by Anne Becker
Last night's finale of NYC Prep on Bravo was full of so much drama, snark, and petty intrigue it was practically a real-life episode of Gossip Girl. That's no coincidence. Bravo can now legitimately lay claim to being the network that mints that ever-elusive "buzz" (whatever that is) by turning proven scripted shows into solid, low-brow reality TV. Witness The Real Housewives of Orange County—essentially Desperate Housewives gone SoCal. Miami Social? Friends in Florida.
But NYC Prep actually trumps its scripted predecessor, Gossip Girl, in terms of quality guilty-viewing pleasure. Despite its flagging ratings, the series is actually more entertaining than the show from which it was born. Below we present seven reasons why:
1. Ummm, drama! Say what you will, but the nail-biting freak-outs about whether uber-high-strung Camille will woo her Harvard tour guide or faux-French Sebastian will flip his hair coyly enough to bed his 15-year-old ingénue trump the tired antics of Gossip's Constance Billard/St. Jude school set any day. Sure, the Bravo show might be more chaste (about as sexually tense as last night's finale got was when seniors Jessie and PC were up to their typically vague verbal allusions to the bedroom: "I have really intense heels on and I have no problem shoving them in your ass"), but we double-heart Prep for keepin' it clean. Who needs all that gratuitous lip-locking anyway?
2. Kids being kids. There's just no substitute for actual teen angst, and while we admire the lengths Hollywood actors go to appear as if they're still in high school (ahem, Penn Badgley is 22 and his on/offscreen Gossip girlfriend Blake Lively turns the same age at the end of the month), there's really just no substitute for the tumult so painfully evident in the faces of those truly in their pimply-faced years—even if Daddy's so rich he can buy them all the Chanel cream and facials necessary to erase all traces of them.
3. Parent-free zone. Gossip Girl, like its big sister, The OC, tries to reel in an adult audience alongside the kiddies by giving near equal attention to the exploits of their parents. Snore. NYC Prep has no such grand ambitions, tackling its overindulged kiddie cast head-on with little regard to their boring folks except as enabling, supporting ninnies for their shenanigans.
4. The embarrassment factor. Yeah, OK, we get the value in having a room of writers painstakingly script each scene of a show like Gossip. But NYC Prep's juicy appeal lies in the fact that the shame and humiliation derived from what we're seeing onscreen is actually going to be felt by real kids when the stuff airs. Like, for years. Did you hear PC say "for future references"—dude, it's reference!—on last night's finale? Even if, fine, we admit most of it is probably scripted too.
5. That entitled cadence. You can give an actor all the speech lessons you want, but there's just no aping the actual singsong, privileged speech patterns of the Upper East Side native. We'd bet that Jesse used "definitely" at least three times in most of her sentences last night.
6. NYC, duh! OK, fine—credit where it's due—Gossip actually shoots its exteriors in NYC. But those interiors? On some soundstage somewhere. The guilty pleasure of NYC Prep for those of us who live here is recognizing and trying to name the restaurants, stores, bars, and apartments that serve as the backdrop for its cast's trivial pursuits.
7. PC is way better eye candy than Chace Crawford. NYC's wannabe actor male lead, PC Peterson (grandson of Blackstone Group cofounder and billionaire Pete Peterson, incidentally), may be a jerk, to put it kindly, but we'll take his foppish preening and sneering over Crawford's overly manicured, squinty-eyed, pretty-boy esthetic any day. We almost hope his attempts at acting tank (allegedly, he used NYC Prep as the springboard to Hollywood gigs) so he'll stay on the show.
NYC Prep hasn't scored straight A's in the ratings. But for these reasons and so many more, we think Bravo is sitting on a gold mine right now. Here's hoping the network agrees and keeps the thing around NYC for a sophomore season.