02.06.09

Gossip Girl Deathwatch

Creator Josh Schwartz’s last teen sensation, The O.C., flamed out after three-and-a-half short seasons (excuse us, we mean three seasons plus one we prefer to forget). Will history repeat itself? Ten symptoms of impending death we saw on The O.C.—and are now seeing on Gossip Girl.

Within the span of an hour, this Monday’s Gossip Girl managed to feature a student losing her shot at Yale (and then getting it back), a student-teacher friendship mistaken as forbidden romance (but by the end—PSYCH!—it was romance), and said teacher being fired (only to be rehired moments later). The big twists are coming at a dizzying pace and it leaves one to wonder, is the show’s creator, Josh Schwartz, blowing his load too soon? Well, it wouldn’t be the first time. Schwartz’s first venture, The O.C., fizzled before the end of its fourth season, partially due to the haphazard introduction of storylines and dissatisfying resolutions that became characteristic of the show. In fact, when Gossip Girl premiered last September, New York magazine asked Schwartz how he would avoid a second flameout, he replied: "We were blowing through story fast as can be [on The O.C.]…By the time the third season rolled around, I definitely was not as focused or inspired as one needs to be."

So, is history repeating? The following are ten symptoms of impending death we saw on The O.C. and their reincarnation on Gossip Girl.

1. Speeding through story arcs.

The O.C.: Once season three hit, the stories became more absurd and their telling too hasty. Hey, anyone remember the time Ryan decided to quit school his senior year and become a fisherman? Only to change his mind before the end of the episode?

Gossip Girl: This week, Blair was expelled from school (also in her senior year), but was readmitted before the end of the hour.

2. Student-teacher romance.

The O.C: In season three, the annoyingly perky Taylor Townsend hooked up with the dreamy “Dean of Discipline.”

Gossip Girl: On Monday night, Dan hooked up with Rachel, a teacher at his school.

While in real life it’s kind of hot to hook up with a teacher (especially if they look like Ugly Betty’s Eric Mabius), on TV it represents a desperate and cliché attempt at scandal on behalf of the writers.

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3. An aggravating central couple and the endless break-up make-up cycle.

The O.C: It seemed like Ryan and Marissa broke up every other episode, leaving you to not know or care whether or not they were together.

Gossip Girl: Dan and Serena just broke up again! That’s number four for anyone who’s counting. I stopped caring at  No. 2.5.

What makes it even more painful is that these couples have explicitly acknowledged that they keep having the same fights. Do the writers read their own work?

Here’s a tip for TV, love, and life: If you’re going to keep having the same argument over and over again, you should probably just end the relationship. It gets boring. What makes it even more painful is that these couples have explicitly acknowledged that they keep having the same fights. Do the writers read their own work?

4. Interim love interests poorly executed.

The O.C.: In season one, non-primary love interests, such as Anna, were fully fleshed-out characters that were carefully integrated into the plot. By season three, these characters had few endearing qualities and were poorly depicted. Really? Volchok took Marissa to her senior prom?

Gossip Girl: If Amanda and Aaron are any indication, interim relationships are going to be as annoying as Dan and Serena themselves.

If we are to believe, at least temporarily, that our protagonists should date these people, they should not come off as complete douchebags with nothing to offer.

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5. Once we’re sick of listening to rich blond girls pout, the trusty (also rich) brunette takes the reins.

The O.C.: Marissa was framed as The O.C.’s primary female protagonist, but as she proved to be one of the most irksome characters in TV history, viewers started tuning in to watch Summer/Seth rather than Ryan/Marissa. Oh yeah, and—in a moment of comedic gold—Marissa got hit by a car and died.

Gossip Girl: It may as well be called the Blair Waldorf show. This week, as Serena just sulked in her gratuitous booby shirts, Blair’s scheme was the central conflict of the episode.

Let it be noted: Blair’s boobs don’t get enough credit—sure, they’re not as big as Serena’s, but they have a laudable perkiness to them. Still, the fact that the show needs to rely on its brunette because we’ve so quickly grown tired of the blonde does not bode well.

6. Major plotlines allocated to the parents.

The O.C.: When The O.C. first aired, most conflicts revolved around the kids. By season three, however, “golden parents” Sandy and Kirsten were subject to a DA investigation and rehab, respectively.

Gossip Girl: We have discovered that Lilly and Rufus have a love child who is dead—oh wait, JK, he’s alive!

7. Playing hooky.

The O.C.: As the series progressed, school seemed to become more and more optional. When Marissa was a lesbian for a week, she stopped attending altogether (apparently lesbians don’t go to school?).

Gossip Girl: In the latest episode Chuck, Nate, and Vanessa ( fine, she’s home-schooled, but still) skip out on school so that Chuck can explore the mystical apartment where he spent the previous night but has little recollection of (…wait doesn’t Chuck black out and hook up with hot girls all the time? Why should this be cause for such intense investigation?).

Hooky indicates an inability to create stories that take place in and around school and, therefore, a dearth of inspiration.

8. Death of the I-mean-business-older dude (and subsequent substance abuse).

The O.C.: At the end of season two, Caleb Nichol, the show’s patriarch and proud owner of the Newport Group dies of a heart attack; this fuels Kirsten’s spiral into alcoholism.

Gossip Girl: Recently, the equally stiff Bart Bass, owner of Bass Enterprises, died in an unexpected car crash; his son Chuck immediately got wasted and then went on a bender in Thailand (obviously).

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9. College = death of the high-school show.

The O.C.: The show completely changed when the kids went off to college. Different locations, different romances, Sandy and Kirsten had a baby—what?

Gossip Girl: The Gossip Girl gang hasn't even gotten through two seasons and they’ve already heard from Yale (why no one else on the show has heard from other schools is unclear).

10. And finally…Willa Holland: harbinger of doom!

The O.C.: The show introduced actress Willa Holland as Marissa’s sister, Kaitlin, half-way through season three to try to sass things up (an effort made painfully explicit by titling one of the episodes “The Pot Stirrer”).

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L to R: Willa Holland in "The O.C" (Greg Schwartz / WB / Everett); Willa Holland in "Gossip Girl" (Giovanni Rufino / The CW Network)

Gossip Girl: Earlier this season, Holland played Agnes Andrews on Gossip Girl, again serving as an outsider to quickly escalate plots and then be disposed of when no longer needed

If Gossip Girl soon fails, we can declare Willa the modern-day Ted McGinley.

Despite its flaws, Gossip Girl’s premature termination would be a travesty in the eyes of many devoted fans. Among the cast of The O.C., only the tale of Marissa ended the way it was meant to. Seth, Summer, and Ryan didn’t deserve to putter out the way they did. Nor do Dan, Chuck, or, most of all, Blair. So, Mr. Schwartz, I implore you: Consider your mistakes, learn from them, and do justice to our dear Gossip Girl.