'Gossip Girl' satiates the craving for comfort TV

by Jilian Gundling | 11/13/07 11:43pm

"Pilot"-- Nan Zhang as Katy, Leighton Meester as Blair, Nicole Fiscella as Isabel in GOSSIP GIRL on The CW. Photo Credit: The CW / KC Bailey
by Courtesy of TV Guide / The Dartmouth

The latest show of extravagantly wealthy teenagers running around and wreaking havoc on each others' egos comes in the form of "Gossip Girl," on the CW Network Wednesdays at 9 p.m.. While the dialogue often leaves much to be desired and some scenes are annoyingly over the top, the show itself has just enough back-stabbing, juicy drama to keep viewers coming back for more.

Am I slightly embarrassed to watch this show? Yes I am. Do I still watch this show? Yes I do.

Owing to the influence of executive producer Josh Schwartz, "Gossip Girl" is another version of "The O.C.," stripped of the beaches and California sunshine and thrust into the gold-padded walls of Upper East Side Manhattan.

While "The O.C." had the theme song of Phantom Planet's "California," "Gossip Girl," with its even greater emphasis on material wealth, chose Fergie's "Glamorous" as a representation of the characters' scandalous self-obsession. The wardrobes make a swap too, going from California casual to prepped-out New York gangster, a la the Internet movie "TeaPartay."

The wounded Marissa Cooper (Mischa Barton) character is taken on by actress Blake Lively in her role as Serena Vanderwoodsen. Serena returns to the drama of her upper-crust New York life after a mysterious year-long absence. We soon find out that the reason Serena skipped town was because she slept with her best friend's boyfriend Nate Archibald (Chase Crawford). Now Serena is back in town and trying to repair the damage.

Of course, secrets are not easily kept in this town, and Serena's best friend Blair Waldorf (Leighton Meester), finds out the truth about Serena's earlier betrayal. When the theme of revenge gets tired by episode three, the two friends make up and life goes back to normal, a normal in their town that includes affairs, drugs, shop-lifting, exorbitant parties and gambling: the classic combination for a show focused on characters who are dripping with money.

Unfortunately for these ego-maniacal high schoolers, money can't buy 'em love. Blair is in love with Nate. Nate loves Serena, but his father pressures him to stay with Blair in order to secure a business deal that the father has with Blair's mother. Meanwhile, Serena is falling for Dan Humphrey (Penn Badgley).

Dan grounds the show. Although he goes to the same upper crust private school, he is not rich (although the apartment his family lives in would, in reality, cost a fortune in New York City), and is fully aware of the idiocies and insanities of the people around him. He is very much the Seth Cohen (Adam Brody) character of this series., just less quirky.

Now throw into the mix a whole slew of entertaining characters. There is Jenny Humphrey (Taylor Momsen), Dan's younger sister, who tries desperately to fit into high society. There is Chuck Bass (Ed Westwick), the womanizing, snarling character who is Nate's best friend. Meanwhile, the Humphrey father has a past with Serena's mom, Serena's mom is currently going out with Chuck's dad, and Nate's parents are a thing of their own. Nate's father is a coke addict (and he is supposed to be a Dartmouth alum -- yikes!), and Nate's ever-smiling mother ignores the deterioration of their family.

There is one part of this show that I can't even sarcastically condone because it is so annoying -- the part of the narrator, "Gossip Girl." Gossip Girl is an unknown character who keeps track of the whereabouts of all of her peers and publishes them on a blog that the characters read. Not only does this have a creepy big-brother feeling, it also is completely unrealistic, unnecessary and simply stupid.

In contrast to the narrator, the most convincing part of the show is the interaction between Serena and Dan Humphrey. They have a certain on-screen chemistry that makes their unfolding relationship interesting. The rest of the appeal of the show lies in watching a volcano that is about to explode -- albeit a volcano that is geared towards teeny-bopping viewers. While I realize that at Dartmouth we are no longer under the category of teeny-bopping, I will continue to watch this show as a guilty pleasure. The characters are absorbing enough to make the show intriguing, and the great thing about shows like this one is that they never actually show the characters in class or near any sort of schoolwork. Think of it as a semi-mindless comfort food when essays and tests have got you down.