Bad news, Upper East Siders of the world. The last episode of "Gossip Girl" was so nonsensical a character on the show actually suggested turning the repetitive plot into a drinking game. This week's edition was no less aimless or contrived. With the season's biggest mystery (Serena's past with Ben and what he's doing in jail) solved, the writers seem stuck.
Why else would Rufus have suddenly begun making decisions independent of Lily? In his infinite wisdom, he has elected to move Ben into the Brooklyn loft with Dan, at Serena's insistence and without consulting Lonely Boy. This is a bad idea for all kinds of reasons: Sure, there's the fact that up until recently, Ben and his sister Juliet were planning Serena's downfall. More immediate, if not more worrisome, is Dan's undying love for S and the irrational things it makes him do, all the while denying that his quixotic crusades have anything to do with said feelings.
Dan's unconscious jealousy kicks in right away, and he tries to convince Serena that having anything to do with Ben is a horrible idea. Of course, her unconscious tendency is to do things that give Dan even more reason to be jealous. Soon enough, she and Ben are giggling over takeout at the loft, and Lonely Boy spots a call from Juliet -- whom Ben supposedly isn't speaking to -- on his phone. The parolee's (kind of weak) excuse? She only called because it's their mom's birthday.
Some combination of the phone call and walking in on Ben and Serena's flirtation over Chinese food leads Dan to join forces with Eric and Damien, despite his better judgment. ("I'm not going to team up with the one guy I trust less than Ben, and neither should you," he originally tells Eric, in one of the few logical utterances of the episode.) It still doesn't make much sense that Eric, generally the sanest of all the Upper East Siders, sticks by Damien even after he stops buying drugs from him. I understand that we're supposed to believe Eric is in some kind of personal loneliness crisis. But considering his checkered past with the Van der Woodsen/Humphrey clan, you'd think even empty-headed Nate would see right through him. Come on, people -- his name is Damien!
For much of the last two seasons, I've worried that "Gossip Girl" was stuck in a holding pattern it couldn't break. In the last few episodes, though, the show has surprised me: The writers have given us a reprieve from the endless titillating torments of Chuck and Blair, the Dan-Serena-Nate love triangle and, well, the mere existence of Jenny and Vanessa.
Now, the show has a new problem. "Gossip Girl" has always been a wild, rich-kid fantasy, full of impossibly articulate teenagers in beautiful clothing who don't have anything better to do in life than scheme about how to screw each other over. And I have loved "GG" in spite -- or maybe because -- of that. But this week's episode was so implausible from beginning to end that it made my poor, sequin-blinded head spin.
In one corner, we have Blair and Dan. Recently, they've been secretly seeing old movies together and teasing us over whether anything did or will happen between them. This week, fate throws them together once more. When Blair arrives for her first day of an internship at W magazine -- a gig she's so nervous about that she won't dare to jinx it by telling Serena where she's working -- she finds, to her revulsion, that she's just one of five beautiful, fashionable interns. (Shocking, I know.) And when the sixth intern shows up, it's Dan!
Yes, the Upper East Side's serious writer has allowed his evil stepmother to hook him up with an internship. Somehow, Dan didn't bother to ask her where it would be; Lily told him he'd be working at Conde Nast, and for some reason he assumed this meant she knew someone at the New Yorker or Vanity Fair. So, here's the man who never met a plaid button-down he didn't like, wading into New York's fashion world armed only with an unexpected flair for recognizing designer goods (honed during his time with Serena, of course) and some impressive capuccino-making chops.
This is all unlikely enough, but Dan and Blair's battle for coffee-fetching supremacy gets even sillier. When they overhear that a major author has dropped out of an interview, they read between the lines: Obviously, it is time to step in and save the day! So, Dan trots out his grouchy, old mentor, Jeremiah Harris. And it turns out Blair knows a (real-life) author, Lorrie Moore. Both invite their candidate to tonight's swanky W party -- but while Blair considers sabotaging Dan, it's Lonely Boy who betrays our Queen of Mean.
It all culminates in a physical fight, right in front of W's very own editor in chief, Stefano Tonchi. (What, you thought the fashion cameos would disappear with Jenny Humphrey?) Dan and Blair are both fired, but after she breaks down and tells him she got the internship through good, old-fashioned hard work, he takes the blame and gets Blair her job back.
Obviously, this is all leading up to a climactic, shameful Dan-Blair hookup, fueled by their shared ambition and mutual resentment. As we already know, Blair can only love someone she also hates.
Meanwhile, in a slightly different fantasy world, Serena has befriended Ben, the man her mother sent to prison on her behalf -- because if Blair's weakness is men who make her blood boil, Serena's is simply guys she can't or shouldn't have (her best friend's boyfriend, her college professor, her stepbrother). Unfortunately, it looks like S won't be getting her way this time. Despite the care she's taken to meet Ben wearing her very best see-through alpine sweater, he has already made up his mind to start his life over on an organic farm in Ithaca.
Except that he really hasn't. When Serena goes to visit him at a halfway house in a neighborhood so scary it has an above-ground subway stop, he gives her an envelope. And what do you know? It's full of cash he's returning to Lily, who tried to pay him off to leave town. By now, Mama van der Woodsen's machinations are so ridiculous that the "Gossip Girl" writers have to acknowledge it in the script. "Mom paid someone off again," says Eric. "We should make this a drinking game."
While he's back, Ben proves he's a good guy by sticking his neck out to save Eric from the clutches of slimy plot device-cum-drug dealer Damien Dalgaard. (In one of the most unintentionally hilarious allusions of the week, Ben reminisces about Damien's nerdy high-school days, when he wrote a paper comparing "The Wire" to "The Iliad," an assignment that clearly prepared him for his new life on the wrong side of the law.) Cast aside by his most recent boyfriend, abandoned by Serena's quest to find Judge Stephens and disgusted by his awful mother, Eric turned to Damien for sleeping pills and then uppers to help him recover from the downers.
Strangely, Damien and Eric choose to hide their real relationship by pretending they've been seeing each other romantically. If this were true, considering his history with Serena and Jenny, it would mean that Damien has pursued nearly the entire Humphrey-van der Woodsen clan. Who's next?
Although his behavior has made absolutely no sense recently (your wife is throwing innocent men in jail, bribing people and selling businesses out from under her stepchildren and you seem only mildly annoyed?), Rufus sees through Eric's flimsy lie and guesses that he was really buying drugs from Damien. This buys Ben some goodwill, and Rufus allows Serena to convince him that the ex-con she clearly has the hots for should move into the family's Brooklyn loft. Despite the fact that Ben tells S he doesn't want anything to do with her, by the end of the episode he's accosting Damien and warning him to stay away from her family, or else. So, that should end well.
Last, but not least, we have Chuck and Raina's deliciously dangerous liaisons. Business rivals by day and red-hot paramours by night, they inevitably bring work into the bedroom. Is there anything sexier than a post-coital promise that "Thorpe Enterprises has no interest in corporate espionage"? And how wonderful is it when Chuck visits Raina and finds another, bathrobe-wrapped man in her apartment? Whatever is happening between Nate and Nate's dad and Papa Thorpe is so uninteresting it becomes hard to follow. But if sitting through it means getting to see more Chuck and Raina, then count me in.
"Gossip Girl" highbrow reference watch:
It was a tough call this week, what with all of Dan and Blair's cultured banter. But I'm going with the moment when he tells her he's going to see a Joseph Beuys exhibit and pronounces "Beuys" correctly.
Your weekly "Gossip Girl" fashion top five:
1. Blair's gray-and-white, tie-dyed Bensoni dress.
2. Chuck's long, maroon overcoat.
3. Blair's off-white winter coat.
4. Dan's Theory suit -- with extra points for stepping outside his comfort zone.
5. Blair's black, draped BCBG Max Azria dress.
-- Judy Berman
Photo: Blair and Dan battle it out at W. Credit: Giovanni Rufino / The CW
"Gossip Girl" picked quite a moment to take a seven-week winter break: When we last saw the Upper East Siders, Chuck was off to New Zealand to find his uncle Jack and save Bass Industries, and Serena was embarking on a quest to find the judge who forged the affidavit that put Ben in jail -- leaving Nate to baby-sit his newly paroled dad while Dan and Blair... well, what exactly did Dan and Blair do during those cold, lonely weeks?
Unfortunately, we learn early on in this week's episode that neither Chuck nor Serena accomplished what they set out to do. Serena tracked Judge Stephens all across the East Coast, and even tried to get into her case's sealed file, but came home empty-handed. Chuck, meanwhile, arrived in New Zealand to find that Jack was out of the country. (Chuck really flew halfway around the world without calling first?)
Daunted but not beaten, Chuck does have one last hope: His dad's old friend Russell Thorpe is making his annual trip to New York. Surely he can help save Bass Industries. Unfortunately, he's not in the office when Chuck saunters in to visit him. Instead, our arrogant hero is met by a beautiful, shrewd, young African American woman named Raina, who he assumes is Thorpe's assistant. She tells him that the sale of Bass Industries is old news, and that the deal has actually been fast-tracked to go through in 24 hours. Is there anything Chuck hates more than looking stupid in front of a pretty girl?
As the CW prepares to celebrate five years in the TV landscape, Dawn Ostroff, the network’s entertainment president, cited the “creative strength” of its lineup — which includes “Gossip Girl,” “Vampire Diaries” and “America’s Next Top Model” — for the network’s success; the network is up 8% in total viewers this year.
But the baby network Ostroff helped nurture since its formation in 2006, might be without its mother soon. Rumors have swirled that Ostroff plans to leave the network at the end of her contract in June to relocate to New York with her family.
“It is a really personal decision that my husband and I have been grappling with and discussing with our family, but we have not made any decision,” Ostroff told Show Tracker Friday after a brief introduction at the TCA press tour. “Right now, I’m just totally focused on our pilots; I’m knee-deep in them. I’m going home tonight to read all the scripts. I’m concentrating on work.”
That includes production on the pilot “Danni Lowinski” a comedic drama created by Jennie Snyder Urman (co-executive producer on “90210”), about a young woman who swaps careers, ditching being a hairdresser to become a lawyer, which began production on Friday.
Ostroff is also promoting the network’s upcoming reality series "Shedding for the Wedding," in which nine overweight couples compete to lose weight and win the wedding of their dreams.
Executive producer Dave Broome, who appeared on a panel at the press tour Friday, said the series is about "losing weight for couples the right way and trying to get their life started."
Asked what he thinks of the series "Bridalplasty," which pits brides-to-be against each other to win extreme physical makeovers, Broome said: "I despise 'Bridalplasty.' I would never make a show like that." (Brome is also an executive producer on “The Biggest Loser.”)
“Shedding” is hosted by Sara Rue ("Less Than Perfect") who lost weight through Jenny Craig in real life and is planning her wedding for this spring. It premieres Feb. 23 at 9 p.m.
-- Yvonne Villarreal
Photo: CW President Dawn Ostroff in Beverly Hills in October. Credit: Fred Prouser/Reuters
"Gossip Girl" has told a gay-teen coming-out story. So has "Glee," "Pretty Little Liars," "90210" and "Degrassi." And out-at-home Calvin on "Greek" had to go through the process all over again with his frat brothers.
"I felt like the world of '90210' was missing the gay characters that it would realistically have," said Rebecca Sinclair, the CW series' showrunner and executive producer, on the writers' decision to show teen character Teddy Montgomery's coming-out process. "If I had created the show, I would definitely have made one of the main characters gay. And honestly, in a genre that depends on the coupling, decoupling and re-coupling of its characters, it behooves us to find the most diverse ways to do that."
Read hers and others thoughts on the matter in my story about gay and lesbian characters in teen dramas.
What do you think? Has the gay character become an essential part of a teen drama? And do you think it's realistic to show the character's coming-out story? Share in the comments section.
-- Whitney Friedlander
Photos, clockwise from top left: Shay Mitchell as Emily in "Pretty Little Liars." Credit: ABC Family. Argiris Karras as Riley in "Degrassi." Credit: Epitome Pictures. Trevor Donovan as Teddy in "90210." Credit: the CW. Chris Colfer as Kurt in "Glee." Credit: Fox
I've really got to hand it to "Gossip Girl." Whenever I start to think that the show has run out of material -- when you can't stand to see Blair and Chuck break up another time, or Serena continue to lead on poor Dan and Nate, or Jenny yo-yo from New York to Hudson, learning and forgetting some essential truth about the Upper East Side each time -- it unleashes a showstopping hour of sparkly melodrama that reminds me of why I'm still watching.
This week's "Gossip Girl" was easily the best of the season. With the focus off of inter-clique romance, we finally got to the heart of Juliet's vendetta against Serena, and Blair and Lonely Boy join forces to plot her destruction. Despite the fact that Juliet drugged, impersonated, and defamed Serena, no one has done the sensible thing and gone to the police -- a ridiculous decision, but I don't doubt that the eternal wrath of Blair Waldorf hurts more than a few years in prison.
When Dan and Blair show up at Ostroff, they're told that Serena isn't allowed to have visitors. They do tell Eric what happened, but he's strangely dismissive. "She's here now," he says, "and she's getting the help she's needed for a long time." Let me get this straight: it doesn't matter that your sister wasn't on a drug binge, or that a deranged Juliet could have killed her?
Undeterred, Blair and Dan decide to find Juliet -- with help from an unlikely source. Dan correctly predicts that Gossip Girl will be angry at Juliet for sending the faux photo of Serena snorting coke, and she responds to his e-mail with a street address (but no town, state, or zip -- in a moment of intense product placement, they have to type the address into Bing to find out the rest). They learn she's in Cornwall, CT, hop into a silly vintage car and light out to the 'burbs.
No matter how bad your Thanksgiving was, the "Gossip Girl" crew's was almost certainly worse. By now, these dark holiday episodes have become something of a tradition, and after all the turkey and togetherness that most shows force us to stomach every November, they're always a refreshing palate cleanser. This year's model wasn't the best I've seen (I'm partial to Season 2's "The Magnificent Archibalds"), but it may well have been the most twisted.
The episode opens with our Upper East Siders preparing for Thanksgiving. Serena hasn't shown her face since the Saints and Sinners ball, but no one is particularly worried. While Blair assumes she's hiding at Lily and Rufus', Lily decides Serena's out having some kind of temper tantrum, as usual, and resolves not to go looking for her. The preparations for a lavish Humphrey-Van der Woodsen Thanksgiving go on as planned — until Blair and Lily compare notes and realize that Serena is missing.
That's when we cut to the heiress herself, waking up groggy in an unfamiliar room littered with pills and alcohol bottles, still wearing her Saints and Sinners dress. She gropes for her bedside phone, calls 911, and rasps that her name is Serena van der Woodsen, and she doesn't know where she is. With the ambulances en route, she's out cold again and doesn't wake up until she's at the hospital, where Lily has already decided to send to her to rehab.
There comes a moment in most TV series' run when even the most faithful fans have to acknowledge that the show doesn't have much time left. For "Gossip Girl," I fear that time is upon us. All the signs are there: Most of the characters are stuck in a tiresome holding pattern, with Chuck and Blair breaking up and reuniting on just about every episode, while Serena still can't decide whether she's meant to be with Dan or Nate. And it's been ages since other characters (hello, Vanessa) have had a substantial, compelling story line.
"Gossip Girl's" core cast is beginning to seem restless, too. Last month, around the time that his breakup with Blake Lively made the news, Penn Badgley didn't seem too excited about the show in a conversation with Page Six. "It's the fourth season. It's become routine," he said, before revealing that he is "not friends" with his co-stars Jessica Szohr and Ed Westwick. Less than two weeks later, Chace Crawford admitted to Vulture that his character, Nate Archibald, is so stupid "it's gotten funny."
It's only fair, then, to start wondering what's in store for the cast once Gossip Girl gives her final "XOXO." I've taken a look at the original seven stars' current and future projects to predict who will succeed post-"Gossip Girl" -- and who may be doomed to the same quasi-obscurity as, well, most of "The O.C." cast.
The promos may have teased about the newest incarnation of Chuck and Blair's dysfunctional romance, but their "hate sex" was almost completely beside the point of this week's episode. Sure, the show kicks off with Chuck amusing Blair under the covers as she tries to give Serena some distracted advice. Yes, they get it on in public. Chuck even orders his chauffeur to pick him up a lifetime's supply of condoms and booze, in anticipation of the marathon sex-fest he imagines will help them tire of each other.
I won't deny the fun of watching Blair and Chuck lustily paw at each other. But now that we've acknowledged it, let's move on to what really happened this week: War broke out on the Upper East Side. Though there have always been insiders and outsiders -- or Manhattanites and Brooklynites, or new money and old money -- in this rarefied world, the two factions have never been so clearly and completely at odds before.
The big surprise is who incites the war. After a few weeks of licking her wounds in Brooklyn, Vanessa returns with a vengeance. I can't tell you how happy I am to finally see her make some trouble! Joining forces with Nate to expose Juliet's lies, Vanessa is disappointed once again when Juliet hits him with yet another sob story about how "poor" she is and -- in classic Archibald form -- he believes her. (Living on 126th Street and building her own IKEA furniture is a fate worse than death, and as his family once had no money for a few minutes, he can totally relate!) Luckily, by the time Nate calls her to cancel their plan, Vanessa's already snuck into Juliet's real apartment and found something even better than she was looking for: photos of Serena and Colin canoodling.
Around this time of year, most shows are busy celebrating Halloween. But in the "Gossip Girl" universe, Blair's birthday -- traditionally observed with champagne, fussy hors d'oeuvres, a handful of cameos by minor celebrities and a climactic showdown -- tends to outshine that vulgar holiday. This year, all of those elements did indeed figure into B's big 2-0, but the result still left me hungry for the truly humiliating surprises and showstopping standoffs we could expect from a birthday party in "Gossip Girl's" golden years.
In fact, this week's episode only highlighted Season 4's biggest problem: Blair -- who, has become "Gossip Girl's" protagonist solely because she is its only semi-complex character -- no longer has a worthy foe. She has gone back and forth with Chuck so many times that every possible permutation of their power games has been exhausted. The Serena-Blair "frenemy" story line is so stale the characters themselves lampooned it a few episodes ago. Eva was never a match for Blair. Jenny is so scared of B that she's back to hiding out in Hudson after last week's Tim Gunn disaster. Georgina Sparks is out of the picture, at least for the moment. And no one else in the regular cast is even worth mentioning as a possible foil for Blair's scheming.
But, despite his strictly amateur status, it is Dan (and, for awhile, Eric) who steps up to destroy Blair's birthday this time. In an attempt to repay them for banishing Jenny from Manhattan again, just in time for Rufus and Lily's first wedding anniversary, the kinder, gentler Humphrey initially tries and fails to turn Chuck and Blair against each other.
Although Eric is eventually wise enough to see that nothing good can come of trying to beat the Mr. and Mrs. Smith of the Upper East Side at their own game, Dan won't be satisfied until he inflicts some pain. So he calls in a favor and recruits Swedish pop singer Robyn to show up at the party with a video of Blair getting sloppy drunk in Stockholm and squawking "Stand By Your Man" as Chuck tries in vain to get her off the stage.
Were you anticipating this week's episode as anxiously as I was, Upper East Siders of the world? After the CW taunted us with a rerun last Monday, I was curious for the return of Taylor Momsen, who seemed to transform into a rebellious teenage punk in real life soon after she started playing one on "Gossip Girl." (For a recent example, read all about the 17-year-old's boob-flashing stunt at her band the Pretty Reckless' New York performance last week.) But what I really wanted to see was Momsen sharing the screen with wonderful "Project Runway" mentor Tim Gunn, who has said that when he was on the "Gossip Girl" set to film his guest spot, he couldn't stand working with her.
For those who haven't been following Gunn's telling-it-like-it-is tour, in which he's told us how he really feels about everyone from Anna Wintour to Lady Gaga, here's a quick review of his thoughts on the actress who plays Jenny Humphrey: "What a diva!" he told E! Online. "She was pathetic, she couldn't remember her lines, and she didn't even have that many. I thought to myself, 'why are we all being held hostage by this brat?' "
Them's fighting words! So I went into episode wondering what their onscreen chemistry would be like — and whether it would reveal anything about what happened between them that so deeply disgusted the classiest man ever to appear on reality TV.
It's a good day for fans of strong, young TV heroines. Vulture confirms that the CW is developing not one, not two, but three series featuring actors and writers best known for their work with "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" creator Joss Whedon.
Meanwhile, behind the camera, writer-producers Marti Noxon, Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain also have new projects in development for the CW. "Angel" and "Dollhouse" alums Craft and Fain are adapting "Vampire Diaries" author L.J. Smith's three-book series "Secret Circle," about a teen who discovers she's a witch, into an hour-long drama. Not to be outdone in the feisty, supernatural heroine department, "Buffy" and "Angel" writer Noxon is co-creating "Chloe." The show will center on a young con artist who dies and comes back as a "Divine Covert Operator." "Holy Rollers" actor Jason Fuchs, who apparently knows from quasi-religious programming, has signed on as a writer.
Of course, none of these projects can entirely ease the pain of Whedon's post-"Dollhouse" retreat to the big screen. But perhaps, if they succeed, they'll clear the way for his return.
— Judy Berman
Photo: Michelle Trachtenberg at the sixth annual Pink Party at Drai's at the W Hollywood on Sept. 25. Credit: Frazer Harrison / Getty Images.