THE LAST BIG THING: Last month, New York magazine put Gossip Girl on the cover, with a long piece full of slack-jawed, over-written prose inoculated with just enough sarcasm to evoke the you-were-there-at-the-cultural-ground-zero mood that the magazine’s best features once did so well, back when it printed the cover story that became the basis for Saturday Night Fever.
The story, written by Jessica Pressler and Chris Rovzar, gets off to a breathless start with a group of bridge-and-tunnel teens on the prowl one Manhattan weekend, going into a frenzy by a sighting of Penn Badgely, who plays Dan Humphrey on the CW network show.
The writers shift their tone to qualify their love of the show as ironic, at least at first.
“At first we cloaked our adoration in irony,” Pressler and Rovzar write. “‘It’s awesomely bad,’ we explained to friends. ‘You know, like Showgirls. Or a Bloomin’ Onion.’
“But before long we were covering the show pretty much exhaustively on the Daily Intelligencer, the blog we write on nymag.com.”
First of all, I don’t know what a Bloomin’ Onion is either, but my alarm bells go off when I realize that I’m reading something written by people who write a blog that appears on the website of a print publication.
These are the ambitious young freelancers who have lucked out and landed a contract gig doing the web-only content that the publishers and top editors don’t really read — or even understand — but were told they need for credibility’s sake to seem like they know what they’re talking about when they discuss “future strategies” and “new media” with Marketing magazine.
The writers who get these gigs are usually cultural omnivores, host to a variety of enthusiasms, active and latent, who need to be able to say that something is hot when asked questions like, “So, what’s hot?” by people who report to the people who sign their paycheque.
In the New York piece, we’re told, for instance, that Gossip Girl is “the Greatest Teen Drama Of All Time,” that it’s “changing the very model of a successful TV show,” and that it “offers profound social commentary.”
“The show mocks our superficial fantasies while satisfying them,” writes Pressler and Rovzar, “allowing us to partake in the over-the-top pleasures of the irresponsible super-rich without anxiety or guilt or moralizing. It’s class warfare as blood sport.”
Well, since you put it that way.
Of course, if by “changing the model of a successful TV show” you mean getting mediocre ratings, then the revolution is now, according to a piece in last week’s National Post, which quoted Rovzar admitting the show is “overhyped.”
“I don’t mean that in quality,” Rovzar said, “because obviously I love the show and I think it’s a great time, but it is overhyped in terms of success. It’s not a huge success at all ... It’s a certain very Internet-savvy group of people that are really, really, really excited about the show.”
It turns out that, according to the Wall Street Journal, if the CW keeps having “hits” like Gossip Girl, it will likely be put out of business by CBS Paramount, its parent company. Seriously, sometimes I think they call it “show business” because “show failure” doesn’t sound as zippy.