Jul 08, 2021
By Kaveh Jalinous
Photography by Karolina Wojtasik
HBO Max’s Gossip Girl attempts to both reboot and amplify the most famed qualities of the original hit series on the CW, which ran from 2007 to 2012. The first season of the new version has six episodes premiering this summer. The second six episodes will be premiering fall of 2021.
Gossip Girl follows a group of friends at two neighboring elite private high schools on the Upper East Side. While the series gives each character their own separate storyline, the central thread is the roller-coaster relationship between influencer Julien (Jordan Alexander) and her half-sister Zoya (Whitney Peak). Early in the first episode, the two initially come up with a sneaky set-up for Zoya to gain entry into Julien’s popular friend group. After this plan fails spectacularly, they bounce back and forth between being friends and enemies, trying to repair their relationship but sacrificing each other whenever possible.
At the heart of Gossip Girl is Gossip Girl herself. In the reboot, the original blog that spreads all the secret information about “the scandalous lives of Manhattan’s elite” has been replaced with an Instagram account. While the general purpose is the same: to create and bolster tension between all of the main characters, within the first 20 minutes of the pilot Gossip Girl’s identity is revealed. This creates an alternate plotline that pairs with the main story, as the people behind Gossip Girl juggle their personal lives and running the ever-growing account.
In theory, Gossip Girl has all the elements to make its predecessor proud. The series has a lot of pettiness and sass, two of the qualities that made the original so popular. Characters are constantly going behind each other’s backs or one-upping each other. This makes the series hard to watch at times, but keeps it minimally entertaining when not much else does. The series also has a wide-ranging cast of characters, each of whose problems are just unique enough to keep all of the separate plotlines from feeling redundant.
Unfortunately, those two things are the only successes of the Gossip Girl reboot. Most of the show’s issues arise from its dry and generally uninteresting script. There are countless modern-day references, including tons of takes on influencer culture, cancel culture and the destructive power of social media. The problem is that none of these are highlighted in a way that feels young or modern. Watching Gossip Girl often feels like watching a person awkwardly commenting on a younger generation they aren’t a part of. Even though the series actors appear to really be trying, their characters feel awkward, fake, and surprisingly dated.
Additionally, Gossip Girl’s quick and broadly scoped progression in the first few episodes doesn’t do the series any favors. In its eagerness to cement its cast of characters so the series can move on to exploring the drama interspersed between them, the characters aren’t given nearly enough time or attention to connect with viewers. As a result, each of the conflicts feels forced, unnecessary, and forgettable. Additionally, each conflict almost always resolves itself too quickly—often within the span of a single episode—which doesn’t do the script, or series, any favors. More often than not, it’s difficult to watch Gossip Girl because it feels as if there’s nothing to actually take away from it.
The original series was nowhere near being the most profound television of its time, but at least it was entertaining. The Gossip Girl reboot’s uninteresting storylines, paper-thin characters, and lack of purpose cannot even claim that praise. (www.hbomax.com/coming-soon/gossip-girl)
Author rating: 4/10
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