The original run of Gossip Girl was one I watched live. One that I still remember to this day with how frustrating the show would make me, and yet, I could never get enough of these idiots rich kids who got bullied by an anonymous website. Do I think the original run of Gossip Girl aged well? No. But I still found myself excited when the announcement of a reboot was on its way. From the very first footage of the show, I was ready to be taken back into the messy world that is Gossip Girl.
Is the reboot perfect? Far from it, but from the first four episodes, I found myself enjoying some parts of the story, but most of it, the drama and mess that these kids found themselves in.
(This review pertains to the first four episodes of HBO Max’s Gossip Girl)
Let’s address the elephant that is in the room from the get-go and that is the idea of Gossip Girl in itself. At the end of the original run, it was revealed that Dan Humphrey (Penn Bagley) was the mysterious anonymous figure that had been following around the rich kids of Constance and St-Jude. The idea of someone else taking the mantle back and doing it in today’s world seems far fetch but the idea of keeping it hidden from the viewers was just impossible. And the show doesn’t try to do so, instead of revealing the identity of this new figure from the get-go and making it into a plotline of the show in itself. While the teachers reveal works on some level, it does get boring pretty fast. We do not watch Gossip Girl for the teachers, we watch it for the messy students and their lives. So, the focus on teachers who just want to be respected and decide to do so by bullying their students simply don’t seem sustainable. I don’t think Gossip Girl will stay to be the teacher, it is clear that the show will slowly fade that out and bring in the mystery of the figure once more, but for now, it is a thing that just doesn’t always work.
Prior to the show premiering, talks about the show’s political correctness and all made headlines. The way it was framed, made it look like the show would lose a lot of what made the original run of Gossip Girl so enjoyable. Sure, the show hadn’t aged well, but who wanted to watch rich kids act correctly and not use mommy and daddy’s money to get out of situations. And while, yes, the show is more politically correct, that doesn’t mean that the mess isn’t still here. Sure, a character like Obie (Eli Brown) is there to be the rich white kid who acknowledges his privilege, but even then, he is the exception and not the norm. This is still the Gossip Girl we remember, except this time around, they do try and make these kids a little bit more approachable.
The main cast of students in the show is one that I know I will end up loving every single one of. Sure, right now I have my top four, but that is normal, we all get our favourites in a show. But the show balances it out pretty well. It is clear that Julien (Jordan Alexander) and Zoya (Whitney Peak) are the main characters, their dynamic being very similar to Blair (Leighton Meester) and Serena’s (Blake Lively) dynamic but it is also not. This is what the show does so well and that it is subverting expectations. Sure, it does fall into some tropes, but a character like Max (Thomas Doherty) in the original show would have been very one dimensional, but at least here, they give him some nuance, making him more than just the Chuck Bass (Ed Westwick) of the reboot. And that is the thing, each character could be described as a new version of the original show but all of them also could be someone else, the show does a great job at trying to stay in the same universe and play with the things we know but also making it clear that this is different.
Like any ensemble piece, some characters get to shine more than others at first. Of the main cast, the two that suffer the most from that are Monet (Savannah Lee Smith) and Luna (Zión Moreno). The two are the mean girls of the group, the type of bitchy characters that we always see in high school shows and honestly, it is a shame that the show doesn’t give them their time to shine as much as the other (or at least doesn’t yet) because their dynamic is one that I didn’t get enough.
The Gossip Girl reboot won’t be winning awards and making best-of lists in all honestly, but that isn’t what I expected it to do. I wanted a show that would entertain me and bring me back to my teenage years watching messy rich kids being scared of an anonymous figure. It was a show that I loved to hate and I can already tell from the first four episodes, that this will be the case again. Sure, there are some stories that I care about more than others, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t have a good time with the show.
By the end of the fourth episode I had watched, I was excited to see the rest and look forward to be able to continue watching the mess that is Gossip Girl.