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Parental guidance at the 'Gossip Girl' panel

July 20, 2007 |  4:09 pm


The "Gossip Girl" panel on Friday afternoon at the Beverly Hilton got a little surly when television critics asked the executive producers to justify the underaged drinking and (attempted) date-raping in its pilot.

Josh Schwartz, the creator of "The O.C." and one of "Gossip Girl's" executive producers, fielded the inevitable what-will-you-say-to-the-parents question.

“We take the message the show is sending incredibly seriously," Schwartz said. "These are flawed characters." And, he continued, "The world isn’t nearly as depraved as it appears to be."

Gossipgirl_300 The glitzy and buzzed-about new CW series is based on the immensely popular young adult novels of the same name by Cecily von Ziegesar. In the books, New York City private school kids drink, do drugs and have sex. And they read the Gossip Girl blog, which chronicles their sordid lives.

(On the series, the unseen blogger serves as the show's narrator, and is voiced by "Veronica Mars" herself, Kristen Bell. Schwartz said that Bell will continue to be the voice of Gossip Girl. Will we ever see her? “We want to never say never," Schwartz said. "But certainly not for awhile.”)

But back to the smut issue. After the morality question was asked in several different ways, Schwartz said, “I don’t want to be hitting the same point, but I do feel as if we’re not presenting this as a perfect world." He added, “As long as we continue to portray this world responsibly but realistically, we think the show should have a teen-aged audience.”

Schwartz and fellow executive producer Stephanie Savage (also late of "The O.C.") stressed that the show will be about relationships -- between kids and their parents, brothers and sisters and friends.

Can it reach a broad young audience? Or will it appeal only to the same tony set it depicts?

Schwartz said, “I think there are emotional truths to being a teen-ager regardless of where you live or how you live.”

And, as Savage pointed out, “If the only people who watch this show are kids who grow up on the Upper East Side or go to private schools, we’re not going to do very well.”

-- Kate Aurthur

(Photo courtesy Timothy White / AP)