"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When she arrives back at home, she's a changed person - quiet, a little withdrawn - but that doesn't last for very long, as she's quickly drawn back into drama, opening with a chilly reception from her former pal, Blair Waldorf (Leighton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.
While the series continues to move along reasonably well in the fifth season, "Gossip" has patches where its drama is starting to feel rather familiar. Still, a good amount of the twists and turns still entertain in the guilty pleasure manner of prior seasons. The season starts where the fourth season left off, with the character that's expecting revealed soon after the season opens. Blair is about to get married to Prince Louis (Hugo Becker), although what might have seemed like a dream starts to quickly sour, and Blair finds herself in the arms of another.
While Blair's relationship dramas are a core focus, the season weaves in a number of other reasonably satisfying story arcs, including Dan's continued attempts to stop his novel from being published without his approval and a reveal of the true story behind Serena's cousin, Charlie Rhodes. Speaking of reveals, Chuck also faces a major one this season involving a family member.
The season even throws in a cameo from Elizabeth Hurley as Nate's new boss - while Hurley doesn't seem like a right fit on paper, she's more than a convincing on-screen cougar. Blair's various dramas are engaging due to Meester's performance and comfort in the role improving over the seasons, but some aspects of her relationship dramas this season start to feel rather forced or familiar.
Some of the highlights this season include: "GG" (The show's 100th episode, where Blair goes through with her wedding to the Prince), "The Fugitives" (Serena must be Blair's double when Blair is needed in two places at once), "Crazy Cupid Love" (Blair decides to play Cupid on Valentine's Day), "Rhodes to Perdition" (Serena plans a bridal shower for Blair) and "Memoirs of an Invisible Dan" (Dan decides to reveal all about his book, with the hopes that he'll still get support at the party for his book's release.)
The series is not classic television in any sense, but it's a successful guilty pleasure series that wouldn't be what it is without a solid cast, especially Lively and Meester, who give their characters a level of depth and feeling that one wouldn't expect. Casting is also spot-on, as both the core and supporting players continue to click well.
Still, while the series generally continues to coast along through much of the fifth season, bringing it to a close after next season before it starts to wear out its welcome (see "One Tree Hill") feels appropriate.
88 5-01 26/Sep/11 Yes, then Zero
89 5-02 03/Oct/11 Beauty and the Feast
90 5-03 10/Oct/11 The Jewel of Denial
91 5-04 17/Oct/11 Memoirs of an Invisible Dan
92 5-05 24/Oct/11 The Fasting and the Furious
93 5-06 07/Nov/11 I Am Number Nine
94 5-07 14/Nov/11 The Big Sleep No More
95 5-08 21/Nov/11 All The Pretty Sources
96 5-09 28/Nov/11 Rhodes to Perdition
97 5-10 05/Dec/11 Riding In Town Cars With Boys
98 5-11 16/Jan/12 The End of The Affair?
99 5-12 23/Jan/12 Father and the Bride
100 5-13 30/Jan/12 G.G.
101 5-14 06/Feb/12 The Backup Dan
102 5-15 13/Feb/12 Crazy, Cupid, Love
103 5-16 20/Feb/12 Cross Rhodes
104 5-17 27/Feb/12 The Princess Dowry
105 5-18 02/Apr/12 Con Heir
106 5-19 09/Apr/12 It Girl, Interrupted
107 5-20 16/Apr/12 Salon of the Dead
108 5-21 23/Apr/12 Despicable B
109 5-22 30/Apr/12 Raiders of the Lost Art
110 5-23 07/May/12 The Fugitives
111 5-24 14/May/12 The Return of the Ring
VIDEO: "Gossip Girl" is presented by Warner Brothers in 1.78:1 anamrophic widescreen. The episodes generally looked very good, although some minor issues arose at times. Sharpness and detail often remain first-rate, as the picture looks crisp and detail throughout much of the running time. However, some scenes look softer and there are moments where some mild artifacting is visible. On a positive note, 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: Gag reel and short featurettes on the show's fashion and 100th episodes.
Final Thoughts: While the series generally continues to coast along, bringing it to a close after next season before it starts to wear out its welcome feels appropriate. The DVD set offers first-rate audio/video quality, as well as a few minor extras. Recommended.