The TV Critics Association showcase, where the networks trot out their new offerings, wrapped on a hostile note as producers of the CW’s new Gossip Girl series tried to defend the underage sex, drug use and drinking that the pilot seemed to glorify and condone.
Gossip creator Josh Schwartz (you know him as the man behind The O.C. and CW entertainment chief Dawn Ostroff took most of the heat about the show that’s based on the book series about socialite teens on Manhattan’s Upper East Side who deal with sex, drugs and relationships.
The critics were up in arms over the high school shenanigans in the series pilot–especially the near-date rape (photo after jump) of Taylor Momsen–the girl who played Cindy Lou Who in How The Grinch Stole Christmas! (The guy gets off with a slap.)
One critic said: “This is the kind of show I think would cause a lot of parents to freak. I mean, what would you tell parents?”
Official Sopranos critic Alan Sepinwall was there, and reports: “Before Schwartz or any of the panelists could answer, someone on the balcony (we think she was a reporter, but no one had seen her before) grabbed the microphone and, practically near tears, said, ‘These kids seem depraved, honestly. Like, there’s date rape in the first show, and it’s, like, terrifying if you’re actually a post-teenager!’”Ostroff defended the series: “It’s a book franchise that over 10 million copies have been sold, so young women have been reading those books for quite some time.”
But as our pal Ray Richmond from The Hollywood Reporter points out: “She’s right, of course, except that the books don’t have teens screwing each other right and left or doing drugs. Perhaps this is what they mean by literary license.”"We’re talking about a group of kids who, as I said, live a heightened reality,” Dawn insisted. “In the series, there are consequences for the actions that a lot of the characters take.”
Consequences? Sez Ray: “She could be right about that. Only the first episode was screened for critics and there were no ‘consequences’ in it. Oh, a guy got hit during a date rape scene, but that was about it. Still, I suppose, it’s possible that if kids watch enough episodes they’ll find out drugs, booze and lots of sex isn’t such a good idea.”
Alan reminds us that “The TCA is largely composed of middle-aged white guys, and the group tends to get in a huff when underage sex, drinking and drug use is involved,” but there’s no way around it, Gossip Girls will be a flash point.
The CW’s marketing plans for the show include a “Second Life”-style virtual online site where fans can pretend to live like the kids on the show.
One critic announced: “I’d be hard-pressed to find any of the characters on the show that I would want my daughters to emulate. But this is what this social networking scheme is all about, is to be like these characters.”
Schwartz’s partner, Stephanie Savage, tried to cool things down by noting that The O.C.pilot was also dark and as unfunny as Gossip promises to be, and that the humour came in later.
Alan says one fellow critic asked sarcastically: “So will there be less drinking, sex, drug use, and so forth in the subsequent episodes?”
Kelly Rutherford, who plays the mother of star Blake Lively, gave the answer: “We don’t want to lose viewers.”
Which for our purposes means that Flipit better get ready to add another show to his recap list…
(Gossip Girl is set to air Wednesdays at 9 pm, right after another one of The CW’s good examples for young girls, Top Model.)