"Gossip Girl" is the latest effort from "O.C." creator Josh Schwartz, and the series has become just as much of a hit as "The O.C." was early on. "Gossip" is based upon the books by Cecily von Ziegesar and stars Blake Lively ("Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants") as socialite Serena Van der Woodsen who, as the series opens, is arriving at Grand Central Station, fresh from a stint in boarding school after she'd fallen too far into her partying ways.
When she arrives back at home, she's a changed person - quiet, a little withdrawn - but that doesn't last for very long, as she's quickly drawn back into drama, opening with a chilly reception from her former pal, Blair Waldorf (Leighton Meester), as Blair has gotten comfortable in a higher social rank during Serena's absence. Serena also has a reunion with Nate Archibald (Chace Crawford) and Chuck Bass (Ed Westwick) - interesting for her, as she has a history with Nate.
There's also Dan Humphrey (Penn Badgley) and his sister Jenny (Taylor Momsen), who are middle-class and commute in to go to the high-end school that Serena and her friends attend in the city. While Jenny winds up in the midst of Blair's little crowd, Dan has always had feelings from afar for Serena and, to his surprise, the two find themselves getting closer and closer. Meanwhile, Dan's father and Serena's mother have had their own rocky past.
The series is lucky to have Lively as the lead, as she manages to give the character depth and feeling, where in the hands of others it could have easily been one-dimensional. She's a good pairing with Meester, who's terrific as Serena's former friend. Lively also has solid chemistry with Badgley, who looks a little like a younger Mark Ruffalo at times and is kinda playing the Mark Ruffalo role here, too. Some of the dialogue in the series can be rather clunky and corny - especially early on - but the cast generally makes it work. "Veronica Mars" star Kristen Bell narrates as Gossip Girl, the blogger of the title.
"Gossip Girl" is promoted as scandalous and racy, and while the series is certainly for older teens, I didn't find the series as over-the-top as its "OMFG" campaigns would indicate. The series even used its negative press in its favor, with some ads that used quotes like "Every Parent's Nightmare", which - of course - just added up to more buzz.
Overall, I found "Gossip Girl" a touch slow at first, but once the drama really gets rolling, the series starts clicking, thanks largely to an ensemble cast that works particularly well each other.
1. 1- 1 19 Sep 07 Pilot
2. 1- 2 26 Sep 07 The Wild Brunch
3. 1- 3 3 Oct 07 Poison Ivy
4. 1- 4 10 Oct 07 Bad News Blair
5. 1- 5 17 Oct 07 Dare Devil
6. 1- 6 24 Oct 07 The Handmaiden's Tale
7. 1- 7 7 Nov 07 Victor/Victrola
8. 1- 8 14 Nov 07 Seventeen Candles
9. 1- 9 28 Nov 07 Blair Waldorf Must Pie!
10. 1-10 5 Dec 07 Hi, Society
11. 1-11 19 Dec 07 Roman Holiday
12. 1-12 2 Jan 08 School Lies
13. 1-13 9 Jan 08 The Thin Line Between Chuck and Nate
14. 1-14 21 Apr 08 The Blair Bitch Project
15. 1-15 28 Apr 08 Desperately Seeking Serena
16. 1-16 5 May 08 All About My Brother
17. 1-17 12 May 08 Woman on the Verge
18. 1-18 19 May 08 Much 'I Do' About Nothing
VIDEO: "Gossip Girl" is presented by Warner Brothers in 1.78:1 anamrophic widescreen. The episodes generally looked very good, although some minor issues arose at times. Sharpness and detail often remain first-rate, as the picture looks crisp and detail throughout much of the running time. However, some scenes look softer and there are moments where some mild artifacting is visible. On a positive note, colors remain bright and natural, with excellent saturation and no smearing or other faults.
SOUND: The show is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. Audio quality is just fine, although the show's sound design doesn't go far beyond the ordinary - surrounds are used on occasion for ambience and reinforcement of the score, but the majority of the audio is dialogue-driven. Audio quality is fine, with clear dialogue and bassy tunes.
EXTRAS: Deleted scenes, "The Beginning" featurette, "Gossip Girl Couture" featurette, "A Gossip Girl Wedding" featurette, a lengthy gag reel, music videos and downloadable audiobook of the original bestselling novel (read by Christina Ricci).
Final Thoughts: Fans of the hip WB drama should be pleased with this first season DVD set, which offers very good audio/video quality, as well as a decent set of supplements. Recommended.