Do you ever have the show you just refuse to give up on, no matter how bad it gets? For me, that show is Gossip Girl.
We’ve been through six seasons, more than 100 episodes together. I am deeply emotionally invested in its characters, in its plot lines — no matter how mediocre the writing is at this point.
Let me summarize Gossip Girl for you very briefly: A bunch of incredibly spoiled teenagers (who are now in their early 20s) attend an elite Manhattan boarding school. Their parents are all famous/rich, too, so like every socialite, their lives are tracked on Page Six and in this freaky blog called Gossip Girl. People start using Gossip Girl to manipulate others, by spilling one another’s secrets and ousting scandals. It makes no sense whatsoever, and almost has a bit of a sci-fi element to it — because who really allows a website to dictate their lives? shouldn’t they sue for slander? — but it is deeply fascinating. To me, at least.
I read most of the Gossip Girl YA series in high school, when the books were slowly coming out. The whole time I read them I would think, “These books are so awful. But I can’t put them down. But they are so terrible. BUT I CANNOT STOP BUYING AND READING THEM. You know what? They would be better as a TV show.”
And then you know what those foolish people in Hollywood did? They made it into a TV show.
I remember being captivated by the idea of these ridiculously wealthy teenagers, whose trust funds gave them no bounds. They lived in the ritzy area of Manhattan’s Upper East Side, and they wore high-fashion designer clothing. The problem was that in my small town world, Hollister and Abercrombie were pretty high-end. I didn’t know that Louboutins are identifiable by their trademark red soles, or that Pucci and Gucci were two different things. I definitely couldn’t picture the many fancy-schmancy New York places where the books’ drama unfolded.
But I did read in the author’s blurb that Cecily von Ziegesar went to a private prep school in Manhattan, and with a posh name like that, I was prone to believe everything she penned was at least remotely connected to reality.
I now live on the Upper East Side, and all the myths they develop in the books/show about this magical, slightly terrifying place of extreme wealth and social order is only the teensiest bit true. Then again, I’m not a Park Avenue princess. I wouldn’t really know.
Anyway, I put off watching the show until my senior year of college, when I got Netflix. Then I became hopelessly addicted. Why, when I’d already read the books, you ask? Because Episode 1 is a synopsis of the first book, and then the screenwriters took the characters and rode with the wind!
New couplings were formed, new characters, new subplots. Everyone was pretty much terrible to one another all the time, AND IT WAS RIVETING.
Also, the fashion in this show was to die-for for at least the first four seasons. So. Much. Eye. Candy. (See the NY Times article on this very topic.)
And it featured my favorite NYC TV-apartment, the Humphreys’ Williamsburg, Brooklyn loft:
Fun fact: the exterior shot they use of this loft is actually in the DUMBO neighborhood of Brooklyn, right where you can see the Manhattan Bridge. I walked on the very street outside it on my way to a job interview this summer, and almost died of excitement as soon as I recognized it. Yeah, I’m cool.
On a deeper level, I felt like in some of the earlier seasons, there was sort of this Great Gatsby-ish theme going on, about how money can’t buy you love and happiness. And I also observed some interesting commentary on modern social media (and traditional mass media). Kind of like how in 1984, Big Brother is watching everyone, only in this case: EVERYONE is Big Brother. If you can now share your every action and thought with the world, what’s to stop others from taking recording your actions and thoughts without your permission, and sharing them with the world? What are the consequences of that?
Let me tell you: one sickeningly addicting television show.
I can’t really explain why I stuck with the show for so long (other than the gorgeous cast members), but I guess I just really held up my hope for the characters. Every now and then, one of them would clean up their act, turn good, and my heart would grow three sizes. Then, inevitably, there’d be some misunderstanding/scandal/vengeful plot, and it would all go downhill for them. Again.
The last season I watched started to get EXTRA soap opera-y, with hazy flashback scenes, the cheesiest dialogue, and the most improbable relationships. But I refused to admit it had quite yet reached soap opera territory.
You see, my mother has watched Days of Our Lives for longer than I have been living on this earth. I have watched bits of it here and there, and I have scene toddlers grow to rebellious teens in the course of a single season, and perhaps the most ultimately soap opera thing: A CHARACTER CAME BACK FROM THE DEAD.
No characters had come back from the dead on Gossip Girl, so I figured the show hadn’t completely run into the wall, crashed and burned yet. I mean, the priest was having an affair with the prince’s sister. There was the fact that there was a prince on the show, and one of the characters was engaged to him. Yes, there was that whole weird the long-lost-cousin-is-really-a-con-artist-trying-to-get-Grandma’s-inheritance ordeal. There is the strange fact that Nate is running an entire Huffington Post-esque operation without every apparently finishing his college degree at Columbia (forget the part about how he was a pothead for all of the high school episodes, too). Let’s not even remember all the pregnancy scares, secret affairs, and back-stabbings of the past.
The show was a disaster, but no one had come back from the dead.
A CHARACTER CAME BACK FROM THE DEAD.
I won’t tell you who, unless you’re addicted like me and would hate for anyone to ruin the show for you. It wasn’t a supernatural resurrection, or anything. Rather, they poorly wrote this huge plot loop about how this person didn’t really die when everyone thought they did,and why they hadn’t shown up for, oh, the past three seasons. I mean, I really think this conversation happened:
Writer 1: What if we bring back ______ from the dead? Spice things up?
Writer 2: No, that doesn’t even make sense.
Writer 1: Does anything we write make sense? Do the people who watch this show really think about it that much?
Writer 2: No, you’re right. _______ is coming back!!!!
For goodness sake, the producer of this show is the cousin of freaking Jonathan Safran Foer. One of America’s greatest contemporary authors, who penned Everything is Illuminated and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. Could said producer not call up his bestselling, awardwinning author-cousin and rectify this situation?!?
Oh. Wait. It’s too far gone.
Besides, I only have what? 10 episodes left? Pass the popcorn. Let’s watch this thing go down in flames.