Gossip Girl: The Complete Second Season (2009, Warner Bros.)
purchase from Amazon: DVD
The drama! The sex! The glamour! Yes, the CWÁ¢€â„¢s hit teen drama, Gossip Girl, is back on DVD in a whopping seven-disc set that contains all 25 episodes from its sophomore season, plus plenty of bonus booty to make this collection well worth your while. For those of you who enjoy your teen dramas with a flair for the melodramatic and a slick voiceover from the former Veronica Mars, Kristen Bell, Gossip Girl is a hell of a way to spend an hour. But I must warn you, watching just one episode of Gossip Girl is trying to eat just one Rice Krispie treat when there is a plateful in front of you: ItÁ¢€â„¢s very difficult. You may think youÁ¢€â„¢re only going to watch one of these guilty pleasures, but three hours later youÁ¢€â„¢re wondering where the time went, and why you feel so good.
If youÁ¢€â„¢ve never entered the world of the Upper East Side New York elite who occupy this world, and youÁ¢€â„¢ve never cracked open one of Cecily von ZiegesarÁ¢€â„¢s Gossip Girl novels, (which the series is based upon) then let me fill you in, my friends. First there are the van der Woodsens, led by former teenage queen bee Serena (Blake Lively), her younger brother, Eric (Connor Paolo) and their mother, Lily (Kelly Rutherford), who is on to her fourth husband. He would be Bart Bass (Robert John Burke), whose son, the perpetually drunk Chuck (Ed Westwick) is one of the most cunning and sinister young men in SerenaÁ¢€â„¢s circle of friends. SerenaÁ¢€â„¢s best friend is the comely Blair Waldorf (Leighton Meester), who has taken over the throne of queen bee of the mean girls at their private school. ChuckÁ¢€â„¢s best friend is the dashing Nate Archibald (Chace Crawford) whose father has stolen millions and fled the country, leaving Nate and his mother to fend for themselves. Finally, there are the Humphreys, a family of three living in Brooklyn that include Dan (Penn Badgley), his wannabe sister, Jenny (Taylor Momsen) and their former rock star dad, Rufus (Matthew Settle). The only character who is not a part of the rich crowd is Vanessa (Jessica Szohr), an old flame of DanÁ¢€â„¢s who becomes an integral part of almost every characterÁ¢€â„¢s life.
Even if youÁ¢€â„¢ve never watched an episode of Gossip Girl, it wonÁ¢€â„¢t take long to figure out the relationships. Dan and Serena love each other but canÁ¢€â„¢t get their act together. TheyÁ¢€â„¢re even more hesitant to further their feelings for each other because their parents, Lily and Rufus, were once lovers and have rekindled the flame. Blair and Nate were once a couple, but Serena slept with Nate, nearly destroying the girlsÁ¢€â„¢ friendship. No worries because Blair and Chuck are in love, even though the cad canÁ¢€â„¢t admit it to her. Nate, meanwhile, really likes Vanessa, even though he begins an affair with an older woman (Madchen Amick) and flirts with the impressionable Jenny. On the periphery are Eric; LilyÁ¢€â„¢s mother, CeCe (Caroline Lagerfelt), who is nearly as conniving as he daughter; BlairÁ¢€â„¢s mother, Eleanor (Margaret Colin), a fashion designer for whom Jenny works for and betrays; and EleanorÁ¢€â„¢s new husband, Cyrus Rose (the inconceivably fun Wallace Shawn).
Did you get all that? Yeah, I know, itÁ¢€â„¢s a lot to take in. Fortunately, this box set provides excellent recaps for every episode (which you can turn on or off in the DVD menu), as well as a thorough recap of the entire first season. Although Gossip Girl is slick, the writing is witty and doesnÁ¢€â„¢t make you feel like you’re getting hit over the head with a hammer (like, say, the new 90210). The writers are obviously having a good time writing the show, and it comes through in the performances. Everyone brings their Á¢€ËœAÁ¢€ game. Like any good teen drama, Gossip Girl is able to make you care about these characters. It doesnÁ¢€â„¢t matter that theyÁ¢€â„¢re part of the ultra rich and that 98% (or more) of the general public canÁ¢€â„¢t relate to their social standing; although money is an afterthought to these kids, theyÁ¢€â„¢re still teenagers. TheyÁ¢€â„¢re still going through the same rites of passages as most kids: girlfriend/boyfriend troubles; parent troubles; getting into college; trying to maintain loyal friendships. Granted, their lives are much easier than their viewers’, but the themes of adolescence are there to attract a teen audience. As for the outrageous behavior of these teens — when do they study if theyÁ¢€â„¢re out clubbing every night? — I might be somewhat concerned as a parent if I wasnÁ¢€â„¢t such a fan of Skins, the brilliant BBC series that has no boundaries. What you see in Gossip Girl — young adults partying, having sex, etc. — is no different from the beer-guzzling football players in Friday Night Lights or the horny kids in Degrassi, two critically acclaimed dramas.
For me, the reason to watch Gossip Girl is Ed Westwick and his brilliance as the smartass, soulless antihero Chuck Bass. With glee he channels Robert Downey, Jr. and James Spader from every movie they made in the ’80s — and speaking of the ’80s, the penultimate episode of the second season, Á¢€Å“Valley Girls,Á¢€ features flashbacks to LilyÁ¢€â„¢s life in Malibu during the early 1980s. The casting of this episode was pitch perfect, with Brittany Snow (Hairspray) as the teenage Lily, Krysten Ritter (Veronica Mars) as her older sister, Carol, and the priceless Ryan Hansen (Party Down) as one of their friends. The episode also features ’80s heartthrob Andrew McCarthy as LilyÁ¢€â„¢s father. The whole episode is a good fun, despite the lame No Doubt appearance.
I know what youÁ¢€â„¢re all thinking, Á¢€Å“CÁ¢€â„¢mon, Malchus, arenÁ¢€â„¢t you the guy that bemoans the fact that these rich kid characters get exposure while shows like Friday Night Lights, shows about average people, struggle to get viewers?Á¢€ YouÁ¢€â„¢re right. I do wish that a show like Friday Night Lights could be as popular as Gossip Girl. But that doesnÁ¢€â„¢t mean Gossip Girl doesnÁ¢€â„¢t deserve accolades and the attention it receives. Besides all 25 episodes, the DVD box has a load of bonus features, including gag reels, a tour of the favorite haunts of the characters, a look at the creative forces behind the showÁ¢€â„¢s art and fashion, and my favorite, a downloadable audio book of the bestselling novel, Gossip Girl: You Know You Love Me, by Cecily von Ziegesar, read by Christina Ricci.
Still not sold? Fine, IÁ¢€â„¢ll put my money where my mouth is. Granted, itÁ¢€â„¢s only the $5.00 IÁ¢€â„¢ll be paying for shipping and handling, but I have a brand new copy of the this DVD set, plus a gaudy mini t-shirt available to give away to one lucky reader. All you have to do is tell me what Gossip Girl and Lex Luthor have in common (and no, the fact that theyÁ¢€â„¢re both owned by Time Warner isnÁ¢€â„¢t the answer). The first person to e-mail me the correct answer wins the prize. Good luck!