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Gossip Girl on CW
Upon accepting the 2008 Teen
Choice Award for Choice TV Drama, Penn Badgley - who plays Dan Humphrey on CW’s
Gossip Girl (Mondays, 8:00 p.m.) - promised fans and critics alike that
for the show’s second season, “We’re bringing the heat, I mean it.” After a
summer of hype which included racy print ads featuring the quote “Mind-blowingly
inappropriate” from the Parents Television Council, a spread in the August issue
of Vanity Fair, and a total of six awards at the above-mentioned award
show, viewers were primed for the season opener which aired on September 1st.
The publicity seemed to pay off as 3.38 million viewers, mostly younger people,
tuned in, giving the fledgling network a reason to gloat.
If the Vanity Fair
article is right and the show has indeed “hit the sweet spot of the
zeitgeist,” then parents need to be aware of what their children are being
exposed to. True to Badgley’s word, the season opener did “bring the heat.”
Most of the Gossip gangfound themselves summering in the
Hamptons. The episode begins with high-school student Nate Archibald making out
with a rich, older socialite – Catherine - while she straddles him in the
passenger seat of a car. Worried that someone might spot them, she suggests
that they go back to her house. Meanwhile, villainous lecher Chuck Bass relaxes
on the beach with a glass of wine as three bikini-clad Brazilian sunbathers
surround him and take off their tops. One girl asks him, “Meester Chuck, is
there anything jou need caretaking of?” He responds with a glint in his eye,
“The only thing I need to take care of is you … (glances at the next girl)… and
you … (and the next) … and you.” Later, Nate and Catherine fling their clothes
off and hop into bed. In the next scene, presumably after sex, they lie in each
other’s arms when her husband’s car pulls into the driveway. Nate hops out of
the window in his boxers just as the husband arrives at the door to be greeted
by his cheating trophy wife. Towards the end of the episode, the storylines
converge at the exclusive end-of-summer White Party. Catherine is there with
her husband and sneers at Nate, “Are you trying to ruin my marriage?” A
distraught Nate tells Serena, “Get me drunk.” And she happily obliges.
Throughout the course of the party, the various characters manipulate each other
to spark jealousy and resentment. Blair pretends to adore her boring new
toy-boy in order to irritate Chuck. Serena makes out with Nate in order to
enflame Catherine while Serena’s ex, Dan, witnesses the kiss and leaves in a
huff. But two girls that Dan was two-timing over the summer see him and douse
him with their drinks. Apparently, the manipulations work since Catherine pulls
Nate into a bathroom, kissing him intensely. Blair’s dud feels compelled to
confess that he’s actually an English Lord and suddenly her adoration is
genuine. The show ends with a lonely, plaintive Chuck pouring himself a glass
Consistent with the show’s
first season, the teenage characters live unstructured lives virtually
indistinguishable from those of adults. Parents are largely absent, liquor
flows freely, and sex has no consequences. The youth in this show aspire to
nothing except vapid status symbols.
The network and the media seem
intent on pushing this lifestyle as a reflection of our times, as if all teens
use “summer” as a verb, never need to worry about tuition for college, or think
about what future they want for themselves and their world. It is a terribly
cynical and limiting view of youthful potential, one that consistently fails to
treat teens with honestly and care.
For sexual content, dialogue
and alcohol consumption, the September 1st episode of Gossip Girl
deserves to be named Worst TV Show of the Week.
Parents Television Council,
Clean Up TV Now, Because our children are watching, The
nation's most influential advocacy organization, Protecting
children against sex, violence and profanity in
entertainment, Parents Television Council Seal of Approval,
and Family Guide to Prime Time Television
are trademarks of the Parents Television Council.