Monday, September 1, 2008

A Look at Season 1 of Gossip Girl

As I have stated many times on the blog, I watch very little tv when it actually airs. I absolutely love devouring an entire season of a show with a DVD set. I do this with almost every show I write about. Last season, like most of you I was taken with the publicity surrounding Gossip Girl. I watched a few minutes here and there on tv, but it never really drew me in. Of course I was taken with it’s resident hotties, Penn Badgley and Chace Crawford, but other than hoping for a few shirtless scenes, I had no expectations of actually liking this show.

Above: Josh Schwartz

Firstly, although I think creator Josh Schwartz is a cutie himself, I could never get into his previous series, The OC. In addition, as a guy in my 30's, despite my love of good tv and great looking men, there was nothing about the publicity for this show that drew me in. I love Heroes and Lost and nothing about the upper crust on the east side of New York really held a draw to me. This show was pushed toward teen girls and I think that was a big mistake. In giving the DVD’s a shot I was absolutely shocked on how addictive this show is. Intelligent writing, fast paced drama, A+ acting, eye popping sets and visuals and music to which had me searching like crazy for full versions of some of the songs. If your like me and have not watched this show, or if you tried it on tv, but could not get into it, BUY THE DVD’S, you will not be disappointed. It is so well structured with delicious back stories and themes way beyond your typical teen drama. In fact I hate to think this show is geared toward the teen, or tween as it is really an adult drama more suited to viewers in their 20's and 30's. In addition, despite the fact the two leads are women, I found myself watching through the eyes of Dan, played by Penn Badgley and see the show as actually a show which could just as easily be geared for men. Dan’s journey to fit into this new world were what streamlined the season for me. I saw very little of this in the ad campaign. The guys are certainly more than just eye candy with the male characters as richly written as their female counter parts.

I will watch the season premier tonight, but then put the show on hold until this time next year when Season 2 hits the DVD shelves.

Some highlights for me of season 1. All of the cast, each and every one of them. Amazing! Great casting! Special kudos to Kelly Rutherford who rocks out any scene she is in. Also loved the music, the writing. Dan and Serena as a couple, Blair’s downfall and fight back up. Jenny’s journey, such a great story! All the events! GG seems to have a big party every week and between Holiday’s, cotillions, masquerade balls, there is never a dull moment. Ending up liking Chuck was also a surprise as I hated the character and actor before even putting in the first disc, yet by the final disc he was a favorite. Kudo’s also to Kristen Bell who skillfully brought all the action together as Gossip Girl. Also loved New York. As a main character, the city has not been so brilliantly showcased in a tv show in some time!

My dislikes were few, but I was not impressed with any character introduced after the pilot. Whether it was Vanessa, Georgina, Carter or Asher, I thought new characters were not introduced well. Although Vanessa grew on me, every time a new person came on board, I just worried that it would take away from the core cast. This was particularly true with Dan and Jenny’s mother, who after quite a buildup was an unappealing character who I just wanted to leave. (Maybe that was the point). The whole Georgina story arc seemed contrived to get attention was to me, the weakest part of the season.. This was especially true given it was the explanation as to why Serena disappeared for a year. Maybe it is that I find Michelle Trachtenberg like nails on a chalk board.. Far too little of Eric as well as the wonderful Margaret Colin who was a stand out as Eleanor. Also, I went from liking to being annoyed by Blair’s side kicks. I felt bad for the actress’s in those thankless roles. But...overall the poor parts were few and far between and certainly did not take away from the brilliance of the season as a whole.

What I am looking forward to in Season 2. MORE MORE MORE of the same! Less new characters and more high drama. More of Eric, such potential in the relationships with is mother and sister, not to mention Dan, Chuck and Jenny. More Eleanor, she is so fun to watch. More exploration of the relationship between Nate and Dan, their scenes interest me as despite their differences they are more alike than any of the other characters. Another breakdown in the relationship between Serena and Blair, it has to happen!

The Women of Gossip Girl

Blake Lively as Serena

Blake Lively is a force of nature. Actually reminds me of a slightly younger Kelly Rutherford from her days on Generations. A true star who commands each scene she is in.

Leighton Meester as Blair

Early on I thought Leighton Meester was a bit of weak link in the cast, but man was I wrong. Her comedic timing and smarts made her a hit of the season to me. So delicious! I espeically liked seeing her in scenes with Dan and Jenny.

Taylor Momsen as Jenny

Taylor Momsen was the biggest surprise to me of season 1. She was not on my radar, but man her character and story were highlights of season 1. At only 14, this girl is amazing and will be around for years to come.

Kelly Rutherford as Lily

Kelly Rutherford is pure magic! From her early days on Generations through Melrose Place, Homefront and more, she lights up every show she is in. Gossip Girl is no exception and she is a stand out as Lily.

The Co-stars of Gossip Girl

I never really saw the need for Jessica Szohr as Vanessa beyond 1 or 2 episodes, but by seasons end the actress won me over.

I must say, I am not a fan of Michelle Trachtenberg, something about her irks me. Maybe it is that she ruined one of my favorite shows for me, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Thankfully her turn on GG was short and dispite my not being happy she joined the show, Michelle does play 'evil bitch' quite well and the story had a happy ending with her leaving.

Sebastian Stan has a fun turn as Carter, hope he returns.

The Dads of Gossip Girl

Sam Robards as The Captain

Actor Sam Robards comes from good stock. Son of actors Jason Robards and Lauren Bacall and the godson of legendary actress Katherine Hepburn, what else could be but an actor. An accomplished stage actor, you may also have seen Sam on Spin City, Sex and the City and The West Wing. I certainly was not a fan of his character, ‘The Captain’ but he played him well. He oozed slime causing heartache for his son. You can also just picture what kind of man he is by the way his wife has turned out. Although he left at seasons end, running from the law, I certainly would welcome a return, and as well a focus on his wife who was an interesting, and yet annoying character.

Below: I can’t narrow down what movie this is from, but this pic is credited to Sam Robards. I believe him to be the moon in the middle.

Robert John Burke as Bart Bass

Robert John Burke plays Bart Bass, a character who I like because he has not been drawn into a corner. He has not been featured much, but has shown the ability to both support and set boundaries for his son. Of course he also role models womanizing, which explains a bit why Chuck can’t seem to hold any close relationships. They appear to be portraying him older, but Robert is just 48 and still a handsome man. He was also a hottie in younger pictures I have seen of him. Despite marrying Lily in the season ender, given her history with Rufus I don’t expect smooth sailing.

Below: Robert in Dust Devil from 1992.

Matthew Settle as Rufus

In a show pushing it’s young cast, it is often hard for actors playing the ‘parents’ to shine, but both Kelly Rutherford and Matthew Settle shine. Both are great actors, but also it is refreshing to see the writers give them storylines as good as their onscreen kids. It does not hurt that Matthew is hot as hell and has a long list of credits on his resume including Brothers And Sisters, The Practice, ER as well as many feature films. I love the relationship between Rufus and his kids as well as his love for Lily.

Below: Matthew in ‘Attraction’ from 2000.

The other Men From Gossip Girl

Connor Paolo as Eric

Young Connor Paolo has a longer resume than some of his older co-stars. Behind his angelic face you can just tell there is something deeper and most likely darker awaiting to surface. And after playing Angelina Jolie’s son, Kelly Rutherford should be a piece of cake!

Below: A young Connor in Law and Order, One Life to Live and Alexander.

Ed Westwick as Chuck

Prior to watching the show, I hated Ed Westwick. I only knew Ed from the internet, and I found him annoying without even seeing his work. Well...I was wrong. After the first few episodes, Chuck became a favorite. Ed is a great actor, watching this nasty is delicious and watching any scene with Ed was a treat. He is also a cutie, even more adorable listening to him speak with his English accent.