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Customer Review

40 of 49 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great characters but increasing narrative problems threaten the future of the show, June 20, 2009
This review is from: Gossip Girl: Season 2 (DVD)
I'm probably going to be in a minority here, but more and more I became unhappy with GOSSIP GIRL in its second season. It isn't the characters. The show has a nice ensemble cast, nearly all of them nicely acted by the performers portraying them.

To explain why I have been increasingly discontent with the show, I need to call attention to one of the reasons I have enjoyed Josh Schwartz's two other shows. Both THE O.C. and CHUCK are character based serials. Both tell stories about how characters change and evolve over multiple episodes. For instance, a conflict between Summer and Seth on THE O.C. might develop and get resolved over a 14 or 15 episode arc. Story arcs for any of the major characters would extend over whole seasons. Much the same is true with CHUCK. The friendship between Chuck and Casey, for instance, took pretty much two full seasons to develop.

Now, contrast this with GOSSIP GIRL. More and more GOSSIP GIRL has become a show for viewers with attention deficit disorder. My guess is that the main inspiration for the increasingly shorter and shorter story arcs is the CW. This isn't the kind of change in a show that producers like to make. I blame the CW. Basically networks hate story arcs. They absolutely abhor shows have complex story arcs that extend over 7 or 8 or 9 episodes. This tension has been a part of prime time television ever since HILL STREET BLUES popularized story arcs on American television. But the network decreed that there could be only six separate arcs at a time, that preferably no arc would extend beyond six weeks, and at least one arc would be resolve each week.

Dedicated fans of shows generally love story arcs. Shows like BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, ANGEL, FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, LOST, BREAKING BAD, TRUE BLOOD, DOLLHOUSE, THE GILMORE GIRLS, VERONICA MARS, and BATTLESTAR GALACTICA get fanatical fans in large part because of the complexity of the stories. Networks hate the complex arcs because while the stories are thrilling for the ongoing fans, potential new fans can find the complexity of the stories too intimidating. The pattern for most such shows is a general loss of viewership as the shows go along. If you didn't get into LOST at the beginning, it is tough to jump in later.

Along the way -- that is, between 1981 and the present -- TV developed some alternatives that for casual TV viewers are ideals, but that for serious TV viewers felt regressive. The network that has almost completely embraced these alternative is CBS, which is almost fully committed to procedurals, whether medical, legal, or criminal. These shows do not have arcs. Each episode tells a self-contained story. All the conflict introduced in each episode is resolved in that episode. There is no character development. In a way, nothing ever happens on those shows. Jerry Orbach's character on LAW AND ORDER was the same on the last day of his very, very, very long run on the show as on the very first day.

Which brings us to GOSSIP GIRL. Season One of GOSSIP GIRL more or less focused on long story arcs. Dan and Serena's relationship developed over much of the season. Blair and Nate's relationship ended very, very slowly and her relationship with Chuck developed even more slowly. This made for good TV and for very satisfying viewing.

Season Two of GOSSIP GIRL, however, almost completely abandoned the long story arc. What would have been major romantic arcs in Season One were completed in two or three episodes. We frequently saw a character meet a new romantic interest, have that relationship dealt with in a couple of episodes, and then ended. If you take any character on the show and map their story over the course of the year, they went through a large number of changes. The pace of the show was dizzying. And increasingly unsatisfying. The show repeatedly proved that more is sometimes less.

By the end of Season Two, I was on the fence about whether to continue watching it. I still am. By the end of Season Two I was so irritated by what I knew was going to be merely a two or three episode arc that I could barely make myself watch it. The show became trivial. If something happened between Nate and Blair, you knew that two more episodes might see a complete reversal. Any relationship between any two characters was rendered almost meaningless. I knew that nothing that happened on the show would hold true for more than a couple of episodes. Contrast this with Seth and Summer's relationship on THE O.C. One reason that it was compelling was that while they went through their ups and downs, they managed to stick together for several years.

Is there any hope for GOSSIP GIRL? I'm doubtful at this point. Although the ratings for the show were atrocious, it scored high in the demographic that the CW is targeting as its main viewer base: young girls. But more and more it ceased being a show that could also appeal to adults. The WB build much of its base on shows that appealed both to teens and adults, shows like BUFFY, THE GILMORE GIRLS, and FELICITY. But if it continues to avoid long story arcs, the viewership for GOSSIP GIRL is going to be increasingly that of people who only like very short story arcs. I'm not optimistic. This is too bad, because they have some good, likable characters. I would like to be given stories concerning them about which I could be interested.
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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jun 21, 2009 10:08:20 PM PDT
Wood Notlie says:
great review, i completely concur. i will not continue to watch, this season was a complete and utter failure that i even sold my season one dvd set. i watched all of season two after a long hiatus and was not satisfied from the jumps the plots made in each episode. this show is driven by character plot advancements and when they stopped developing well, there was nothing left to hold onto. at least with grey's you have some over the top, crazy medical crisis.

Posted on Jun 21, 2009 11:17:25 PM PDT
mizkitteh says:
I couldn't agree more.

Posted on Jun 27, 2009 1:59:40 PM PDT
I can see your point. At the pace it's going I'm afraid it's going to get cancelled because its too simplistic no one really will care and then I will be very sad. It is my favorite show but the last episodes of the second season did not transition too well--for instance, I would have liked to see how Poppy was caught. Yes, Georgina did it but I was waiting for some chase scene that never happened unfortunately. I was like "that's it?" I was also hoping to see Gossip Girl. Oh well, I just hope the next season does not disappoint.

Posted on Jun 30, 2009 5:50:09 PM PDT
BBaker says:
"The pace of the show was dizzying. And increasingly unsatisfying" I agree completely with your analysis of S2!
The season became about fast moving storylines that left me feeling empty and unsatisfied...kind of like eating bad fast food. I miss that slow, torturous burn of the relationships developed in S1.

BTW you have a little typo, its Blair and NATE that ended their relationship in S1 (".....Blair and Dan's relationship ended very, very slowly..")

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 2, 2009 6:35:21 PM PDT
Robert Moore says:
Ah, thanks. Correction made. To be honest, I'm not terribly great with names.

I like the way you put it, Cynthia. You miss "that" show, the one it was in Season One. I agree completely. "That" show was a good one. I'm not as excited about the current one. And now with the word that Hillary Duff will have a run on the show as Dan's (and I did get that name right) love interest my optimism continues to wane. At least with Hillary Duff, the shorter arc could prove an advantage. We don't get stuck with her for as long!

Posted on Jun 17, 2012 9:16:32 PM PDT
Jared Turner says:
This has got to be the best, most honest and spot on review of the second season of gossip girl ever. Truly amazing work :)

Posted on Dec 23, 2012 9:08:26 PM PST
Valerie says:
This is a great review of the entire rest of the show from season 2 through season 6, the final season, while they attempted to tie up the show with a big red bow, it left me with a "WTH"...

I am not a young viewer, I got sucked into this show by my daughters, who are and the more I watched it the more "dumbed" down I got by the way they shortened the relationships within the show...if you continue to watch further on past season 2, which by the way, all 5 seasons are on Netflix now, which is how I watched them, you will wonder if there was a way you could have gotten all that time of your life back.
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Review Details

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Reviewer

Robert Moore
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   

Location: Little Rock, AR USA

Top Reviewer Ranking: 327