Culture

The 'Gossip Girl' Reboot Is A Boring Failure

By Meghan Dillon··  8 min read
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gossip girl reboot boring failure

I can’t help myself – I’m a sucker for nostalgia – so I watched the first episode of the “Gossip Girl” reboot. As expected, many of the characters were woke and annoying, but I didn’t expect the show to be so…boring.

Fans weren’t happy at the announcement that the reboot would show characters "wrestling with their privilege," but the eternal optimist in me expected the episode to be filled with drama. Oh, how I was disappointed.

Overall, I give the first episode two out of five stars because there were some characters I thought interesting and would like to see develop. Spoilers are ahead!

What the Critics Said

Critics seem to agree with me that the show was boring and lackluster. Entertainment Weekly called it "a sheep in wolf's clothing," USA Today called it "a stunning failure through an Instagram filter," and Vulture accused the show of "having a very glamorous identity crisis." The show appears to want to appeal to a more progressive audience by addressing privilege and wealth inequality, but progressive outlets like Vox and Slate didn’t like it either.

As of writing this (July 8, midafternoon), the Rotten Tomatoes critics score is at 30%, and the audience score is at 88%. I can’t for the life of me figure out why the audience score is high, but according to Teen Vogue, Gen Z audiences seem to love it.

How Does It Compare to the Original?

Yes, I rewatched the first episode of the original Gossip Girl for probably the fiftieth time (I’m only slightly exaggerating), so I could write a quick comparison paragraph, which inevitably turned into an entire section. I also did it because I love the original Gossip Girl, but that’s beside the point.

The original Gossip Girl pilot did the perfect job of introducing the lead characters and giving us hints as to what was to come in later episodes and seasons. Though none of the characters in the reboot are carbon copies of the original characters, the comparisons are clear. Unfortunately, the reboot doesn’t introduce them as well as the original did, which is unfortunate because the characters of the original Gossip Girl are one of the many things that made the show so great.

Julien (Jordan Alexander) is the new Queen Bee and appears to be the new Blair Waldorf, but her style reminds me a lot of Serena van der Woodsen. She’s a popular influencer, and her father is a successful musician, meaning he’s rarely around. Her mother died when she was young, and she spends her free time wondering what she was like. Julien wasn’t the worst character (but she wasn’t the best either). I just wish that the first episode gave more of her backstory. The original Gossip Girl pilot dove head-first into Blair’s insecurities, and that’s what made her one of the best TV mean girls of all time. The reboot barely scratches the surface of Julien’s insecurities, making her character feel one-dimensional.

The reboot barely scratches the surface of Julien’s insecurities, making her character feel one-dimensional.

Zoya (Whitney Peak) is the new girl in town. She’s Julien’s half-sister (they share a mother) and is at Constance Billard on a scholarship. She reminds me a lot of Jenny Humphrey (before she went goth and annoying) from the original series, and her father is very Rufus-like. She’s a very cute and likable character in the first episode, but she wasn’t my favorite either.

Max (Thomas Doherty) appears to be the Chuck Bass of the reboot. Though Chuck is one of the most beloved characters of the original series, he also changes the most from the pilot to the final episode. The original Gossip Girl pilot portrays Chuck as a predator with a sense of humor, but he quickly sheds the predatory image in the middle of the first season (fortunately retaining his sense of humor). Personally, I found Max to be boring. He reminded me of Chuck in the way that he likes to hookup and do drugs during school hours, but his attempts to be funny fall flat. Chuck Bass would not approve.

Two characters that barely got any screen time were Aki (Evan Mock) and Audrey (Emily Alyn Lind). They’re a couple that has been together for years and are looking to spice up their sex life, and both of them seem to be attracted to Max. Though their screen time was minimal, my hopes of them becoming more interesting are low. My best guess is they’ll have a threesome with Max, but it’s so obvious that it doesn’t feel dramatic or scandalous. Though many of the scandals in the original Gossip Girl were obvious, they still found a way to feel dramatic and scandalous. This is one of the many ways in which the reboot fails to live up to the original.

The reboot fails to make scandals feel scandalous.

My two favorite characters were Luna (Zion Moreno) and Monet (Savannah Lee Smith) because they reminded me of Blair’s minions from the original show. They were vicious and snobby, but I loved them because they were the only funny characters and the only ones who seemed to echo the original series. They also had the most extravagant Blair-esque outfits, and I love that for them.

My two least favorite characters were Obie (Eli Brown) and Kate (Tavi Gevinson). According to Elle Australia, Obie is the new Dan Humphrey, which I find hilarious because he makes Dan seem a lot less annoying and self-righteous. Obie is the richest kid at school but hates everything about his parents’ wealth. He’s the kid who tweets about how much he hates capitalism from his brand new iPhone that his parents bought him as he sits in the comfort of his family’s multi-million dollar mansion. It’s not a good look, and it’s annoying. He makes some of the worst people on Real Housewives look self-aware, except it’s not hilarious to watch.

Obie makes some of the worst people on Real Housewives look self-aware, except it’s not hilarious.

Kate is an English teacher at Constance Billard, known as Ms. Keller to her students. She appears to be the only Millennial in a Gen Z cast, but she’s so annoying and boring that I felt my eyelids getting heavy every time she appeared on my laptop screen.

Pilot Episode Overview

Ok, major spoilers ahead!

The show takes place in a post-COVID world, and the students at Constance Billard and St. Jude (the boys’ school) treat their teachers like trash. On the first day back at school after the pandemic, multiple teachers get fired because students complained about them to their rich parents, who probably threatened to withdraw their donations to the school. This motivates the teachers, mainly Kate Keller, to bring back Gossip Girl as a way of taking their power back (sound like a microcosm of class warfare to anyone else?). With the help of her fellow teachers (who are all as annoying as she is), she recreates Gossip Girl on Instagram, exposing the secrets of her students. The audience knows that Kate is running the account, but the students don’t.

Though this premise of teachers trying to sabotage their students via social media has potential, it falls flat because it changes who Gossip Girl is as a whole. Not only do you know who Gossip Girl is from episode one (instead of wondering for six seasons and finding out in the last episode), when Kate takes over as Gossip Girl she doesn’t sound like Gossip Girl. She's presumably in her mid-twenties, a writer, and has access to Gossip Girl’s archive, therefore she should have no problem recreating Gossip Girl’s voice. However, she’s a lot less vicious than the original Gossip Girl (who was literally a teenage boy the entire time, a.k.a. Dan Humphrey). Though Kristen Bell returns as the voice of Gossip Girl, even she sounds different. It almost feels like she doesn’t want to be there, and I get it.

The premise of teachers trying to sabotage their students via social media was promising but fell flat.

I’m incredibly confused as to why this reboot exists. The point of a reboot is to entice the original audience to return and to bring in a new generation of viewers by replicating parts of the original show for a contemporary audience. Though the reboot tries to incorporate elements of the original show, it doesn’t do it enough and it fails miserably. 

Closing Thoughts

It would make a lot more sense (and be a lot more enjoyable) if this wasn’t a reboot but an entirely new show. I get that the creators wanted to bring in the audience of the original show, but they could have done that by simply saying this new show was from the creators of the original show. I’d go as far as to say the majority of the problems in the first episode would be solved if it were an entirely new show. It wouldn’t be as good as 2000s teen dramas like The OC, The Vampire Diaries, or the original Gossip Girl, but I would still watch it because I’m a sucker for teen dramas (and I’m curious to see how characters like Julien, Zoya, Luna, and Monet play out). 

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