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?

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…


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: