As the first pure CW show to hit 100 episodes, “Gossip Girl” can add durability to its list of achievements for the network.
“It was the CW’s first real cultural hit and truly shaped the brand of the network more than any other series,” says CW president Mark Pedowitz. “?’Gossip Girl’ spoke to audiences by looking at a world that was both relatable and not reachable.”
Narrated by an anonymous blogger keeping tabs on the rich and privileged in Manhattan, “Gossip Girl” launched in September 2007 as one of the most anticipated shows of the season. Four years and 100 episodes later, with the CW’s other early offerings like “Life Is Wild” and “Hidden Palms” having long ago faded to black, the exploration of wealth and manipulation on New York’s Upper East Side has proven to be a long-lasting phenomenon.
Thanks to its New York Times bestseller pedigree, the show had controversy and pop-culture cred even before its debut. In contrast to family-friendly shows from the CW’s ancestral WB network, including “Gilmore Girls” and the overtly religious “7th Heaven,” TV critics and the Parents Television Council were quick to condemn the racy teen romp that dealt with sex, betrayal, drugs and obscene amounts of money in the hands of morally questionable and troubled teens and their even more ethically challenged parents.
“I would never let my teenager do some of the things I saw on that pilot, that’s for sure,” says WB president Peter Roth with a chuckle. “But I don’t consider the show salacious. I consider the show truthful.”
For creators Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, the scandalous lives of the bratty and privileged was never what attracted them to the project.
“We certainly weren’t looking to use the show as a platform to teach kids how to behave,” says Schwartz. “But we didn’t conceive the show for shock value. We were excited about the idea of doing a show about the most exciting time of your life and the most exciting city in the world.”
Its risque reputation, fueled by Fox News repeatedly declaring the series the “Most Dangerous in Television,” is something the show has thrived on in campaigns. But those who really watch have come to realize that there is far more to “Gossip Girl” than the debauchery highlighted in promo posters.
“One of the things we really focused on was making sure that the characters were likable,” says Savage. “Because if you weren’t invested in their stories and their relationships with each other, rich kids acting badly wasn’t something that people were going to watch for 100 episodes.”
As the show reaches the 100-episode milestone, it is evident that the characters’ trials and tribulations, complete with threesomes, drug deals, corruption and an upcoming royal wedding, still resonate with the show’s fans, who reach far beyond the intended 18-34 female demo.
“?’Gossip Girl’ is ostensibly a soap opera about the Upper East Side, but when you really break it apart and look closely, it’s about issues of class and what we aspire to,” says director Norman Buckley, who has helmed 10 episodes since the show’s inception.
“It’s about what our values are, and the teen in you can really relate to these issues whether you’re 15 or 35 or 55. It still has the same traumatic pull.”
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