Tag Archives: Josh Schwartz

Gossip Girl – “Oh Brother, Where Bart Thou?”

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“Oh Brother, Where Bart Thou?”

December 8th, 2008

I watched some solid television on Monday: I caught up with Dexter (a solid penultimate episode, but I’ll have some thoughts on the season as a whole after the finale), enjoyed the night’s episode of Chuck (an entertaining if highly improbable outing), and caught up with a bit more of FX’s Sons of Anarchy (I’d suggest checking it out). But, admittedly, I haven’t been limiting my television to more serialized outings: I also took some time to get through the last two discs of The O.C.: Season Two. And, ultimately, this means that despite all of that high caliber television I’ve watched over the past few days, it’s Gossip Girl that sent me to my laptop at 5am.

For those who don’t remember the final episodes from the second season of Josh Schwartz’s other show about elite, rich white people, they featured the tragic (if somewhat bittersweet) death of the show’s patriarch. What followed was an emotional rollercoaster of sorts, the various individuals most affected by his death spiraling into something approximating either utter despair (Kirsten’s alcoholism) or an odd sense of freedom (Julie reconnecting with a returned Jimmy). And while I found both of these developments to be either overplayed and out of character (See: alcoholism), or idealistically portrayed to contrast the season ending gunfire (See: Julie/Jimmy), I nonetheless felt that the death of Caleb Nickel was a death that resonated.

And while some could argue that it is unfair of me to draw this comparison, I would argue quite the opposite: this episode of Gossip Girl followed this pattern to such a degree that anyone with a strong recollection of that series of events can’t help but make the same observations. The problem with the death of Bart Bass, confirmed seconds into the episode if not by last week’s cliffhanger, is twofold: that there are only two people on this show who we really care enough about to sit through their reactions, and Bart Bass was so insignificant and poorly developed that we don’t care about his death enough to make this all matter.

So while Stephanie Savage did what she could to make this seem like a pivotal moment in the show’s trajectory, it was like shining a bright light on the show’s inability to demonstrate anything beyond poor attempts to shock the audience.

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Season Premiere: Chuck – “Chuck Versus the First Date”

“Chuck Versus The First Date”

September 29th, 2008

When the TV critics started receiving their screeners for the first three episodes of Chuck’s first season, there was a lot of very positive things being said about the show really flourishing in its sophomore episodes. When the first six episodes were watched by NBC, they saw enough growth to give the show its Back Nine before it even aired an episode. And when the first episode streamed on Hulu.com, iTunes and Amazon a week ago, reviews were simple: this is a show that knows where it’s going.

For those of us who followed it last year, this news is that much more welcome. This was a show that everyone kind of appreciated, whether it was Adam Baldwin’s angry John Casey, the charm of Zachary Levi’s Chuck Bartowski, or the beauty of Yvonne Strakhowski’s Sarah. The problem was that it felt like we were appreciating parts and not the whole: while there were building blocks that really clicked on an individual level, trying to find a balance between the spy antics, the interpersonal team dynamics between Chuck/Sarah/Casey, Chuck’s relationship with his family, and the antics of the Buy More employees was something that couldn’t be done in only twelve episodes of a strike-shortened season.

But Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak went back to the drawing board over the lengthy break, and they’ve come back with a bang: even with an “imposing” guest star, the need for heavy exposition to welcome back (or welcome in) viewers, and a lot of emotional baggage from last season, Chuck is at its finest for its premiere – if it can continue on this trend, this is (as many have called it) the show to watch in the coming season.

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Goodbye, Jenny? – Considering the Gossip Girl Spinoff

I was reading an interview with Josh Schwartz that Alan Sepinwall did around the time of The O.C.’s series finale, and I stumbled across this answer to a question regarding a potential spinoff for the series:

[Alan: ]Whatever happened to the Kaitlin spin-off where she was in boarding school?

I was about 17 episodes into the first season, and I was asked to go up into Rupert Murdoch’s boardroom. Rupert wasn’t there but all the head honchos at Fox were there, and I was asked, with a fair amount of pressure, to do another show. I was shown a schedule where, if I did this, “The O.C.” would remain on Wednesdays at 9 and the new show would be on Tuesdays at 9 after “Idol.” Who wouldn’t want to do that? It wasn’t wise of me to do that, I had plenty to learn about the TV business, but I said, “Okay, I don’t want it to be a spin-off.” I was worried about cannibalizing the show too soon, and spin-offs usually fail. Everyone signed off on that fact, I went off and worked on a pilot called “Athens.” It was a big honor, it was going to keep “The O.C” behind “American Idol.” Then I turned in the script and everyone said, “So how do we turn it into a spin-off?” It became a protracted battle not to make it a spin-off. Then I arrived at the upfronts to announce the new show and they said “The O.C.” was moving to Thursdays, that was a perfect storm of its own. When it felt that was the only version of the pilot that was going to move forward was one I didn’t believe in, I said, maybe as a compromise, we’d have discussions about a Kaitlin boarding school drama, and then Gail Berman went to Paramount, and those discussions ended.

How fitting, then, that I looked at this so recently, as now we’ve got the exact same situation with almost eerie comparisons to this earlier one. As it completes its first season, Gossip Girl is now being spun-off by its producers (Schwartz included, one presumes) as another hit series of books by the author of Gossip Girl is being optioned. And, interestingly, “The It Girl” series surrounds the character of Jenny Humphrey falling off the wagon at Constance Billard and being sent off to board school just as Kaitlin had once been destined under the scenario Schwartz described.

From The Hollywood Reporter:

Humphrey is a self-esteem challenged outsider who struggles to fit in. In the books, a series of public embarrassments (such as appearing in a teen magazine wearing next to nothing) results in Humphrey having to either repeat ninth grade or find a new school. She elects to enter a boarding school and reinvents herself as a popular girl. Her story is told in a series of six “Gossip” spinoff novels called “The It Girl.”

I don’t think it is so simple, however, to spin-off this character- Kaitlin was a nothing in The O.C.’s first season, and Jenny was anything but in Gossip Girl’s first frame. There are things about her character that are integral to Gossip Girl and might not be as expendable, and with no confirmed reports of them using Jenny’s character in the spinoff I’d have to think that they’ll figure this out as well.

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