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.

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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…


Lost: celebrating the TV show that made us lose our minds

Take one plane crash, add a pinch of romance, a dash of smoke and a hint of otherness, and what do you get?

Why, the recipe for one of the most beguiling, bewildering, captivating and downright torturous television shows in history.

Come Monday at 5am, it will all be over for the survivors of Oceanic flight 815 and their island friends. Yes, after six long years, more than 100 episodes and a rotating array of characters, Lost is reaching the end of its journey.
 
How will it end? Jack, the heroic but troubled doctor-saviour rescuing the losties and returning them to dry land?

 Locke / Smoke wreaking vengeance on his brother Jacob with one last puff? Desmond saving the day?

Which of the myriad of hey-I-thought-they-were-dead characters will pop up in the final moments – Charlie or Boone, Shannon or Rousseau? Will Claire ever be reunited with baby Aaron?

Did Nikki and Paulo ever make it out of their graves to find all those diamonds?

Most people, it has to be said, even those who watched enthusiastically back when an errant polar bear was the strangest aspect of the show, don’t care.

They’ve long ago given up trying to follow what those numbers mean, what Penny’s father really wants or how come Richard never gets older. In the end, for many, the costs of Lost (infuriating tautological plots, repetitive love triangles) have outweighed the gains of being a fan.

It’s easy to understand why. There’s nothing intrinsically enjoyable – diehard fans don’t protest, you know it’s true – about watching Lost.

 The plot is achingly complex and it’s going to take a miracle for the writers to wrap up all the questions in the double-bill finale.

It’s the only programme I’ve ever had to revise for – rewatching a season finale not for enjoyments sake but because I can’t remember what the hell happened last episode.

Not only that, but the writers were cruel friends, toying with ideas and characters only to snatch them away when we got attached. You’d just about come to terms with something – time travel, imprisonment in biscuit-distributing cages, and then it would be over, forgotten, in a flash.

Also, a lot of the cast were just plain annoying. Juliet? Who shed a tear when the bomb detonated blowing her to smithereens? Jack and Kate and Sawyer? Less of a  wonderful love triangle, more ‘get thee to a therapist’ now. Pretty much the only redeeming character to have lasted all the way through was Hurley, and we all know he’s mad.

And then we got to the final series, where suddenly everything we knew all along was wrong. No more flashbacks, just flash sideways to another entirely disparate world. Bringing in new characters at the eleventh hour, at the expense of explaining what happened to the original castaways.

In short, Lost has been infuriating, a hassle, a waste of time. A plague on both the producers.

And yet. It’s also been the best thing on TV in years.

The magic of Lost is that all the above complaints are true, and yet you are still compelled to tune in.

It’s hell, and yet it’s so much more fun to watch than all the relaxing, cookie-cutter, neatly wrapped up drivel that appears elsewhere on screen. It’s made you miserable, but you’ll miss it when it’s gone.

No other show offers that same level of nail-biting suspense and agonising intrigue. The thrill of detecting a spoiler or signal is a gift for the competitive TV viewer –  you probably couldn’t ever predict what would happen, but damn, it was fun to try.

Lost was a constant source of ‘what the…’ moments, and in terms of bone-chilling drama, it more than delivered. Think the scene when Jack stood at the Lighthouse, seeing a vision of his other life, that perfect point when we discovered what was in the Hatch, or the tragic sequence when Charlie martyred himself for the greater good.

It’s been comedy gold too; in particular the quick-fire volleys between Sawyer and, well anyone, or the amazing scene early on when Hurley discovered a secret stash of food. With Sun and Jin, or Penny and Desmond there have been romances to tug at the iciest of heartstrings.

The back stories, particularly early on, were always fascinating, while the flash sideways have been a treasure trove of connect-the-dots.

So there it is. It drove us mad, made us sci-fi bores whenever we preached it to the non-converted, and probably won’t even come near a satisfying conclusion on Monday.

But it’s safe to say, however it ends, there probably won’t be anything quite like it on TV again.

How I met your mid life crisis

 Among the various shows anointed as successor to Friends, only one has come close.

 That show is How I Met Your Mother, the sitcom which takes an irreverent look at – you guessed it – a group of attractive chums living in plush Manhattan apartments, complete with plenty of dating, drinking and dumb jokes.

 For five series now, viewers have been following the life and loves of the fivesome, hopeless romantic (and hubbie of the ‘mother’ in question) Ted, comedy cute pairing Marshall and Lily, cynical Canadian Robin and strangely endearing womanizer Barney.

 We’ve followed them through bad relationships and good, marriages and mysteries, trips to bars (well, just the one) and trips to Minnesota. We’ve watched Marshall stab his fiancée during a sword fight, Robin reveal her embarrassing teenaged pop career, Barney try every bad chat-up line on the planet (and get away with them), and seen several aspects of a fantastic concept called the Slap Bet.

What we haven’t seen is the Mother. Which was OK for the first few series, but has now gone well past the point of gripping and reached the territory of ‘I want to throw something at the TV every time you give us a spoiler involving an umbrella’.

 This season has been worse than ever, with constant references to her (including a very sneaky episode when we met her roommate in the form of a Rachel Bilson cameo), but there’s been no juice.

We know it’s not Stella, Robin, Britney Spears or any other of Ted’s increasing list of loves, but that’s all we know.

 And the thing is, it’s getting old. How I Met Your Mother still delivers (this week’s episode on ‘hooks’, or people who you keep around ‘just in case’ was pure genius) but not always. The jokes are getting rehashed, the teasers frustrating.

 In short, it’s having a mid life crisis.

That’s OK though. So did Lost, in Season 3, when the writers put Sawyer and Kate into cages for what of a better plotline. But then they set an end date for the series, and suddenly we were back on for gripping action and suspense being built up into Something.

 So, Carter Bays and Craig Thomas. You’ve done well, creating a comedy that actually brings laughs and scripting a group of actors who can act. It’s been fun.

 But for crying out loud, work out where you’re going with it.

 Because if we get to season 8, and suddenly Ted reveals ‘so, kids, in the summer of 2012 I gave up the hunt and adopted you’, there are going to be a lot of broken television sets out there.

Watch a very funny scene from the latest episode below:

Lost without the web?

Is Lostpedia the greatest invention known to man?

If you’re a Lost fan, one who has undergone five series of agony for what one hopes will be the ultimate payoff, you might well agree.

If you’ve never seen the show, which started back last Friday, or stopped watching so early that you think Jack’s biggest problems are polar bears and Sawyer, then you might think: what?

Lostpedia, for the record, is essentially Wikipedia for JJ Abrams disciples. It’s a forum detailing everything – or at least, almost everything – known about the episodes, the characters and the themes.

Like Wikipedia, it’s user generated which means any crackpot with a theory about why the island moves or who exactly the smoke monster is can post an explanation.

Essentially, it’s the height of geek-dom. Not only are Lost fans fervent followers of a wierd sci-fi show, they actually spend other time reading and talking about it. One way ticket to loserville, right?

Except, if you’ve actually seen the show of late, you’ll know that Lostpedia, and all the other recaps and theories espoused on websites around the world, are pretty crucial.

Lost is perhaps the most complicated and implausible TV show around, and certainly the only one I’ve ever felt the need to ‘revise’ before the start of the new series.

It’s torturous, often not very enjoyable and highly addictive, and it needs the companion guide.

Remember when you studied Shakespeare at GCSE. You read the play, but you’d probably also watch the film version, perhaps see it on stage and invariably refer to the York notes study guide. Lost is exactly the same – you can’t just watch it – which is why it couldn’t have survived without the internet.

Fifteen years ago, Lost may not have made it to series six with so many viewers, not to mention such a high profile, because everyone would just have given up. Oceanic 815 would still have crashed, but you’d never have invested in finding out what happened.

Lost: a series for the online era?


Sure, back in the pre-web days we could discuss a dramatic episode or deconstruct a particularly complicated film. But the opportunity to analyse, and analyse some more, and then some more; that’s a function of the endless beast that is the internet.

For a show so complicated – time travel, good versus evil, a wierd hippie commune, not to mention the Jack, Kate and Sawyer love triangle – if you didn’t have something to help you digest it all, you’d have to give up.

Without the internet, Lost fans would need a help-line with desperate fans phoning up in a panic: “why is Charlie back from the dead, who was Cindy again, when did Adam tell Hurley about the guitar case.”

There are 5,980 articles on Lostpedia – it actually went up by one while I clicked on the site – and the content will just keep on growing. The show, to most fans relief, is ending this season, but it’s unlikely to answer all the questions. According to co-creator Carlton Cuse:

“Obviously, not every question’s going to be answered […] some people are going to be upset that those particular questions don’t get resolved. But we felt that if we tried to just answer questions, it would be very pedantic.”

This will lead to deranged, suicidal thoughts by losties everywhere, but also to plethora of online activity. Mark my words, when the final episode wraps, the internet will be swarming with theories, observations and emoting, not to mention they inevitable fan fiction.

So there you have it; Lost, the official TV success story of the web age.

Ironic really, for a show set on a desert island with little technology to speak of.