Screen Savors: Should your kids watch this?

'Gossip Girl': Glorifying teen drugs, drinking and sex.

gossip girl (photo credit: Courtesy)
gossip girl
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Our journalistic career owes much of its early sparkle to a gossip column, although the administration at the Yeshiva of Central Queens moved quickly to shut it down, leaving our 6th grade Student Express a victim of censorship. Still, we can relate to dishing the dirt, the central theme of Xtra HOT's new CW network import Gossip Girl (Wed, 22:00), even if we can't relate to being young, gorgeous and wealthy in New York City. But while admitting our 50 plus years probably had something to do with us not being bowled over by this show, based on the popular line of novels by Cecily von Ziegesar, one line really red-flagged it for us. For as poor little rich girl Blair's mom gave in to her daughter's choice of cocktail dresses for that evening's party, she told her daughter: "You'll never be more beautiful or thin or happy as you are right now - I just want you to make the most of it." Whoa, mama. if that's not a great contribution to the unfortunate spread of anorexia and bulimia among teenage girls - who we figure must be the main audience for this show - we don't know what is. In fact, there isn't much behavior here you'd really want your teenagers to be replicating, though it's probably going on without you knowing about it. Nonetheless, we still found it disheartening that flashy clothes, cool parties, drinking, drugs and sex were being glorified here above just about anything else. On the other hand, in what is basically a soap opera for teens, that's not surprising. The storyline is fairly simple: the life, loves and partying of New York private school kids, commented on throughout the show by "Gossip Girl" (Veronica Mars's Kristen Bell), a mysterious character who updates everyone on just who she's "spotted" by putting it on her Gossip Girl Web site, the kids jumping to check their cell phones when the latest tidbit has been released. The rest is pretty straightforward in a soap opera way: First, the rich kids: Blair Waldorf and Serena van der Woodsen (dig those high society-sounding names) used to be best girlfriends, until Serena (Blake Lively of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) mysteriously went off to boarding school. Blair's dating hunky Nate, whom Serena had a fling with the previous summer. Nate's best friend Chuck happened to see that tryst, and is using it to try to blackmail Serena, who just wants things to be the way they were. "I miss you - I want things to go back to the way they were... You were like my sister," she tells Blair when they meet to try to patch things up. "I love you, B.," sobs Serena as they agree to make up. "I love you, S." sobs Blair. Groan. Then there are the rich kids wannabe but much more likeable pair, Jenny and Dan Humphrey, who live with their dad, an ex-rocker who once had a thing with Serena's mom. Jenny's desperate to get in with the in crowd, while Dan's got a crush on Serena. Through a series of coincidences, nice-guy Dan scores a date with Serena, who helps him pull Chuck off her on a Manhattan rooftop after Jenny scores what she thought was a lucky invitation to a "Kiss and Tell Party" that featured tuxes, limos, grass, and enough liquor to float a yacht. Our only question: How does an ex-rocker who now runs some kind of art studio afford private school for two kids? The characters are pretty much cutouts: poor Nate, the spoiled rich kid trying to do the right thing, has a father who just won't let him dump the bitchy Blair (the brunette) to go back to Serena (the blond) - it would upset a business deal tied to Blair's family. The kids' parents are all just distractions or obstacles, leading Nate to ask Chuck: "Do you ever feel like our whole lives have been planned out for us - like we're going to end up like our parents?" "Now that's a dark thought," says Chuck. While we wouldn't call the show R-rated, there's plenty of canoodling, but that's not what bothered us about this show. Rather, besides that moment on the rooftop when Chuck the pig got what was coming to him for forcing himself on Jenny, there are precious few values on display here that anyone would want their teens to emulate. OK, there's that old fogey coming out again, but other programs aimed at teens did far better. Joan of Arcadia comes to mind, and there have been others. Still, it could've been worse: we hear Lindsay Lohan was originally supposed to be in the show. That probably would've made all its drug and drinking scenes much more realistic. Bottom line: Gossip Girl may be the talk of your kid's classroom this spring, but outside of the clothes, music and eye candy, it's an unspeakable bore.