'Gossip Girl' Aftergasm: What Happens When a High School Drama Goes to College?
'Gossip Girl' Aftergasm: What Happens When a High School Drama Goes to College?
Meghan Carlson
Meghan Carlson
Senior Writer, BuddyTV
College admissions time—it's a stressful time for any high school senior. It's also a time when you're forced to make choices that will change the course of your entire life. On last night's episode, “You've Got Yale,” Blair, Serena and Dan all grapple with big anxieties about the changes that go along with college: Blair's got a case of Senioritis (and a tad of an entitlement issue) that threaten her dead-set hopes on Yale, Serena tries to decide which Ivy is the best fit for her, and she and Dan both worry about how choosing different colleges will affect—or possibly end—their relationship.

The thing is, I'm less worried about the characters attending the right school and being happy where they end up. I have faith that the Gossip Girl writers won't force Blair into a community college, or send Serena following Dan to New Haven to salvage their already ailing relationship. That just wouldn't fit their characters. Blair will either end up at Yale, or change her mind and go somewhere else—she's just not one to settle. And, while I'd love to be happy for her, what I'm worried about is how going off in all these different directions next season will affect Gossip Girl as we know it.

Lots of teen dramas have dealt with the issues of their high school-aged characters growing up and going off to University, with varying degrees of success. The common challenge seems to be in allowing your characters to realistically grow up, while still keeping a semblance of the original dynamic of the show.

Last night, Blair brought up Gilmore Girls, which coped by making Rory into quite a commuter between school and home. But the writers also did a good job of establishing a new social world for Rory at Yale—but that was dealing with one central character at college, not five. The O.C. was able to salvage their cast dynamic by only sending one character, Summer, away to college, while the rest stayed home. In the Upper East Side, with mandatory high-powered futures ahead of them, this is just not an option for the Gossip Girl gang.

Other shows deal with college by embracing the inevitable growing up, and apart, of the core characters. Buffy the Vampire Slayer's fourth season sent the Scoobie Gang in different directions, with new friendships and growing pains to deal with on their own. But on Buffy, the core group remains in the same town all season. Each character matures separately, and rejoins the others to form a new team by the end of the season. In contrast, for a show like Dawson's Creek, the drifting apart was a dagger in the heart of the show. When Joey, Dawson, Pacey, Jack and Jen all started separate lives, the plots had no uniting force, and the show became scattered. Dawson lost its Creek, and the hometown element of the show was essential to the cohesive family that the characters had built up over the years. The show never recovered from the disjointed web it weaved.

Which brings up another issue: on Gossip Girl, in which New York City is practically a character, how do you take the cast out of the city, and still keep its spirit alive? This is especially important for dramas that entirely rely on hometown and high school as premise. Friday Night Lights is grappling with this same issue, and it's been reported that instead of following the graduating seniors, they'll be bringing in a new set of characters. Other shows create obstacles that keep their characters from leaving town, even those with high aspirations: Veronica Mars comes to mind here. But would Gossip Girl the blogger even stay interested in the graduated Constance girls, even if they do stay in Manhattan—or wouldn't she move on to the fresh drama of fresh meat?

The One Tree Hill writers circumvented the issue of college altogether by jumping ahead four years, which was probably the best decision they could have made. The show stayed strong after the jump because it was able to deal with the issues of growing up and still keep its characters together. But could the same happen with Chuck and Blair, Dan and Serena, or Rufus and Lily? Relationships change so quickly in just one episode of Gossip Girl--what would four invisible years do to these couples? And would viewers ever recover?

So what's it going to be, Gossip Girl? A new set of characters, a new setting, or a new dynamic that pushes Blair, Dan, Serena, Chuck, Nate, and Vanessa apart? Or could a time jump be in your future?

Whatever you decide, hurry up and tell us soon! New Haven can't wait forever.

Best in Show

Best Quotes:

''Cancel the Nelly Yuki Project now!'' - Blair

''Second semester seniors get a free pass, like pregnant ladies or 14-year-old Chinese gymnasts.'' - Blair

“Did you really try to buy anthrax with his credit card?” - Lily
“The Black Market isn’t what it used to be.” - Chuck
“And you got him on Megan’s List?” - Lily
“If only his apartment were a few blocks closer to a playground.” - Chuck

Best Scene: For me, the last montage about "beginnings" was brilliant, especially Blair's declaration of war. "I'm going Black Ops. Off the radar. No accountability." Ooooh, shivers!

Best User Comment:
" 'Death by Dorota' - I can not think of anything more funny than the idea of Dorota in black opps gear fighting dirty for Blair!" –prettygirl89. What a great image--maybe Handsome will come, too!

- Meghan Carlson, BuddyTV Staff Writer
Image courtesy of the CW

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