TV review: Gossip Girl
GOSSIP GIRL (M18)
Watching the sequel to the popular teen drama of the same name that ran from 2007 to 2012 will just make fans of the original miss it even more.
And come to the realisation that its successor - currently showing on HBO Go - is but a pale replica of the real deal.
Sure, Kristen Bell's familiar voiceover for the anonymous and omniscient blogger-narrator known as "Gossip Girl" ("your one and only source into the scandalous lives of Manhattan's elite") is the aural equivalent of comfort food.
You know you love her, but I am afraid there is no XOXO for 2021's Gossip Girl.
Other than throwaway references in the pilot episode to the previous cast of characters, do not expect anyone from the current roster to sustain the same level of interest or be even half as appealing as Serena van der Woodsen, Blair Waldorf, Dan Humphrey, Chuck Bass and Nate Archibald - pop culture icons of this reviewer's time.
Developed by showrunner Joshua Safran, a writer and executive producer on the original series, Gossip Girl returns to the Upper East Side with its spotlight on a new generation of privileged students at Constance Billard School for Girls and St Jude's School for Boys as they navigate an evolving world of social media surveillance.
The new twist is that it is a group of hapless, bullied teachers (led by Tavi Gevinson) who revive the "Gossip Girl" persona on Instagram to take power back from their teenage tormentors - namely Queen Bee/It girl Julien (Jordan Alexander) and her Mean Girls posse.
What follows is a cringey, ultra-contrived set-up, involving Julien's wide-eyed half-sister Zoya (Whitney Peak) who is new in town/school but somehow decides to dethrone Julien at the end of the episode, and Julien's wealthy do-gooder boyfriend Obie (Eli Brown) who ends up dumping her to develop a relationship with Zoya.
Perhaps a more interesting love triangle will develop on the sidelines. The only one closest to being a Chuck Bass is bisexual bad boy Max (Thomas Doherty from Descendants fame), who comes between dating couple Audrey (Emily Alyn Lind) and Aki (Evan Mock).
The show's attempt at being more diverse, with non-white and LGBT leads, is a welcome course correction.
But maybe this Gen-Z reboot of a millennial classic is content to be strictly for its target audience, instead of one for the ages. - JEANMARIE TAN