"Gossip Girl" is the latest effort from "O.C." creator Josh Schwartz, and the series has become just as much of a hit as "The O.C." was early on. "Gossip" is based upon the books by Cecily von Ziegesar and stars Blake Lively ("Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants") as socialite Serena Van der Woodsen who, as the series opens, is arriving at Grand Central Station, fresh from a stint in boarding school after she'd fallen too far into her partying ways.
When she arrives back at home, she's a changed person - quiet, a little withdrawn - but that doesn't last for very long, as she's quickly drawn back into drama, opening with a chilly reception from her former pal, Blair Waldorf (Leighton Meester), as Blair has gotten comfortable in a higher social rank during Serena's absence. Serena also has a reunion with Nate Archibald (Chace Crawford) and Chuck Bass (Ed Westwick) - interesting for her, as she has a history with Nate.
There's also Dan Humphrey (Penn Badgley) and his sister Jenny (Taylor Momsen), who are middle-class and commute in to go to the high-end school that Serena and her friends attend in the city. While Jenny winds up in the midst of Blair's little crowd, Dan has always had feelings from afar for Serena and, to his surprise, the two find themselves getting closer and closer. Meanwhile, Dan's father and Serena's mother have had their own rocky past.
The second season of the series was an improvement, and that's after a first season that I was surprised that I found myself liking as much as I did. This time around, the characters are headed off to college, which brings boatload of drama, as acceptance letters do - or don't - arrive. There's also the expected double-crosses and social chess games, with Blair and Chuck circling each other and trouble between Dan and Serena, with the latter having eyes for another. The season also doesn't end without an attempt to unmask the real "Gossip Girl".
The third season of the series coasted along nicely nicely, following the characters and their social politics - and every season of the series seems like an election year. The third season of the series saw the characters finishing high school and starting to make plans to head off to college. However, Jenny (Taylor Momsen) has found herself with the run of the high school - only to find out that her newfound status isn't without consequences. A good portion of the season focused on Jenny's increasingly troubled life. This story thread took a while to get going, leading to an early portion of the season that was uneven. The thread wasn't ultimately that satisfying, but other positives of the third season made up for it.
While the fourth season of the series still sees the show on reasonably solid footing, one hopes that creator Josh Schwartz knows when to move on, as he did with "The O.C." - while that series found itself off the air due to declining ratings, creator Josh Schwartz also reportedly believed the series and its storylines had come to a reasonable conclusion.
"Gossip Girl", with its sleek fashions and enjoyably soapy drama (and while the series has really played up the scandalous nature of the series, the show's writing and performances are certainly elevated above the other teen drama fare out there), works in a high school/college setting. Hopefully the series won't pull a "One Tree Hill" and go nearly ten seasons (towards the end, it would show Serena as a soccer mom in the suburbs, and she'll be played by someone else, but will still be quite fashionable.)
The fourth season of "Gossip" continues with the characters moving their drama into the college years. However, first the series takes things overseas, with Serena and Blair heading over to Paris for the first couple of episodes, and Blair finding love unexpectedly while there on Summer vacation. The first episode also saw the series continue to offer some of the slicker promotion on television, such as this quirky, funny TV spot.
However, it's not long before Serena runs into Juliet (Kate Cassidy), a girl with hidden cruel intentions towards Serena. Characters from the past coming out of the woodwork to mix things up and cause trouble is a card the series has played before. However, the series plays it successfully again here, as Juliet's story unfolds in an engaging, compelling manner and Cassidy offers an excellent performance.
Chuck (Ed Westwick) makes a surprising return and becomes a focus, especially during the latter half of the season, where he finds himself fighting for Bass Industries against his father's former rival - which is one of the season's more enjoyable storylines. After being pulled in by Juliet, Nate finds himself facing family problems later in the season, The season also sees a few guest appearances, such as Tim Gunn, who Jenny has an interview with.
The series is lucky to have Lively as the lead, as she manages to give the character depth and feeling, where in the hands of others it could have easily been one-dimensional. She's a good pairing with Meester, who's terrific as Serena's on again/off again friend - she and Lively are delightful sparring against each other, while she's also perfectly matched against Westwick.
Lively also has solid chemistry with Badgley, who looks a little like a younger Mark Ruffalo at times and is kinda playing the Mark Ruffalo role here, too. Some of the dialogue in the series can be rather clunky and corny - especially early on in the show's run - but the cast generally makes it work. "Veronica Mars" star Kristen Bell narrates as Gossip Girl, the blogger of the title.
"Gossip Girl" remains entertaining (although I hope the series doesn't go on and on past these characters being in college; there's a point where this series risks getting too repetitive) and the series really works as well as it does thanks to the ensemble cast, who do an excellent job playing up the drama while adding an enjoyably dark undercurrent - what could have become another teen melodrama instead continues to be a superb guilty pleasure. The enjoyable finale for season four wraps the season up well and delivers the expected shocking moments (false identities, among other twists) and hints that will keep viewers hooked for season 5.
The set includes all episodes of the fourth season.
66 4-01 13/Sep/10 Belles de Jour
67 4-02 20/Sep/10 Double Identity
68 4-03 27/Sep/10 The Undergraduates
69 4-04 04/Oct/10 Touch of Eva
70 4-05 11/Oct/10 Goodbye, Columbia
71 4-06 25/Oct/10 Easy J
72 4-07 01/Nov/10 War at the Roses
73 4-08 08/Nov/10 Juliet Doesn't Live Here Anymore
74 4-09 15/Nov/10 The Witches of Bushwick
75 4-10 29/Nov/10 Gaslit
76 4-11 06/Dec/10 The Townie
77 4-12 24/Jan/11 The Kids Are Not All Right
78 4-13 31/Jan/11 Damien Darko
79 4-14 07/Feb/11 Panic Roommate
80 4-15 14/Feb/11 It-Girl Happened One Night
81 4-16 21/Feb/11 While You Weren't Sleeping
82 4-17 28/Feb/11 Empire Of The Son
83 4-18 18/Apr/11 The Kids Stay in the Picture
84 4-19 25/Apr/11 Petty in Pink
85 4-20 02/May/11 The Princesses and the Frog
86 4-21 09/May/11 Shattered Bass
87 4-22 16/May/11 The Wrong Goodbye
VIDEO: "Gossip Girl" is presented by Warner Brothers in 1.78:1 anamrophic widescreen. The episodes continue to look solid for each season set. Sharpness and detail often remain first-rate, as the picture looks crisp and detail throughout much of the running time. Finally, colors remain bright and natural, with excellent saturation and no smearing or other faults.
SOUND: The show is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. Audio quality is just fine, although the show's sound design doesn't go far beyond the ordinary - surrounds are used on occasion for ambience and reinforcement of the score, but the majority of the audio is dialogue-driven. Audio quality is fine, with clear dialogue and bassy tunes.
EXTRAS: "Bisoux a Paris!" is a moderately enjoyable featurette that follows the production to Paris and gives an overview of filming. We also get an enjoyable "behind-the-scenes" piece regarding episode 18, as well as deleted scenes and a gag reel.
Final Thoughts: "Gossip Girl" continues to remain fizzy in season 4, with fine performances from the ensemble cast and enjoyably soapy drama. The DVD set offers first-rate audio/video quality, as well as a few minor extras. Recommended for fans.