Spinoff could spread 'Gossip'

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The makers of "Gossip Girl" are planning a spinoff series set at a girls boarding school.

Producers are hoping to expand the popular CW show either by giving co-star Taylor Momsen her own series or introducing a new character in the fall who is later spun off.

Regardless of which actor is used, the story likely would draw on the arc of Momsen's character Jenny Humphrey in the "Gossip Girl" book series for inspiration.

Humphrey is a self-esteem-challenged outsider who struggles to fit in. In the books, a series of public embarrassments (like 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" spin-off novels called "The It Girl."

The big question is whether such a project would be picked up by the CW. The network already has two teen dramas set in high school this fall — "Gossip" and "90210," a contemporary spinoff from the 1980s Fox series — as well as "One Tree Hill," in which the characters recently graduated from high school. Plus, though "Gossip" has a devoted following and significant cultural buzz, its ratings are pretty modest.

Alloy Entertainment owns both book series, co-produces the TV show and has a first-look deal with "Gossip" series co-producer Warner Bros. Television, whose parent, Warner Bros. Entertainment, co-owns the CW.

All of which means the CW has right of first refusal on any "Gossip" spinoff. If refused, Alloy could in theory shop the project to cable nets that target young women, including ABC Family and MTV.

Broadcast scripted series spinoffs are increasingly common, with NBC's "The Office" and Fox's "Family Guy" having new shows launch next season. Others such as Fox's "Prison Break" and "House" are at an early stage similar to "Gossip," with producers intending to introduce characters for a potential spinoff but without a series commitment.

A CW spokesman declined comment. (James Hibberd)
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