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TV Review: Gossip Girl

When my friends chatted about how the popular chick-lit series, Gossip Girl, was being made into a TV show on The CW, I couldn’t have been any less excited. I had reluctantly read the first book when everyone kept raving about how it was so dramatic and thrilling. It seemed like a shallow book that would exaggerate the life of teenagers living the glamorous life in New York—and it was.

The book was mediocre, centering on one-dimensional teenagers who had money, sex, drugs and scandal. I didn’t even want to bother with the show—why watch kids trying to be adults when it was bad enough reading about it? But after watching the five-minute preview online, I considered giving the show a chance. The promo was entertaining enough, showed a beautiful cast, had a good selection of music and a few scenes with dead-pan humor.
Still, I expected the premiere on September 19 to be a waste of time because film and television adaptations of books are usually worse, so I could hardly imagine how they would remake a book that was already bad to start with. But the show was surprisingly a lot better. The producers took the book’s dull plotline and turned it into a dramatic, sleek show without making it unbelievable or forced.

The first episode seemed to follow the book’s main plot:  Anonymous, blogger Gossip Girl (voiced by Kristen Bell from Veronica Mars) dishes out the scandalous behavior of Manhattan’s elite, namely beautiful It-Girl Serena van der Woodsen (Blake Lively), best friend Blair Waldorf (Leighton Meester), and their friends as they do what rich teenagers supposedly do (smoke pot, hook up at clubs and drink). Serena returns from her mysterious one-year absence and unintentionally captures the interest of two boys, Dan (Penn Badgley), a middle-class outsider of Manhattan’s inner-circle, and Blair’s boyfriend, Nate (Chace Crawford), straining the friendship between the two girls.

Though the story of rich and popular teenagers has been overdone in the past, producer Josh Schwartz, creator of The O.C., puts a twist to the boring story—by adding parents into the picture, something that author Cecily von Ziegesar made sure to keep out of her recently finished teenager-only series. The parent’s social and career lives seem to intertwine with their children’s, making the story even juicier. There seems to be a love mystery behind Dan’s rock star veteran father and Serena’s socialite mother, paralleling the relationship between the two teens from different ends of the social ladder.

Even more, the characters in the show actually seem to have more, well, character. The novel mainly focuses on their appearances, brand-name clothes, and cattiness. However, in the show, the characters have ambitions and thoughts, wondering about their futures and their lives, making them more realistic and relatable. Even the wardrobe and music selections captured the appropriate chic and current pop culture, showing headbands, tights, and music by Timbaland, and Angels and Airwaves.

I did not expect Gossip Girl to make my list of must-watch shows this fall, but it definitely did, taking its spot on Wednesday nights at 9 p.m. on The CW. Gossip Girl replaces my past teenage-dramas like One Tree Hill and Laguna Beach, matching the old shows’ intensity but with more glamour and style.  I’m not usually one who prefers watching a book adaptation instead of reading it, but the show certainly provided more entertainment, substance, and realistic characters than the novels.