Tuned In

Test Pilot: Gossip Girl

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The CW / Timothy White

Test Pilot is a semiregular feature this summer sharing my first impressions of the pilots for next fall’s shows. These aren’t reviews, since these pilots may be rewritten, recast and reshot before airing, and end up much better or worse. But, premature opinions are why God invented the Internet, so let’s get on with…

The Show: Gossip Girl, The CW

The Premise: Welcome to the UES, bitch. Manhattan’s Upper East Side gets the O.C. treatment in this prep-school soap, exec-produced by The O.C.’s Josh Schwartz, and based on a series of books apparently quite popular with persons much younger and with different chromosomes than mine. Serena (Blake Lively) has come back from a year at boarding school, shaking up the social world at her old school, where her best frenemy Blair (Leighton Meester) has become queen bee in her absence. Alliances are formed, outcasts become incast and in the tradition of The O.C., someone gets punched. The action is narrated through the omniscient blog posts of the unseen title character (voiced by Veronica Mars’ Kristen Bell).

First Impressions: The trailer at The CW’s upfront had underwhelmed me, so I was really pleasantly surprised with this pilot. Like The O.C., the show has a quick wit and doesn’t take itself too seriously–except when it takes itself totally, totally seriously. I didn’t think the writing and the characters quite matched up to Schwartz’s previous work, but I may be romanticizing The O.C. a little; most of the characters in that show were pretty flat in the pilot as well. Apparently some of the TV critics at the show’s press tour session were weirdly scandalized at the content–there’s sex, an attempted date rape, and doobies are smoked–which is either a sign that TV Is Finally Going Too Far, or that there should be more 17-year-olds on the TV beat.

Do I Want to Watch Another One? My inner 14-year-old girl has a free hour on her weekly schedule.