Empty9-10 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 19
Bad news for the CW's too-cool-for-the-room new soapy glitzfest "Gossip Girl": my daughter positively hates it. And she's 18, just moved to New York for college and was a huge fan of Fox's "The O.C.," the previous entry on boy wonder executive producer Josh Schwartz's resume. I lent her a copy of the pilot and she reported back that she and a group of her fellow freshmen classmates who viewed the opening hour thought it was "stupid and lame and not real -- and nothing like the book." This, from what has to be seen as the heart of the show's target audience.
As someone who is about to leave the 18-49 demographic and become instantly obsolete in the eyes of all that is Madison Avenue, let me just add that I agree with my kid. The show exits the starting gate feeling very much like "Dynasty" for young posers, wafer thin and shallow enough to be mistaken for a toddler wading pool. It's so consumed with its of-the-moment zeitgeist embodiment that it forgets to give its characters any depth beyond their reshaped noses.
The capper is the use of a cloying unseen "secret" blogging gossipmonger narrator (voiced by "Veronica Mars" lead Kristen Bell) who stirs the pot by telling teasing, cheeky tales out of school about the spoiled-rotten prep school types who populate "Gossip Girl." She says stuff like, "Did B think S would go down without a fight? Or can these two hotties work it out?" Oh barf.
Based on the simmering "Gossip Girl" series of novels by Cecily von Ziegesar about youthful indiscretions on Manhattan's tony Upper East Side, the pilot is dark (as in the photography, packed with stiff performances and stiffer dialogue from the teleplay by Schwartz and his exec producer partner Stephanie Savage. We might be looking here at a quick primetime flameout -- that is, if the flame ever ignites in the first place.
What's instantly missing from this show that fueled the quick-hit phenomenon of "The O.C." is any sense that these characters are real people. They can be rich and impossible to relate to as long as we believe the veracity of their words and actions. That's a problem for this group of actors, who -- ironically enough -- sport names that might be even more pretentious than those of their alter egos. Here are the actual handles of five of the "Gossip Girl" stars: Blake Lively, Leighton Meester, Penn Badgley, Chace Crawford and Taylor Momsen. Lively portrays the mega-popular party girl Serena van der Woodsen who has just returned home to her queen's throne after a year away at boarding school. She locks horns with her BFF (that's how they refer here to "best female friend") and confirmed bitch Blair Waldorf (Meester), and their tension also spills over onto Blair's BF (that's "boyfriend") Nate (Crawford) and Serena's younger brother Eric (Connor Paolo).
Then there's Jenny Humphrey (Momsen), who desperately wants in to the hipster group, and her brother Dan (Badgley), who has the major hots for Serena despite the fact she's basically the worst thing that could ever happen to him. There are others orbiting nearby too, of course, and they will soon demonstrate that being rich and connected is not only the pits but surprisingly boring. They all illustrate in "Gossip Girl" that the high life ain't all it's cracked up to be; it's actually a bitch, and then you die (albeit with nicer clothes).
"Gossip Girl" goes to great lengths to convince us that not only can't you always get what you want, you also often can't get what you need, either (with apologies to Mick Jagger). As it premieres into a highly competitive time slot opposite well-promoted newcomers "Private Practice" on ABC and NBC's "Bionic Woman" as well as CBS' freshly-recast "Criminal Minds," the gossip figures to fall on deaf ears.
Alloy Entertainment in association with Warner Bros. Television and CBS Paramount Television
Executive producers: Josh Schwartz, Stephanie Savage, Bob Levy, Leslie Morgenstein, Felicia Henderson
Co-executive producer: K.J. Steinberg
Producer: Amy Kaufman
Co-producer: Jonathan C. Brody
Associate producer: Trey Coscia
Teleplay: Josh Schwartz, Stephanie Savage
Based on the book by: Cecily von Ziegesar
Director: Mark Piznarski
Director of photography: Ron Fortunato
Production designer: Loren Weeks
Costume designer: Eric Daman
Editor: Timothy A. Good
Sound mixer: James Sabat
Casting: David H. Rapaport, Lindsey Hayes Kroeger
Serena van der Woodsen: Blake Lively
Blair Waldorf: Leighton Meester
Dan Humphrey: Penn Badgley
Nate Archibald: Chace Crawford
Jenny Humphrey: Taylor Momsen
Chuck Bass: Ed Westwick
Lily van der Woodsen: Kelly Rutherford
Rufus Humphrey: Matthew Settle
Eric: Connor Paolo
Howie Archibald: Sam Robards