“Gossip Girl”: Bell Still Tolls

Bell_3 Whatever the virtues of the new CW high school sudser “Gossip Girl” might be, there was one nagging question that persisted for me: Shouldn’t Veronica Mars be out solving mysteries at her own school instead of talking oh-so-coyly about the follies of someone else’s?

The dissonance arises from the use of Kristen Bell, mere months after the demise of her CW cult favorite “Veronica Mars,” as the unseen narrator of “Gossip.”  Bell also provided the ongoing voiceover for her own adventures on “Mars,” and if the CW expects us to forget that voice so quickly, the network perhaps has underestimated its small but devoted audience.

It’s just too soon – know what I mean? Veronica’s body is not even cold yet.

Perhaps Bell has such diehard fans that they’ll watch her — or listen to her — in anything, but it strikes me that by including Bell on “Gossip” and inviting the comparison, the CW and showrunner Josh Schwartz are in effect challenging their core viewers to find their new show to be better than “Mars.” That’s a gambit that might be futile. 

Of course, the whole reason “Mars” isn’t around anymore is that it had such low ratings, so it’s not as if there’s loads of viewers at stake. Much of the reason for launching a new show like “Gossip” is to draw in new auds. Still, “Gossip” has to start somewhere when it comes to gaining ratings traction, and I can’t help wondering if it has imprudently risked alienating potential fans by reminding them of their fair show now departed.

Moreover, “Gossip” has to face the prospect of Bell overload, now that she has been cast in a recurring role on NBC’s “Heroes.”

All in all, “Gossip” will live and die on its own merits, but I think it should have taken the opportunity to completely carve out its own space, rather than link so overtly to a show that many are bitter ended up in the TV graveyard.

— Jon Weisman

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