Cast: Jordan Alexander, Whitney Peak, Tavi Gevinson, Eli Brown, Thomas Doherty, Emily Alyn Lind, Evan Mock, Zión Moreno, and Savannah Lee Smith.
Four and a half out of five stars
This review covers episodes 1-4 of Gossip Girl. New episodes premiere Thursdays on HBO GO.
There's no denying the appeal of Gossip Girl — who wouldn't want to watch a show about nubile young adults (who act as teens) stirring up drama at every corner, living a decadent life of luxury, all while also managing to eke out time to lead perfectly curated lives online? The original Gossip Girl let us live vicariously through its main characters, as they engaged in habits or kept with fashion trends that only the rich and famous could. And now, the new Gossip Girl looks to fill the shoes (or glass slippers) of its original — and it's a perfect fit!
Gossip Girl is a teen drama that's set in the same universe as the 2007 series of the same name. It revolves around the turbulent lives of wealthy teenagers even as the original Gossip Girl website returns — this time as a gossip Instagram account. However, Gossip Girl has some secrets of her own, and there's never a dull day at school with these privileged students.
Make no mistake — this series has a lot more debauchery than the original, which is evident from the second episode onwards. This is probably due to the fact that Gossip Girl gets to be on a streaming service this time around, rather than being on a television network (with stricter censorship rules). It's raunchier than the original, and in a way, makes the decadent lifestyles of its core character seem more authentic. The scenes definitely skew towards a more diverse crowd, and it's clear that it's more inclusive of different demographics than the original.
Hence, what really stands out is how much more representation the show has — both in terms of orientation, cultures and even fashion. It does more than pay lip service to these demographics (something that many shows which purport to be inclusive do), and actually has storylines that revolve around said demographics. After all, any show about teenagers has to have some coming-of-age tales, and what better way to tell such a story than by having some characters search for their identity? However, it maintains a balance by also covering many other storylines, which it is able to thanks to its large cast.
The drama definitely holds up, making it worthy of its title. The show is not afraid to shake up the status quo, and it seems like every episode has some life-changing moment for its characters. Fans of the original Gossip Girl will remember how the two female leads were frenemies, and how they could backstab each other but go back to being friends in just one episode. The same dynamic can be seen here, with the added wrinkle of two of the characters being related to each other.
The show also features Instagram heavily as a social media site that all the characters use. But instead of just using it as a plot device, the show shows an intimate familiarity with Instagram's myriad functions and how to engineer certain outcomes. It doesn't shy away from the technicalities (which social media geeks may enjoy) and indulges in being ultra-specific with the different aspects of Instagram.
However, the appeal of this reboot lies squarely with the teenage characters. Unlike the original, the adults of the show are just... bland. In fact, some of the adult characters can be downright childish, way more so than the supposed children of Gossip Girl. While it can be construed as making a statement about appearances and such, it feels more like a case of not knowing what to do with the adult characters. Their misadventures just aren't as interesting as those of the core cast.
Gossip Girl is raunchier than its predecessor and holds great promise in just four episodes. If you're a fan of the original, then you'll enjoy seeing a character who bears the same surname as a character from the first series. With so much debauchery and drama going on, this new series seems like it's going to be a winner. XOXO.
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