22 Episodes on 5 Discs Widescreen, released August 24, 2010
"When high school ends, real life begins."
Thank goodness! Having never watched "Gossip Girl" before, I was a little leery of it to be honest and am glad I started with this season. The cattiness of high school is ridiculous because it's all drama for no reason other than a mythical hierarchy of status and in this case greatly increased due to the upper class status of these New Yorkers with family money. All but one of the main characters have graduated and are trying to find their place either in college, in business, or in politics. Real life comes with its own problems and responsibilities previously unheard of for the spoiled few and when old tricks don't work anymore, it's time to learn new ones. Playing games has much higher consequences away from the safe realm of high school.
Getting ahead of myself as usual. The series of "Gossip Girl" follows the Upper East Side elite for scandalous situations and is based on a book series of the same name by Cecily von Ziegesar.. There is a narrator who is an unseen character that puts out a gossip column online to instantly spread the word about juicy gossip to the masses and apparently has everyone's cell number sending out instant texts. That aspect of the show is probably the most unrealistic but the narrator's judgemental tone voiced by Kristen Bell and insults help tie scenes together and include the occasional, "Uh-oh, Queen B, looks like things are heating up around here!" in case we didn't catch what just happened...
All the characters are either related, have dated, or have been pining away for each other. If two characters haven't gotten together yet, they probably will at some point. As soon as two do get together, it's usually over within two episodes unless it's the dynamic duo of Blair Waldorf and Chuck Bass.
Blair used to be the Queen Bee of her high school and believes she should rule college the same way but quickly finds friends can't be bought and value substance over status. Chuck Bass used to be a party playboy and dangerous antihero but finally admitted to Blair before this season started that he loved her making him a monogamous boyfriend. When two big egos get together they clash regularly, but when they stay on the same page, they are a social force to be reckoned with.
While her motives are ridiculous, Leighton Meester's performance as Blair Waldorf quickly became my favorite. She is manipulative and shallow but also very funny without realizing it when she tries to hatch schemes and fails, but it's even more amazing when she succeeds. She has an adorable doe-eyed look that makes it very easy to get what she wants and appear very innocent. Even though she has graduated, she still has help to follow her around in the form of Dorota Kishlovsky (Zuzanna Szadkowski) who has been more of a mother to her than her own mother but gets ordered around and treated badly by her from time to time. One of the most telling scenes into Blair's character is when the two are playing chess with Dorota calling out moves and she catches Blair cheating out of the corner of her eye but says nothing.
It is easy to see why all the women love Chuck Bass played by Ed Westwick. He isn't much to look at in the beginning, but it's more about a style and personality and especially about the deep, sexy voice. He is not as diabolical as Blair and cares most about surpassing his late father by starting his own empire by buying a hotel and wants to make his fortune before his father's peak age. He has a smart mind for business and wants to do it all himself without Blair's games and connections to be a self-made man which is difficult for her to understand but admirable.
Blake Lively plays Serena van der Woodsen, the beautiful blond bombshell of the show that always gets herself into terrible situations. She has this vulnerable damaged goods appeal and has about five or six relationships easily just over the course of this single season. She is Blair's best friend and rival and when presented with a decision always seems to pick the worse choice. It all boils down to Daddy issues as she spends most of the season wondering why her real father does not want to be with her. Blake Lively appeared in the "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" movies and will be the love interest in the upcoming "Green Lantern."
Sound like a soap opera? It pretty much is. Characters have very short story arcs, get together, break up, find love in another's arms. Occasionally larger plots involving family carry over, but the whole series is like musical chairs. When the music stops, you don't want to be standing all alone so you find someone to make you feel less lonely.
A few other characters to take note of: Jenny Humphrey played by Taylor Momsen took over as Queen Bee after Blair graduated and it has clearly warped her sense of morality as she throws people she loves under the bus for temporary gains. She tries desperately to find ways to be happy, but always ends up on self-destructive paths much in the way the character Serena was at the start of the series.
Her older brother, Dan Humphrey played by Penn Badgley (who will have a prominent role in the upcoming "Easy A" with Emma Stone) tries to play the outsider and be unaffected by money but through marriage he is rich and learns to be an insider this season and has a relationship with guest star, Hilary Duff as she plays a movie star co-ed trying to experience normal college life and finally admitting his feelings for long-time best friend, Vanessa Abrams played by Jessica Szohr.
I may poke fun of the conventions of the show, but can see why it's such a guilty pleasure. I ended up watching the ENTIRE series over the course of a couple days. Surprisingly addictive with its reliance on the audience having a shallow memory so each time two characters get together, it can feel special and magnanimous. Conflicts revolve around sex, drugs, teenage issues, family drama, and it always all boils down to status at the end.
The entire series comes in a case that is about average DVD case size and contains the discs on those very slim flip holders. The problem is that Disc 5 is held onto the back cover of the DVD case by another very slim holder and while I was able to get it out once to watch the episodes on Disc 5, when I went back to get it out again to watch the extras, the disc CRACKED. So I recommend being VERY careful with the way these discs are crammed together.
While I never got to watch the features, I can at least tell you what they include. Gossip Girl Mode is available for Episode 16, The Empire Strikes Jack which claims to be an interactive viewing experience. There is a featurette on throwing a party "Gossip Girl-style." There are music videos for Lady Gaga's guest performance of "Bad Romance" and Plastiscines' "Bitch" as well as a Gag Reel and Deleted Scenes.
"You know you love me, xoxo, Gossip Girl."