Pilot Review: Gossip Girl

Today I have a sore throat, no voice and a mild headache (at least it’s mild now that it’s had lemsip max strength capsules thrown at it). So no work for Lorna, which means lots of tv watching and lots of reviews posted here hopefully. I realise that probably no one is reading these things, but labelling my compulsive tv watching as a “writing exercise” makes me feel better about my pathetic life.

Ordinarily each year I’ll pick up a couple of new shows at the very start of the seasons. Then as the year progresses some shows will make it onto my radar and I’ll pick them up mid-season because someone tells me I should. Last year for example I started watching Heroes, Drive and Studio 60 as soon as they aired, and Friday Night Lights and Brothers and Sisters towards the end of their seasons based on critical reviews for the first and my brother’s recommendation for the second.

This year, if I’d followed my usual tactics I would have watched Pushing Daisies and probably Bionic Woman and Private Practice, possibly Dirty Sexy Money. What this pilot watching is showing me is that I’d have missed out of some pretty interesting shows if I’d only done that. I would probably have picked them up eventually (eg this year I also discovered Criminal Minds and Deadwood) but then I’d have missed some of the excitement and smugness of following a show from the start (I’ll always regret the fact I didn’t get into Buffy for several years, even mocking it!)

Gossip Girl is a show which I’d probably not have paid any attention to, possibly even gently mocked and eventually I would have had to eat my words on finding out how good it really is.

The show centres around the trials and tribulations of some fantastically wealthy New York kids attending a pretentious private school. They are the darlings of the city, but they are unsurprisingly screwed up and pretty ridiculous a lot of the time. To balance the scales are a more down to earth brother and sister and the mysterious return of the former queen of the socialites who has now fallen from grace. The story is told by the omniscient voice of Gossip Girl, someone who gathers information of sightings of the school stars and re-distributes it via the voiceover and the characters’ cell phones.

This show is wonderful! This show is the natural and worthy successor to Veronica Mars. Kristen Bell certainly thinks so, she provides the voice over from Gossip Girl herself with all the bitchiness and snideness of Veronica at her very best. The show brings elements from Veronica Mars, Cruel Intentions, Buffy, even Beverly Hills 90210! And if the pilot is anything to go by it’s going to be as guiltily addictive as they each were in their time.

There are some elements of mystery but to be honest the plot is pretty inconsequential to the general minute to minute joy of this show. I was genuinely intrigued by the characters, some of whom appear to be nothing more than stereotypes for 95% of the time but then with just one little glance or eyebrow move suddenly reveal some depth. The acting is superb and the chemistry is immediate and comfortable (except where it’s not supposed to be); I immediately found myself rooting for the new couple.

What makes this show come alive though is Kristen Bell’s wonderful voice-over. It makes everything seem more dramatic and important somehow, letting you know that while these issues may seem pretty ridiculous to normal people they are everything to the people experiencing them. The show also looks good with vibrant colours and a beautiful looking New York.

I loved this show, I really did. I can’t think of a single miss-step except for the minor complaint of rich kids on a school bus. It falls into the guilty pleasure category because at the end of the day, it is ‘just’ a high school drama. But as guilty pleasures go, based on the pilot episode, it’s a particularly smart and slick one.

The even better news is that it’s getting good ratings and has the honour of being the first new show picked up for a full season. I’ll definitely be downloading the next few episodes and have my fingers crossed they’re just as good.


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