"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When she arrives back at home, she's a changed person - quiet, a little withdrawn - but that doesn't last for very long, as she's quickly drawn back into drama, opening with a chilly reception from her former pal, Blair Waldorf (Leighton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 second season of the series is an improvement, and that's after a first season that I was surprised that I found myself liking as much as I did. This time around, the characters are headed off to college, which brings boatload of drama, as acceptance letters do - or don't - arrive. There's also the expected double-crosses and social chess games, with Blair and Chuck circling each other and trouble between Dan and Serena, with the latter having eyes for another. The season also doesn't end without an attempt to unmask the real "Gossip Girl".
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 - she and Lively are delightful sparring against each other, while she's also perfectly matched against Westwick.
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" remains a great deal of fun in the second season, and the series really works as well as it does thanks to the ensemble cast, who do an excellent job playing up the drama while adding an enjoyably dark undercurrent - what could have become another teen melodrama instead continues to be a superb guilty pleasure.
19. 2- 1 1 Sep 08 Summer, Kind of Wonderful
- If you aren't invited to the annual White Party in the Hamptons, you might as well be dead - Jenny's invite must have gotten lost in the mail.
20. 2- 2 8 Sep 08 Never Been Marcused
- Blair is a royal pain, but if Lord Marcus coughs up an engagement ring, she could become just plain royal.
21. 2- 3 15 Sep 08 The Dark Night
- Chuck's stuck on Blair, Nate's stuck between two women and Serena and Dan are stuck in an elevator.
22. 2- 4 22 Sep 08 The Ex-Files
- On again/off again Dan and Serena are off again, but a surprise duo is definitely on.
23. 2- 5 29 Sep 08 The Serena Also Rises
- Blair's jealousy over Serena's prime seat at Fashion Week results in her quest to turn Fashion Week into Hell Week.
24. 2- 6 13 Oct 08 New Haven Can Wait
- Like little lambs who have lost their way, the prepsters visit Yale - where some discover they're out of the Ivy League.
25. 2- 7 20 Oct 08 Chuck In Real Life
- When Vanessa tries to blackmail Blair, Blair gives the newbie a lesson she won't soon forget.
26. 2- 8 27 Oct 08 Pret-a-Poor-J
- Blair attempts to seduce Chuck, while Little J explores her wild side.
27. 2- 9 3 Nov 08 There Might be Blood
- A 15-year-old determined to lose her virginity has three unlikely chaperones determined to stop her.
28. 2-10 10 Nov 08 Bonfire of the Vanity
- Dan digs up dirt on Bart Bass, while Blair meets Eleanor's new squeeze and Aaron wows Serena with a really big surprise.
29. 2-11 17 Nov 08 The Magnificent Archibalds
- There's nothing like a family gathering to tear a family apart.
30. 2-12 1 Dec 08 It's A Wonderful Lie
- A high-risk bet, a booby-trapped dress and a blizzard of romantic schemes highlight this year's Snowflake ball.
31. 2-13 8 Dec 08 O Brother, Where Bart Thou?
- Tragedy strikes the Bass family - and when the going gets tough, trust Chuck to get going - straight to the booze.
32. 2-14 5 Jan 09 In The Realm of the Basses
- With Chuck AWOL, Uncle Jack comes to pick up the pieces.
33. 2-15 12 Jan 09 Gone with the Will
- Bart's will divides his family - but Gossip Girl's school creates a new one: Dan, Jenny, Serena and Eric.
34. 2-16 19 Jan 09 You've Got Yale
- Who's in? Who's out? Blair freaks when those admission emails from Yale start arriving.
35. 2-17 2 Feb 09 Carnal Knowledge
- Blair completes her community service (Dorota does the work), then hatches a plot to destroy Miss Carr.
36. 2-18 16 Mar 09 The Age of Dissonance
- A school production of "The Age of Innocence" demonstrates how guilty Manhattan's elite really are.
37. 2-19 23 Mar 09 The Grandfather
- Nate's grandfather has money, position and political power - and he wants his share, even if it means losing Vanessa.
38. 2-20 30 Mar 09 Remains of the J
- Jenny wants a cozy Sweet 16, but Serena and Poppy want a social tsunami.
39. 2-21 20 Apr 09 Seder Anything
- Blair ditches the family Seder to climb the social ladder, but Nate learns a secret that may knock her down a few rungs.
40. 2-22 27 Apr 09 Southern Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
- Is it true love for Serena and Gabriel? Maybe.
41. 2-23 4 May 09 The Wrath of Con
- Teamed up: Blair and Georgina in a plot to con Poppy. Ticked off: Serena, posing for mug shots at the 55th precinct.
42. 2-24 11 May 09 Valley Girls
- As Serena pouts in jail, Lilly recalls her own brush with the law in 1983, while Blair's prom dreams come true.
43. 2-25 18 May 09 The Goodbye Gossip Girl
- Graduation means that Blair is no longer queen bee, while Serena vows to out the real Gossip Girl.
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: "5th Avenue Meets Gossip Girl" (an enjoyable featurette discussing some of the main locations of the show), "Faces Behind the Design" (a look at members of the crew responsible for creating the show's art and fashion looks), deleted scenes, "Chasing Dorota" websiodes, gag reel and a downloadable audiobook of "Gossip Girl: You Know You Love Me" (read by Christina Ricci), which is a pretty nice extra for fans.
Final Thoughts: Once again, what could have become another teen melodrama instead continues to be a superb guilty pleasure as "Gossip Girl"'s second season continues to entertain. The DVD edition of the season provides very good video quality, fine audio and a nice selection of supplements.