Making Introductions

s01e01: "Pilot"

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Tyler McCall

May 03 2021

9 mins read

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I really, really love "Gossip Girl."

That shouldn't come as any surprise if you've been following me on literally any forum for the last, oh, decade-plus; in fact, I'm sure that's why you're here. I've basically been GG obsessed since 2007, when I was a senior in college with vague ambitions of being a Scene Queen groupie following the Warped Tour around the country and scoring a pop-punk boyfriend. Dream big, kids.

But for the life of me, I can't remember why I even started watching the show in the first place. I had read the books in high school but wasn't particularly attached to them; I hadn't watched "The O.C." (I know, I was super Christian when it came out and it didn't pass the WWJD test) so I wasn't a Schwartz and Savage devotée; I wasn't a must-see TV kind of girl; I didn't even have aspirations of moving to New York City one day. In my mind, there is only B.G.G. and A.G.G.

Still, by the time Blair was giving her virginity up to Chuck in the backseat of the limo (sorry, this is a spoiler-friendly zone for a show that went off the air nearly a decade ago; it's now streaming on HBO Max if you need to catch up!), I was glued to my television every Wednesday night, either with my roommates or with friends, always with alcohol in hand. That can only mean the pilot episode did its job.

Warning: This is the part where I'm going to talk about television as though I have a confident and professional grasp on how the entertainment business works. Back in the day, the way TV shows got made is that someone would write up a treatment — usually a broad overview of characters, plots, themes, etc — to pitch out the idea of a series to networks. Hopefully, a network likes your ideas enough to order a pilot episode, and once that gets the greenlight, you pull together your cast and your crew to put together a debut episode of what will hopefully turn into a full-fledged series. In fact, there's an entire chunk of the year where this all happens called "pilot season," which Google tells me runs from January to April. (This happens less in the streaming era, by the way, when platforms like Netflix or, would you guess it, HBO Max, are much more inclined to do a full series order without a pilot in the can.)

There's a lot of pressure on pilots, as one might imagine, because they have to immediately hook the viewer on the show and lay the groundwork for the rest of the series. If you get to make a pilot, you then have to bring that back to the network where they'll test it for audiences. If they like it, the network will order more — usually the front half, or 13 episodes for traditional US television. (This will become important to "Gossip Girl" later!) You won't re-shoot the pilot, which I love because it sometimes means there's wacky details or casting that get ironed out more after the series gets a bigger order.

For example, in the pilot episode of "Gossip Girl": Serena has been gone a full year and not six months, as would become the general accepted timeline; she returns seemingly in the middle of her junior year in cool months, which you can tell because everyone is wearing coats and you can see her breath on the date with Dan, but the very next episode will be in warmer weather; Chuck's mother is alive enough not only to be part-owner in The Palace, but also to have a Paxil prescription he can swipe (her death in his early years becomes a central plot point in later seasons); Blair's mom, who has a country house that gets dropped, is played by a completely different actress in Carolina Herrera cosplay (early viewers didn't believe Florencia Lozano was old enough to play Blair's mom, and I agree, plus I adore Margaret Colin in the role); both Blair and Dan live in completely different houses than they do the rest of the series; there's no Dorota (can you imagine?!); Serena and Blair both use T-Mobile Sidekick phones, which I know because I had a Sidekick and loved it, but swap out by the next episode because Verizon Wireless signed on to sponsor of the show. (This last one is not terribly important, I was just obsessed with the Sidekick in that era.)

Still, fanatical details aside, the pilot does exactly what it should, which is to deposit us squarely in the middle of the drama playing out in the lives of our favorite Upper East Siders. We establish from the jump that Gossip Girl is an omnipresent force fueled by tips. Serena is a bad girl trying to turn good while returning from a self-imposed exile from Manhattan taken after a drunken night led her to betray her best friend (and more, as we discover later). Blair is a deeply insecure perfectionist, raised by an image-obsessed mother, who has felt second fiddle to Serena her whole life. Nate is a boy vaguely adrift in a way that makes him unable to push back against the pressure he faces from his parents. Chuck is...a complete asshole. (More on that next week.) Dan is a kid with a huge chip on his shoulder about his lack of wealth or status who tries to pretend like he's above it, while his striving sister Jenny has more bald ambitions to break into the inner circle of the UES elite. And all the parents have teenage drama going on themselves!

It is, in my esteemed opinion, an absolutely perfect pilot. I think it would be impossible to watch the pilot of "Gossip Girl" and not be hooked, or at the very least, want to tune in for a few more episodes.

So, that brings us to this newsletter: I'll be going back through the series on an episode-by-episode basis and talking about broader themes and concepts that preoccupy my thoughts at any given time, while also discussing the more minute details of the episodes in question. It is, as I mentioned, a spoiler-friendly zone. Also I don't have an editor so I suppose you'll all just have to deal with my unedited thoughts. ;)

I think we'll have fun here! Let me leave you with what I'm thinking will become recurring features:

Best Lines of the Episode:

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Lily: “So I told him, 'Forget it, I don’t care if it’s Murakami, it clashes with my sofa.' [tinkling laughter]"

Chuck: "Are you following us or something?"

Dan: “No, I...I go to your school. Identical uniforms? Kind of a tip off?”

Nate: “That’s funny.”

Dan: [waits a beat as he watches them walk away] “So, you guys wanna sit together at lunch?”

Blair: “Looks like you got a lot of yogurt left.”

Rufus: “Lily! Are you shopping for some art to match your furniture?”

My Favorite Outfit of the Episode:

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It can, of course, only be this modified Anna Sui dress Blair wears when we meet her. I'm still chasing the high of seeing this headband for the first time.

Final Stray Observations:

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  • What happened to Melanie91? What is her deal? I would genuinely read 2000 words on the backstory of Melanie91.
  • Who did the GG illustration at the top of the O.G. homepage? I KNOW it wasn't Dan.
  • When Serena sees Jenny at Bendel's, she gives her the tip that the dress she's wearing would look even better in black; how does S know J is going to sew her dress? Like, the nod-wink of it clearly indicates S knows J can't afford the dress but she's met her exactly once, so maybe Jenny just gives off a homemade vibe.
  • Why on God’s green earth is Chuck wearing those awful sneakers with his suit at Kiss on the Lips?
  • “Sensitive, tortured soul boy is actually kinda superficial” is basically the thesis of this show. I am obsessed that Serena delivers this omniscient line so early in the series.

And Now, Your 'Dan Is a Psycho for This' Moment of the Episode:


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I actually have no real beef with the show deciding Dan was Gossip Girl, because it does track with his character and they find a way to make it work. But, I'm sorry, it is completely psychotic that Dan is Gossip Girl when you take things that happen throughout the series into consideration — which is exactly what I will be doing here, because I think it's fun. (For the record: I always thought it was Dorota.)

If you're re-watching the series knowing that Dan is Gossip Girl, there are parts in the pilot that make sense, sort of, especially the shot early on of him staring at the Gossip Girl homepage on his laptop late at night. He even advises his dad to "save some trees, have a blog," which is exactly what a teenager secretly running a website ratting out his peers' secrets would say to his dad.

HOWEVER: When Gossip Girl reports that Serena was spotted in Grand Central, she relies on a tip from the famous Melanie91, when Dan also spotted Serena in Grand Central. Worse, Dan reports on Serena showing up at the Kiss on the Lips party literally as they are walking in together, effectively blowing up her spot and potentially making it harder to find his own sister. Stone cold psycho stuff. Also, was cell phone technology even good enough to pull that off in 2007?

I'm awarding general bonus points in both directions for Dan giving himself a bullshit nickname instead of using his real name in any blast about himself. He's constantly wallowing in self-pity about his lack of status, so I simultaneously believe he'd give himself the pathetic moniker "Lonely Boy" and adamantly feel he'd use the GG platform to give the Humphrey name some of that glitz and glamour he's so hard-pressed for the second he scored that date with Serena.

And that's it! Thank you for signing up for Lincoln Hawk Fan Club; if you have any thoughts, questions or comments, I'd love to hear them. Hit me up at LTylerMcCall@gmail.com. XOXO!

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