“Reversals of Fortune”
September 14th, 2009
There is no question, whatsoever, that Gossip Girl is a flawed show which only on occasion finds its true potential. That potential is most often bottled when we get the opportunity to see Chuck Bass and Blair Waldorf together, trading barbs and turning what is often a depressing melodrama that fails to capture the potential of this concept. By so isolating the show’s universe in a small collection of characters (many of whom I, you know, don’t like), the show has become less about teenagers and their wily ways and more about these individual characters repeating the same cycles over and over again. For Chuck and Blair, this has weakened their appeal: for Dan and Serena, it’s eliminated it altogether.
So why do I keep watching? I think part of me wants to be able to say that I’ve still got a less than critically fascinating series on my schedule, but at least some part of me wants to see how the show handles itself as the teen soap of its generation. There is something about Gossip Girl’s bizarre dichotomy between cultural awareness and actual ratings/quality which says something about this generation of television viewers, and Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage are not slouches behind the scenes.
“Reversals of Fortune” does what every Gossip Girl premiere does, playing off of the uncertainty of what happened in the past summer and the kind of mistakes and ill fortunes that the characters find themselves in as a new year begins. It’s the same formula the show has used numerous times before, but it also still works, in particular this time around as the show resists turning Dan and Serena to the forefront and lets Blair and Chuck’s relationship keep its spark by playing with expectations.
It’s not high drama, but it’s the right kind of premiere for the series.
September 22nd, 2008
My, what a difference an episode or three can make: at the beginning of the month, I spent an entire blog post drawing comparisons between Gossip Girl and The O.C. as they each handled their seasons easons, but here I am saying that Josh Schwartz finally has two leading ladies capable of dramatic range and, thus, has a far more compelling turn of events to offer viewers.
What “The Ex-Files” does is successfully turn the entire show on its ear: without losing a step, we see the re-emergence of Queen Serena, the return to a damaged Blair Waldorf, and the ever-present evil that is Chuck Bass pulling every string imaginable. Combine with a healthy dose of harsh reality for the Humphrey siblings, and inoffensive plot machinations for Nate and Vanessa, and you have an episode that feels like what Gossip Girl is supposed to be: a decidedly fanged investigation of complex social behaviours within a high school setting.
Or, if you prefer, one big season-long bitch fight.
“Summer, Kind of Wonderful”
September 1st, 2008
When a show skips over a period of time between a finale and the following season’s premiere, there is an extremely recognizable phenomenon that rears its ugly head: exposition. Whether it’s through steamy bedroom scenes, long monologues or phone conversations, or just about any other contrivance you can think of, the show will spend more time telling us about the past than actually showing us much of anything about where the show is heading.
As a result, the season premiere of Gossip Girl kind of leaves me not just pondering the future, as Kristen Bell suggested I do as the (literal) fireworks went off at episode’s end, but also questioning whether the show that struggled with consistency last season has gained any new perspective to even things out. From the looks of the premiere, they have made some choices that seem to reflect a knowledge of some of its characters, but when others seem so far off the mark it’s hard to necessarily say that the show has a chance of breaking out into something more accomplished in the year ahead.
If we have some faith, however, let it lie in the fact that all of that exposition and the prequel-like nature of this episode seem to indicate that the real action of the season has yet to begin.