution until midnight. Plenty of time for Jenny to wreak havoc, which she does splendidly. Well, actually, Chuck does, as part of his convoluted Blair takedown project, by making her dress collection a cheerleading sign for moral turpitude.

Ultimately it backfires – Jenny dashes back to Hudson, because apparently she only has a soul when she’s by the river. Blair and Chuck have a touching “all we have left” tete-a-tete, set wonderfully to the domestic-violence infused tones of Rihanna and Eminem. Adorable.

 Meanwhile, Blair discovers that Serena has “showed” (taxi guy). “We just talked”, protests Serena.

 Yes sweetheart, we all know what a legendary reputation you have around the city for “talking”.

 But in very Serena twist of fate, it  turns out she’s managed to “talk” to her professor before term begins. Taxi man is actually teacher. But, of the nonsensical course “the psychology of business”, which means he’s allowed to “talk” to his students as part of a clever educational device.

 So, naturally, Serena agrees to accompany him to a partaaay, with her educational devices on most-prominent display. Lily realises her darling daughter isn’t quite as focused on college as she had (rather naively) dreamed and reverse-psychologies Serena right into dumping the dude (until term ends, anyway).

 Thing is, haven’t we been here before? I know all teen dramas are effectively one recycled entity with ever-changing hair, but come on. Remember Teacher Rachel and Dan. Or Serena van der Lewinsky last season?

Er, been there, “talked” about it.

But actually, improper teacher-student shenanigans may be the least of her problems, since it emerges that taxi-man is in cahoots with Nate’s stalker blonde. Their romance appears to be on the rocks, as a dismayed Nate wails to Dan about why Juliette isn’t cool with skipping class.

 Obviously, in Nate’s money-can-buy-success, brains are just ear-space-fillers and books for putting drinks on world, the fact that a student might actually want to GRADUATE doesn’t cross his mind.

 Now, Archibald, some people can’t rely on their dimples. Some people have to stu…Oh, look, why do I bother? He’s never going to understand.

 Turns out though, she really doesn’t want to go to class. Remember Nate’s white collar criminal dad? Well, in a “s*** we need a strange coincydinc to bring those two together” plot twist, Nate has suddenly remembered his existence, and runs into Juliette outside jail. Her puppetmaster Ben is inside, and sends a charming message to remind Juliette not to get too close to Nate via a black eye for Archibald senior.

 Essentially, light on the reality, but heavy on the intrigue. Though if we don’t find out what’s up with Juliette et al soon, we might have to set “Ben” on Josh Schwartz for some answers.