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It’s been 10 years. 10 long years since she snuck tantalizingly into our lives. With a whiff of something scandalous (ok, probably DKNY New York) and the promise of something elite, her updates became addictive over the six years her observations survived the writers’ strike and her popularity predicted the rise of social media. I’m talking, of course, about Gossip Girl. “You know you love me,” she smirks at the end of each episode, and we’re here on the 10th anniversary of the seminal show chronicling the ups and downs of the Upper East Side’s not-so-guilty rich to celebrate the ten reasons why we do.
The OC: sun-drenched surf country populated with improbably beautiful teenagers (and their DILF parents) playing out small-time dramas against big-time budget houses. Once that had drawn to a close, the producers needed a new group of over-privileged teens to capture the zeitgeist. Around the same time, the gossip and blogging industries collided (fun fact – the book series on which the show is based pre-dates Perez Hilton) and the books – a series chronicling the lives of a group of filthy rich Manhattan teens, told through the eyes of an anonymous gossip blogger; a Fitzgerald drama for the 21st century – were so of the moment it was a gift to any producer. A phenomenon was in the making.
Ever heard of Blake Lively (The Age of Adaline, The Shallows, Mrs. Ryan Reynolds), Ed Westwick (Chalet Girl, White Gold) or Leighton Meester (Country Strong)? Chances are, without Gossip Girl, you may never have. Like The OC before it, the show catapulted a bunch of lesser-known teens to stratospheric fame and surfaced some serious talent. Questionable movie choices (and, quite frankly, terrible characters) in some cases notwithstanding, it brought us a whole new crop of beautiful young stars to obsess over (ok, just Heat magazine). A whole bunch of future supporting stars for shows such as Brooklyn 99, Arrow and The Good Wife came via these mean streets of the Upper East Side. It’s impossible, in particular, not to mention the peerless Michelle Trachenberg’s returning guest role (as a cross between Cruella Deville and Catherine Merteuil): her single eyebrow raises alone, as she delivers biting line after biting line, is an absolute must-see.
The guest stars
In any one season of Gossip Girl, you’ll spy a pre-Marvel Sebastian Stan, a pre-Ritchie Armie Hammer and a non-singing Aaron Tveit before they went big in blockbusters. And you can enjoy playing Spot The Celeb, from Rachel Zoe and Leigh Lezark to Sonic Youth (more on that later) and, er, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner. The show firmly plants itself in its elite New York setting in the same way that Sex and the City did before it, with a list of cameos to boot. Plus Liz Hurley’s recurring role is to die for.
Speaking of to die for… you can’t set a show in one of the world’s fashion capitals and not have the best looks in the books. From making cravats for men cool again to trying to make headbands happen (for girls, mostly), the absolute glut of wall-to-wall looks from episode to episode is compulsive in a manner not seen since Carrie and friends. Are you a boho beauty like Serena, or prim and proper like Blair? Would you rock Chuck’s cravat (and red basketball onesie) or stick to Nate’s (Ralph Lauren) shirt and jeans? Whoever you are, there’s a look for you. Even if you say you’re not into that. We won’t judge.
Hard as it was not to judge the ridiculousness of the drama, as each series’ big reveal got more and more ridiculous, you can’t have a show about rich kids without inventing some huge problems for them to stress over. Manslaughter, parental feuds, conspiracy, fraud, fake identities and a love child? That’s barely even the half of it. It makes Pretty Little Liars look like Peppa Pig.
A teen show is often the stage for many lesser-known bands before they go stratospheric (Gotye’s massive hit Somebody That I Used To Know featured on GG years before it hit the mainstream) and, like The OC’s The Bait Shop before it, Gossip Girl’s numerous glamorous parties give excuses for loads of glamorous performances, from Robyn and St Vincent to Lady Gaga and Florence and the Machine. It’s not all the newbies, though – Cyndi Lauper and Sonic Youth are two notable retro groups who pop up for the parental crowd.
We’ve already raved about Michelle Trachenberg’s excellent put-downs, but you can’t have a show steeped in OTT dramas without some great zingers. Have fun playing spot the reference in every pun-based episode title (A Thin Line Between Chuck And Nate, for example), as well as enjoying a witty script that fizzes and pops with pop culture references. If you’re a fan of Riverdale’s wry references to current culture tinged with hyperbole on levels unknown, you need to see the originator right here.
A show set in New York’s most affluent neighbourhood should be enough, but why not up the ante? Season openers in Paris and LA really sort that out. But it’s not just about the other timezones; like SatC, this is a show that’s as much a love letter to NYC as to the fantastical teen culture it’s celebrating. Gossip Girl tours are big business State-side, but for those not on that budget, the show plays like the perfect guidebook for the best eateries, coffee shops, designer stores and posing stops for anyone exploring the city for the first time. Or second. Or third.
The guessing game
The big one. Who is Gossip Girl? Over six seasons of clue-spotting, misdirection and a whole host of whodunnits, you do finally get to find out. Maybe you’ll guess it from the off (watching it back for the millionth time, there’s a beautifully obvious tell right from the beginning), maybe you’ll shout in incredulity at the telly, once you work it out, but all the way through the ridiculous dramas, it’s the one fun twist you still get to work out right down to the final few minutes. In a series before anonymous Twitter trolls and website whistleblowers were a thing, the concept was new and fresh when it began and pleasingly nostalgic when it ended.
Look, autumn’s rolled in early and we all need a warm, comforting slanket to slip into. Let Gossip Girl be the most stylish slanket you rock this fall. You know you love it. XOXO.
Gossip Girl is available on Netflix UK, as part of £7.49 monthly subscription.
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