“Much ‘I Do’ About Nothing”
May 19th, 2008
This one is a bit late, but only because last night was a bit earlier than my previous ones. Considering the traffic that my review of January’s mid-season finale is getting, there’s a lot of people who want to see how Gossip Girl’s first season turns out, particularly in terms of the various romantic couplings the series is too often defined by.
That being said, the bigger issue is that this particular episode is defined by three separate relationships each with their own relative quality. As we wait and see how the Dan and Serena melodrama unfolds, or how the Lily/Rufus love destiny resolves itself, excuse me if I care far more about the delicious pairing of Blair and Chuck that the series has been playing with.
Yes, Chuck is the best part of this finale: smarmy with a purpose, charming with his usual edge, caring even through his usual harsh exterior. That he and Nate settle their rivalry, and that we discover his true feelings for Blair, is the part of the episode we relish in – meanwhile, the other storylines feel less resonant when the show has done them before (Lily and Rufus-style) and lack their explosive spark (Georgina disappears fifteen minutes in). Of course, even that part becomes a bit overplayed by the time the episode concludes.
So as we leave for the summer, which will be filled in by five episodes of material to come in August, everything is topsy turvy, and none of it is overly positive in my eyes.
“Woman on the Verge”
May 12th, 2008
Last week, Serena van der Woodsen revealed something that had the potential to cripple the entire series. “I killed someone” isn’t something that a show can just ignore, or gloss over – or, at least, not quite so quickly that this episode should approach anything close to normalcy. For her to interact with any characters in this situation would drag everything down. Luckily, at this point in the story, only Blair knows the truth, so everyone else can presume that it is only a downward spiral in her usual vein.
It’s a certain tragic note that fits the series well enough, although on occasion Serena’s complicity in continuing the lie of why she fell off the rails, and destroying her relationship with Dan, feels too melodramatic by half. I’m never a fan of characters who, after admitting what happened to one person, ignores the logical course of setting things straight and instead chooses to hide things – it’s a teen soap cliche that just doesn’t work for me.
There’s a lot of chiches at play here, almost too many – whether its Lily’s past with Rufus giving her cold feet, or Dan falling right into Georgina’s arms after the breakup, things are at such a low difficulty level that the execution needs to be excellent for the episode to really click. Even after the truth of the incident comes out, and it is expectedly exonerative of Serena to the point of contrivance, it just feels like the show isn’t willing to pull punches when it counts.
“All About My Brother”
May 5th, 2008
It’s time for someone to be Outed – or, more accurately, for two people to be Outed. Homosexuality is one issue the series has not addressed in any broad strokes, and there is obvious concern when raising this that things will either fall into sensationalism or lack the emotional impact necessary to make this important issue resonate.
The series finds the perfect person to handle it, perhaps the show’s most sympathetic character. As everyone is busy being catty or bitchy, this character has never fallen into those traps, and it explains important things about his past and his future.
The result is an episode where homosexuality isn’t a joke, or a plot contrivance, but a real issue in a person’s life. Just as the show tackled pregnancy in the right way, I think they’re on the right path here as well…for the most part. The real problem is that while the end result might be fine, the way it’s used for the plot seems false by comparison.
“Desperately Seeking Serena”
April 28th, 2008
It’s SAT time on Gossip Girl, as our heroes and heroines are obsessing over their futures. Of course, how can one study for the future when your past is haunting you before you can even get there? Georgina Sparks is a dangerous catalyst of the old Serena, a Monday night synergy moment where it appears that Serena has a case of associative regression: when she’s around, something clicks inside of her.
Michelle Trachtenberg (Buffy) arrives on the scene just as Serena’s life seems too idyllic for this drama-filled universe – we are to believe based on the hype that even being stepsiblings with Chuck Bass is a cakewalk compared to weathering the arrival of this character. Here she is, with her entire academic future on the line, and now she has to try to avoid waking up an angry ghost from her, still, mysterious past.
Smartly, the rest of the episode avoided the uber-drama in favour of romantic entanglements of the adorable and/or intriguing variety, along with Blair’s usual scheming and Dan’s usual neuroses. It’s a sign of a show finding its balance, a show capable of taking its storylines and making them into something that affects the entire cast. Much as the pregnancy storyline before the break didn’t break down into something dominating, so too goes Georgie’s arrival on the scene.
“The Blair Bitch Project”
April 21st, 2008
I was planning on getting to this earlier, but unfortunately CTV made a decision to (oddly) not even air the ‘triumphant return’ of one of their biggest non-reality American imports. I am fairly frustrated by this decision, considering that the show’s return has been much publicized considering the racy advertising campaign.
But that’s about scheduling – what about the show itself? When we last left the show (You can read my thoughts here), it was with a melodramatic pregnancy scare and a shift in power after everyone discovered Blair’s love triangle. Now, three weeks later, there’s hope that everything will just blow over.
It’s Serena who is seriously naive enough to make such a ridiculous decision, and she clearly has never watched television before. It may be three weeks later, but there are a lot of consequences to new lives and new environments. The people are still talking, Jenny has fallen further and further into the inner circle, and the men are certainly taking a back seat.
But can Blair, with Serena’s help, overcome his bitchiness? And can Serena survive living in the same apartment as Chuck? And, more importantly, is the show on the right track in the home stretch of its strike-affected first season?
Spotted – maybe.
“The Thin Line Between Chuck and Nate”
January 8th, 2008
[As you may be realizing, this is the review of Gossip Girl’s mid-season finale that aired in January. The show’s first season finale, “Much ‘I Do’ About Nothing” aired on May 19th, and Cultural Learnings has all the details in its full detailed review!]
While I can think of greater losses thanks to the Writers’ strike, Gossip Girl is somewhat unfortunate considering that it is still struggling to find its creative stride. Gossip Girl mentions that all a story needs to blow up is for an unexpected twist, but I really don’t think that this is the solution to the series’ problems. The O.C. didn’t become exemplary teen programming when it gave people pregnancy scares, but when it made us care about these people more than we were really intended to. And while Gossip Girl has made strides in this direction, there are important steps it seems to be skipping in its desire to raise the “with child” question.
But in the end the skipping of these steps was perhaps in the best interest of certain of the series’ characters – Chuck, Serena and Blair finally regained some of their humanity that has occasionally been absent. Nate is a lost cause, and Dan is pretty well consistent, which leaves these three individuals as the characters that need to be resolved. They are all over the map when faced with this crisis, but it also differentiates between their true colours and their affected personalities. The episode also returns Jenny to our central narrative, and signals a sign that Gossip Girl might be creatively on the right track when it returns post-Strike.
To discuss the thinning of the line, read below for the details.
January 2nd, 2007
In what has become a bit of a recurring trend with the CW series, Gossip Girl tried to do far too much while accomplishing very little in their first episode back from the Christmas hiatus, and the penultimate episode to air before they run out of fresh ones. There were a lot of gears turning in “School Lies,” as the show finally acknowledged that these people attend a school and do real homework. However, the series’ insistence upon juggling that reality with teen sexuality and parental drama results in an unfortunate lack of drive and motivation.
This is not to say that I think the parents’ storyline is a waste of time, or that the teen drama isn’t worthwhile. Rather, the series cannot be all of these things all of the time. This episode could have provided a great opportunity to focus solely on the personal concerns facing these characters, but all that emerged was a couple of haphazard conclusions and the sad if entertaining return of one-dimensional Chuck. And that’s really too bad.
“Blair Waldorf Must Pie!”
November 27th, 2007
You know that Gossip Girl is going to get really serious when its titular blogger takes a vacation (quite literally) and is only present over the episode’s introduction. Kristen Bell gets a break this week, which means that we’re left to sort through the drama without her deft analysis of the action at hand. To be honest, I didn’t really miss it – the show doesn’t really need to rely on that particular conceit, as its has established its characters and its scenarios well enough to this stage.
However, I shouldn’t speak in generalities – while some of the show’s storylines seem fairly on track, “Blair Waldorf Must Pie” most certainly presents a case for those which do work and those which most certainly do not.
November 13th, 2007
It has been too long since I’ve checked in with Gossip Girl, a show that has done a fine job of developing a series of likable characters and storylines with its early season episodes. It really hasn’t done anything noteworthy, but the show has embraced its guilty side to deliver a series of enjoyable pairings that have the intrigue ratcheted and the drama at a high point.
It should be less enjoyable: this week, Blair’s birthday party offers the weekly outlet for the show’s drama, a large gathering at which relationships come into greater focus. The result is wholly predictable, with the characters acting as we’d suspect, but it still popped off the screen. The show’s broad strokes could use some work, but as long as the core storylines work themselves out I’m willing to stick around until the candles are blown out.
“Bad News Blair”
October 10th, 2007
I really don’t have too much to say about this decent fourth outing for Gossip Girl, but I felt it was important to recognize that the series is the first to receive a full season order. The CW has a lot of faith that its little teen drama that could will grow with DVR ratings, iTunes and word of mouth. From my experience, everyone is decidedly not talking about Gossip Girl, but I think the show deserves a shot at growing.
This particular episode was actually fairly gutsy, proving once and for all that despite its title Gossip Girl has balls. It managed to keep Serena and Blair friends at episode’s end despite their fashion model meltdown, something which the previews seemed to make impossible. It also continued Dan Humphrey’s “coming out” into the Upper East Side with his first interaction with Blair, and spent considerable time with Dan and Serena’s parental units interacting over a painting.
This is all well and good, but I think that the characters are appearing a bit too thin at this point. Blair, in particular, needs to do something to prove that she’s not just another bitchy character. When she was criticized by the photographer for being too prim and stiff, I don’t think Leighton Meester was acting: her entire character has been that way. It’s like what Summer Roberts was supposed to be, on the page, before Rachel Bilson breathed life into her. I’m still waiting to see that life here.
And while the Dan/Serena pairing is fine and good, and I liked how Dan’s own relationship with his mother connected his storyline with his father’s, this teasing is going a bit too far: just let them have a date so we can see if they have any chemistry. I also missed Eric and Jenny in this episode: I get why they were cut (To focus characterization on Serena and Dan), but Serena’s development was minimal. I’m still waiting for her to gain dimension outside of her bad girl past.
But, now the show has time: my expectations are high for the series now that it has its full season, because it can start planning for the future. Much like The O.C., I’m expecting them to paint some realistic arcs for these characters outside of the back and forth between Blair and Serena. Here’s hoping that this actually comes to pass.