Wednesday, September 19, 2007

I grow old. I shall wear my trousers rolled.

Today's column was written while I had W.G. Snuffy Walden's "thirtysomething" theme on a constant loop on my iPod, just to remind me of my age. An excerpt:
Deep breath... It's time to review one of the fall's most controversial new shows, a weekly hour-long series where kids are allowed to create a world unencumbered by adult supervision, one where they're free to engage in all kinds of dangerous behavior, all in the name of televised entertainment.

No, not CBS' "Kid Nation," in which 40 kids are let loose in an old movie ghost town set, and which has been plagued all summer with accusations of child endangerment and circumvention of child labor laws. CBS didn't send that out for review (the sort of tactic movie studios use with Rob Schneider movies) and, besides, I expect the actual version that airs will, like "Wife Swap" and the "Survivor" season divided by race before it, turn out to be far less scandalous than all the advance hype would suggest.

No, I'm talking about "Gossip Girl" (9 p.m., Ch. 11), the new teen soap adapted from Cecily von Ziegesar's best-selling series of young adult novels about privileged teens attending a Manhattan prep school. None of the cast members accidentally drank bleach, and none of the actors' parents were asked to sign confidentiality clauses with $10 million dollar penalties (two more charges levied at "Kid Nation"). But the show takes place in a setting where the teen characters are the alpha and the omega, the rulers of their own destiny. They do what they want, whenever they want -- the pilot episode features underage drinking, drug use and sex -- and the adult characters are so irrelevant they may as well be voiced by trombones like in the Charlie Brown cartoons.
To read the full thing (which has some mild spoilers for the pilot), click here.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Really? They used trombones for the adult voices in Charlie Brown? As for GG, sounds like something my 5th grade daughter's classmates will watch (some with their moms--great role models, eh?). Nice Prufrock reference, by the way.

LDP said...

Nate Archibald?

_bales said...

Hi Alan, sorry for going off on a tangent, but with regards to your "thirtysomething" reference, I would love to hear what you think of the various Ed Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz collaborations, e.g. "My So-Called Life" and "Once and Again". What's your opinion on their new show "quarterlife" (http://quarterlife.com/), which will be shown over the internet? Many thanks, and love reading your articles!

Alan Sepinwall said...

They used trombones for the adult voices in Charlie Brown?

Or something that sounded an awful lot like trombones.

Nate Archibald?

Schwartz likes his pop culture references. The dad's one-hit wonder band is called Lincoln Hawk, which was the name of Sylvester Stallone's character in "Over the Top."

Bales, when I get around to watching Quarterlife, I'll do a post on it. I've liked some Herskozwick shows more than others, but they always do interesting stuff.

Matt said...

I'm somewhat ashamed to admit that I've read most of the books--they're like crack, I tell you--highly addictive and very bad for you. The "Nate Archibald" character name is from the books, not a Schwartz add. The show has also made the decision to shift the focus--in the books, Blair is clearly the lead (and is just as bitchy as she is in the pilot), while Serena is less of the focus. Here, Serena's been given a "bad girl goes good" angle (along with a subplot about her brother not in the book) and is clearly the focus.

The content's only slightly modified from the book. The drinking and drugs are all there, though the sex is turned down a little. (IIRC, Blair "presents herself" to Nate nude in the book and he fails to perform, rather than in a negligee.)

Alan Sepinwall said...

The show has also made the decision to shift the focus--in the books, Blair is clearly the lead (and is just as bitchy as she is in the pilot), while Serena is less of the focus.

Speaking of shifting focus, while I'm lamenting the marginialization of the adult characters, the NY Times critic (who's also read the books) complains that Schwartz has actually made them far more important than they were in the books.

You just can't win with us bitchy critics, y'know?

Matt said...

Yes, some of the adults (Mr. Humphrey in particular) have a little bigger role, and the prior relationship between Mr. Humphrey and Mrs. van der Woodsen is new, but Blair's dad is not present on the show. (For which I am thankful, since his presence in the books was basically a tool to allow Blair to whine "but Daddeeee!" and to kinda ridicule Jann Wenner.)

Dark Tyler said...

I actually like what Schwartz is doing with the parents. Obviously that is mainly because of previous knowledge, that is, the Cohens in The OC. I expect a couple of the older people here to receive the same treatment.

As for the show in general, I haven't read the books (I hadn't heard of the books) but I have to admit that I loved what I saw. Not that I don't like my Gilmore Girls and my Grey's Anatomy and my O.C., but once in a while it's kinda refreshing for a drama to emerge where there is absolutely no tongue-in-cheek, no witty self-aware jokes, no Jerry Lewis pop references, no *hint hint nudge nudge* score indicating the moments where we're supposed to enjoy the campness etc.

In short, I was surprised to see a creator having the guts to take his material 100% seriously, and present it in such a straight and, erm, sober way. So to speak.

Adam said...

I just want to know if we should watch Top Model or Kid Nation at 8pm tonight, and that lack-of-preview is really killing us.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Haven't seen either one yet, Adam. Sorry.

Jason said...

Although I didn't find "Gossip Girl" to be the worst show of the fall -- that's "Big Shots," thank you very much -- I did find it despicable. There's an "O.C." in there trying to get out, namely the two kids of the burned-out rock star and the deposed Queen Bee who's now an outcast... but the emphasis instead is on all the poor spoiled rich kids and their misbehavior.

I don't think she show is poorly done, although the characters are ciphers and the acting is not particularly strong. But I found its content reprehensible. It's an evil, empty, cynical little show.

I realize at 36 I'm not the target audience for this show, but I weep for the people who are in the target demo, because this is the kind of show that gives Hollywood the reputation it gets among the smug, moralizing, PTC set.

Joshua said...

Do I dare to eat a peach?

Mike Mac said...

Totally off-topic, I apologize Alan, but I'm not sure where else to put this: Bill Simmons of ESPN.com has a great little article in support of Friday Night Lights that I think you and many of your W.A.W. readers will enjoy:

http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=simmons/070919


again, apologies for posting off-topic

Crewgrrl said...

Maybe because I'm slightly closer to the target demo... I really liked it. Though I was feeling slightly pervy about how cute I thought Dan was since he is 5 years younger than me. I'm also a relatively new New Yorker and I love how New York, particularly my neighborhood, were so prominent. It was like the Park Avenue Peerage blog only with Josh Schwartz and on tv.

Anonymous said...

From the article Mike Mac posted:

"Every man at some point in his life is going to lose a battle. He's going to fight, and he's going to lose. But what makes him a man is that in the midst of that battle, he does not lose himself."

See, it's quotes like this that make me very much not want to tune into FNL, because very, very few characters can spout lines covered in that much cheese make them work, and most of them are fictional presidents played by Martin Sheen. I don't want to derail the thread talking about this, especially since I'm Canadian and not a Nielsen household and so my watching any show won't help keep it on the air, but can someone please tell me the dialogue on FNL is usually better than that?

M said...

It's usually better than that. Although yes, very few characters can spout those kind of lines and make them work, but in this particular context, Kyle Chandler did.

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