Gossip Girl is not a good television program.
Most of you already probably knew this. Hell, I knew this. Because of the series’ pedigree (the Josh Schwarz/Stephanie Savage part, not the teen girl novel part), I watched Girl during the first season and found it to be moderately charming. Less so than The OC, but more so than something like One Tree Hill (which I can neither confirm nor deny that I always watched for an extended period of time). But very quickly in the series’ second season, things started to shift towards a version of Gossip Girl I didn’t really care about. The series fell victim to the classic teen drama second season issue by bringing in a boatload of new characters to hook up with the original cast members, if only for an episode or two. Of course most of those characters sucked and the fact that absolutely none of them are still around speaks volumes.*By the middle of season two, I was out on Girl, though I kept general tabs thanks to the paratextual discourse on it.
*The fact that there have been exactly zero series regulars added to the cast since season one is sort of staggering to me. I know it’s a staple of the genre to bring in temporary love interests, but good lord, wouldn’t one of them stick?
Sometime this past winter, I heard that Gossip Girl was finally going “there” with its two best characters in Dan and Blair. Not only was this apparently a nice change of pace for the series that allowed its two best young performers to play off one another, but it also seemed to be a storyline the writers took very, very seriously. I remember reading a few interviews with EP Joshua Safran where he talked about how the Blair-Dan pairing had been in works for a long time, how it was being slow-played with finesse because it was so compelling and important, etc. etc. etc. Even though I was completely disinterested in the series as a whole and far from a “Dair” shipper, the thought of Dan and Blair together intrigued me mightily, especially if the production team was so dedicated to telling their story. It could be like Pacey and Joey all over again!
With this in mind, last week, I went back to the middle of season four, starting with “Gaslit,” with the hopes of catching up. Generally, I still found the series to be kind of insufferable. I am a MASSIVE fan of the teen drama genre, but even my love for the genre can gloss over the fact that Gossip Girl is full of legitimately and unintentionally unlikable specimens (it feels like a stretch to call them human beings or people). I know that my Dan and Blair-related viewing agenda was clearly going to color my viewing, but even those biases cannot make up for the fact that Serena is a horrible character, Nate basically morphs in and out of his loft with no real story and Vanessa might be one of the worst television characters of all-time. Worse, apart from Vanessa, I think we are supposed to these people. I have no idea how that would be possible for someone with a human brain. The crazy thing is that this series is supposed to be less awful now because Taylor Momsen is not around. If it wasn’t for Ed Westwick and some of the adult characters, I would have most certainly fast-fowarded through everything not involved Dan and Blair. As I said on Twitter, I kind of wish someone made “Dair” edits of each episode that included solely their scenes together. You know, like that one dude did with his flash-sideways-less version of Lost S6.
But despite that, I kept with it because Safran’s press interviews were right. The Blair and Dan scenes appeared to be meticulously planned and plotted, especially compared to the other kind of “stories” different characters found themselves in. Leighton Meester and Penn Badgley have really fun, interesting chemistry with one another and the construction of their relationship seemed realistic and natural inasmuch a relationship on a teen drama can be constructed. In short, it was a total breath of fresh air in what has become (and probably always been) a dry, somewhat lifeless series.
Which is of course why the series has basically moved on or at least put the relationship on the complete back-burner over the last two episodes and presumably, for the rest of the season. After watching last night’s “The Princesses and the Frog,” I started to realize how frustrating it must be to be a die-hard shipper of some relationship. I wasn’t particularly angry that “Frog” focused entirely on Blair’s possible and now temporarily confirmed engagement to the prince of Monaco and Chuck’s descent into druken rage because of it, but I was most certainly frustrated. The believer in me kept hoping that Dan would somehow be involved in this war for Blair’s heart, even if it mostly betrayed the dynamic the previous ten episodes had gone so far to establish. Meester is fun and Westwick is good when Chuck is completely self-destructive, but I found it very hard to give a crap, especially when I spent a few days last week trying to catch up on the series for entirely different reasons.
In the most basic of ways, I understand the writers’ logic in pulling the two of them apart. The kiss clearly meant something to both of them, Blair’s trying to do the opposite of what she wants and Dan’s just sort of doing what Dan does. But for this episode to nearly completely ignore their developing relationship and act as if Blair’s stories with the prince and Chuck or Dan’s nonsense with this new girl have been driving the season is completely and utterly stupid. Not just from a slightly shipper-y perspective, but from a storytelling perspective. I’d like to hope that the next two episodes will bring their relationship back to the forefront, but small spoilers and episode descriptions suggest otherwise. It makes very little sense as to why, as a writer, you’d take a story that powered almost half a season and just bury it at the end of the season. If you can tell, I’m sort of angry that I spent time catching up with this series.
I would spend time discussing this episode’s other plots, but that would require for there to be anything else interesting to happen. But this is Gossip Girl, and if you remember, it is not a good television program.