A friend of mine suggested I use Handbrake to rip some DVDs onto my iPod for my sort-of long train trips into the city. I did so a few weeks ago and have been watching season 1 of Gossip Girl, which I’ve been hoping will fill the void in my heart left open by Veronica Mars. I’ve not been disappointed.
Under the watchful eyes of the ubiquitous Gossip Girl, voiced by Mars alum Kristen Bell, Manhattan’s Upper East Side elite teenagers run amok, fuel scandal, and generally inspire tawdry mayhem wherever they go. It would have been easy for this show to resort to simple soap opera, and it sometimes does: two best friends fight over the same girl, for example. A tale as old as time.
As the season’s progressed (I’m about halfway through), I’ve become more and more impressed with the show’s mastery of subtle social nuance, how, like Veronica Mars, the writers have absolutely no fear of inverting the entire social order of the show. In fact, this seems to be its promise, that from week to week, the power plays and gossip mongering and falls from grace can and will affect anyone, often painfully so. More than that, though, Gossip Girl sets up a series of characters who resist caricature. The star jock has low test scores but a big, stupidly vulnerable heart—and a quick temper. The scheming bitch with the eating disorder stomps all the women around her but can’t stand up to her vapid, damaged mother.
I think the roles are well-acted to boot. Blake Lively and Leighton Meester are the standouts, but everyone pulls their weight. I especially like the reluctant social climber Jenny, who isn’t ashamed of her less financially savvy roots as she is worried about how to stay afloat amid the school of sharks. And there’s a lot to love about Gossip Girl herself, with her succinct, devilishly sly bon mots punctuating each act of the episodes.
I suppose it’s no surprise that I once asked my parents to send me to boarding school (no), although when they did almost send me to a private religious school, I resisted. Of course, my request came about six years after theirs. Thank God we didn’t do either to each other.
Everyone loves a good comeback story almost as much as a good shaming. Gossip Girl‘s full of both in plentiful helpings.