8/24/2010

TV on DVD Review: Gossip Girl -- The Complete Third Season (2009-2010)



Now Available to Own




Most sudsy teen targeted dramas lose their footing when their main characters exchange hall passes for dorm rooms after the ensemble cast breaks apart into a fragmented dynamic once high school is replaced with college.

Regardless of the genre, from Dawson's Creek to Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Gilmore Girls, viewers typically tune out while waiting for the writers to figure out exactly how to believably reshape their show so that we don't lose the same connection to the group when they begin going their separate ways.

And Gossip Girl was no exception in terms of ratings as the CW series based on Cecily von Ziegesar's bestselling books plummeted to its lowest audience on record when its six most popular characters graduated from the elite Constance Billard prep school to venture onto NYU, Columbia or the business world during the third season of The O.C. creators Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage's Monday night soap.



Despite the fact that – similar to the weak kick-off to the second season -- Gossip predictably required three to five weeks to develop some of the major themes, love triangles and plot points that would arise during the total twenty-two episode run, ultimately season three evolved into quite possibly the show's most addictive, ambitious and cohesive installment so far.

Following up the shocking death of Bart Bass in the second season, the writing staff managed to incorporate the same yearning, isolation, frustration and confusion felt by the show's most valuable scene stealer Chuck Bass (Ed Westwick) and build that into numerous storylines for his fellow Upper East Siders.



After being stalked throughout Europe by the paparazzi while she tried to reach out to her illusive doctor father, Serena (Blake Lively) returns to New York determined to get his attention any way she can, ultimately putting off attending Brown for a year so that she can find herself in the process of finding her father.



While unfortunately for the lovely All-American Lively, Serena mostly finds a series of short-lived relationships in the process, coupling with a few familiar faces and facing her own Lewinski situation in the interim, as she falls for a married politician and predictably dons a beret for a climactic moment.

However, it takes a majority of the season for us to finally ascertain just why her father remained so aloof and why her mother Lily (Kelly Rutherford) lied to her latest husband Rufus (Matthew Settle) about her extended absence at the start of the season which comes to a head in another fabulously confrontational Thanksgiving.

Still it's none other than Chuck Bass who is in for an even greater shock when he stumbles on a woman who may very well be his deceased mother. And along with the progression from high school to college, one of the other most trying creative challenges faced by a long-running series is how to keep a romantic relationship interesting once the two leads have finally gotten together.

Yet even though they each have their moments, per usual, Gossip's writers just can't seem to fully sustain our interest in one of Dan (Penn Badgley), Nate (Chace Crawford), Jenny (Taylor Momsen), Eric (Connor Paolo), Vanessa (Jessica Szohr) or Serena's relationships for very long.

Nonetheless, the best written coupling on the show fittingly centers on the two strongest characters (and actors) as Chuck and Blair (Leighton Meester) continue to keep things sizzling, moving from their Cruel Intentions (or more accurately Dangerous Liasions) styled gameplay to face some compelling curveballs in terms of relatives, business ventures, an indecent proposal and a killer infidelity that I'm sure will set up a great plot twist midway through the fourth season.



Of course it'd be nice to see the writers allow some of the other characters to break out of their ruts by creating a worthwhile plot for Eric aside from offering him a new boyfriend, giving Jenny a personality and physical makeover since the Courtney Love routine is growing stale and ditto for Vanessa's ongoing struggle with her role as “the hipster Blair” because more often than not Blair and Chuck have the most fascinating storylines.

Likewise while it's always up to Prince Charming Nate to save Jenny or Serena and it seems as though there's just nothing – not even a threesome – that's capable of making Dan as exciting as some of the other series regulars, one major strength is that it utilizes the personalities of the actors well particularly in its gala filled season as scandals and intrigue abound at various openings, auctions, and dinners throughout the year.



And because the show was often criticized for the depiction of a party lifestyle for its underage ensemble, considering the fact that a majority of the characters are actively participating in real life away from SAT preparation, the series is able to freely move about the globe without worrying as much about school nights, which makes Gossip Girl far more entertaining as industries, careers and far more serious relationships are now at stake.

To this end, I truly hope that we haven't seen the last of some of the surprising characters and revelations encountered in a much better than anticipated third season WB five-disc set.



Augmented by the incredibly talented, hard-working production and costume design departments that continually make CW's sinfully satisfying Girl the most gorgeous series on television even without its genetically gifted cast, perhaps now that Constance Billard is mostly a thing of the past, if the third season is any indication then the best may be yet to come for Savage and Schwartz's Upper East Siders.


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FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.