19 September 2007

Next Guilty Pleasure?

First it was Dawson's Creek, then The O.C. and now, finally, it appears that there is a new TV program to my taste in the form of Gossip Girl. Of course, it premières in the U.S. in just over two hours, which makes it online-only territory for me but then I never could commit to watching a TV show in the same slot every week (I only survived my past habits because of E4 and its frequent repetitions of the same episode throughout the week).

Alessandra Stanley in today's New York Times writes:

It seems preposterous even to type the following sentence: The television version of “Gossip Girl” on CW tonight does not quite live up to the novels.

Some will be relieved, since this series of young-adult novels by Cecily von Ziegesar — about rich Upper East Side teenagers who drink martinis, smoke marijuana, shop and shoplift and cut class to have sex in Park Avenue penthouses — is “Reefer Madness” for parents. It is possibly the scariest tableau of prep school privilege since Robert Chambers requested another round at Dorrian’s Red Hand in 1986.

Effectively, the show could have been named The E.C. (East Coast) or The U.E.S. and indeed is brought to us by the makers of The O.C. (i.e. Josh Schwartz whose neglect of Gossip Girl's Californian predecessor led to fans jumping the shark in Pied Piper-like hoards after season two) and (according to The Ex, who knows I care about these things) apparently has the same music selector as The O.C. who plans to do for pop music what The O.C. did for indie.

I first came across Gossip Girl when the book series was launched about five years ago, again following the lives of the pro-/antagonist, Blair Waldorf (yes, really) and her BFF/biggest rival Serena van der Woodsen (uh huh), which are, by turns, charmed and less than charmed. Sadly, I was far too old to read this when the first book came out, which was a shame because it was as though someone had taken the bollocks pulp fiction I wrote as a teenager and relocated it to Manhattan (infinitely more exciting than Oxford). I felt plagiarised!

I also thought it a great shame that I didn't get to read those books as a book-hungry 12-year-old. Instead, I ploughed my way through vast quantities of Sweet Valley High books, a series following the lives of Californian identical twins Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield, who (we were reminded in every single formulaic book) were blond, blue-green eyed, five feet six and a perfect size six. The books were so very dull and yet I somehow came to possess several hundred of them (now shut away in my parents' storage unit). The books managed to be incredibly naive and very over the top at the same time - Elizabeth, the "good", responsible twin (i.e. the boring one) had a steady boyfriend, Todd, throughout; Jessica, the naughty twin was always getting herself and her sister into trouble and worked her way through a constant stream of boyfriends (to be fair, I can think of at least three of Jessica's boyfriends who died in tragic circumstances during the one year of high school the books were supposed to occupy; that's just careless! You'd think that after a while she'd learn her lesson and stay away!).

The SVH books skirted around the topic of sex as much as possible (the girlfriend of the twins' older brother was allowed to have a pregnancy scare but she was twenty and so permitted to use the word sex), though clearly someone who was as much of a party girl as Jessica would clearly have done it with at least one of her boyfriends. The books were written from 1984 until 2002 but even the more recent, "racier" ones tend to shy away from sex when they can. Gossip Girl is the polar opposite: promiscuous 17-year-olds (God forbid!), an overly sexualised 14-year-old (what?) and plenty of sex scenes, which I am sure will be played up for the screen (not that this is needed).

Young adult fiction just wasn't like this in my day!

Nonetheless, I shall watch Gossip Girl's long-awaited TV début (it was originally to be made into a film before getting picked up as a TV show) with interest.

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