Gossip Girl is modern Jane Austen. Like a slice of Europe in America there are society parties, reputations traded, a peer hierarchy, romance and even croquet.
Pretty kids, romantic trysts, sororities, parties and fashion. Is there anything that separates one teen soap from another? Why does 90210 flop in Australia when Gossip Girl gets good buzz?
Based on the novel series by Cecily von Ziegesar (that’s gotta be a pen name, surely?) the second series of Gossip Girl has returned to FOX8, while the first is screening on Channel Nine, who bafflingly sold it to Foxtel in the first place.
Producer Josh Schwartz oversees this adaptation, a man who, after his runaway series The OC, is a challenger to Darren Star’s crown. Schwartz knows how to manufacture ‘cool’ using buzzwords, fashion, electronics and most importantly, an eye for casting.
Set in the Upper East Side of Manhattan, it’s far removed from the clichés of Beverly Hills, Rodeo Drive or Venice Beach. Instead its look is autumnal New York, with preppy kids in private school uniforms. Like Sex and the City these adolescent blondes and brunettes have designer handbags and shoes. Aspiration is a big drawcard.
And like Carrie Bradshaw, there’s also a strong use of narration, by the title character, an unseen blogger who knows all their sordid secrets and publishes to the delight and fear of the characters. But voice-overs are over-used in television, a shortcut to lazy storytelling.
Gossip Girl is also a modern Jane Austen tale. Like a slice of Europe in America there are society parties, reputations traded, a peer hierarchy and lashings of romance. They even play croquet, throw debutante balls and spend summer in the Hamptons. The alluring characters played by Blake Lively, Chace Crawford, Penn Badgley and Leighton Mester become adolescent ice queens, resident hunks, girls next door and juvenile romeos. They thrive on passion, deceit, ambition, and more passion.
But there’s an undercurrent of malice too. Today’s young audiences are being weaned on spite, dressed up as glamour. This is two-faced, Facebook television, if astutely packaged.
Gossip Girl airs 8:30pm Tuesdays on FOX 8, and 10:30pm Wednesday on Nine.