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Gossip Girl: The Complete Second Season (2008-2009)

Warner Home Video
DVD Released: 8/18/2009

All Ratings out of
Show: 1/2
Video: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/23/2009

I don't know which was more surprising: the fact that I was watching a show on The CW, or that the show was a hit. After watching and reviewing Gossip Girl: The Complete First Season, I began watching Season 2 when the new episodes started to air. By that time, the show had become a cultural phenomenon and it could be seen everywhere, as its stars made the tabloids and it's look was noted in fashion magazines. But, is the show actually worth watching? We'll explore that as we look at Gossip Girl: The Complete Second Season.

Season 2 of Gossip Girl continue to follow the lives of a group of privileged teenagers who live in Manhattan. Serena van der Woodsen (Blake Lively) once had a reputation as a party girl, but she's come home to live with her mother, Lily (Kelly Rutherford), and brother, Eric (Connor Paolo), and take things more seriously. Serena's best friend is Blair Waldorf (Leighton Meester), an incredibly spoiled and conniving rich girl who gets whatever she wants. Blair has on-again/off-again relationships with both Chuck Bass (Ed Westwick), a scheming playboy who dresses like the lovechild of Hugh Hefner, and Nate Archibald (Chace Crawford), a rich preppy guy whose world is rocked when his father is indicted. Into this world comes Dan Humphrey (Penn Badgley), a smart guy from Brooklyn who goes to school with the rich kids thanks to a scholarship. He and his sister, Jenny (Taylor Momsen), attempt to adapt to Manhattan life, but are seen as outsiders. Still, this doesn't stop Dan and Serena from dating. Things are further complicated by the fact that Rufus (Matthew Settle), Dan's father, used to date Serena's Mom.

Season 2 opens at the end of the summer, when everyone is still at the Hamptons -- that is, except for Dan and Jenny, who are doing internships. Blair is still reeling from the fact that she offered herself to Chuck, but he rejected her. Nate has started seeing an older woman. Serena has mixed feelings about Dan. Following this, the group returns to school, where Dan, Serena, Blair, Nate, and Chuck all attempt to focus on their senior year and their plans for college. Not surprisingly, they have their eyes set on Ivy League schools, but one will learn that no matter who you are, your past can catch up with you when it's time to apply to college. Dan and Serena continue their unpredictable romance, while Nate finds himself falling for Dan's friend Vanessa (Jessica Szohr). No matter how hard she tries, Blair can't avoid Chuck and she can't hide her feelings. However, Chuck must deal with a family crisis which sends him over the edge. All the while, Rufus and Lily begin to see more of one another, wondering if they can recreate the past.

If you haven't guessed by now, Gossip Girl is a soap opera. And while it sort of resembles something like Beverly Hills 90210, it actually comes closer to shows like Dallas and Dynasty, as it presents the often ludicrous problems of the wealthy and powerful. The show earned a reputation for being somewhat scandalous, but as I reported in my review for Season 1, I was surprised by how smut-free the show was at times. If anything, the most shocking part of the show is the fact that the teens are allowed to drink, not only in their homes, but at bars and restaurants as well. Is this real?

As noted above, I watched Season 2 when it aired. This is typically high praise from me, and this must mean that the show is good, right? Well, I can't say that it's good, but it's certainly watchable. As with any program with an ensemble cast, some characters are more likeable than others and some storylines are more interesting with others. For example, I don't really care for the Nate and Vanessa story, and the subplots concerning Jenny's rebellion began to get old. If anything, Gossip Girl likes to find a groove and stick with it.

And, this is why I watched the show. As the season progressed, I found that I was less engrossed with the characters and storylines and watched the show with more of a "What will they do next?" attitude. There are two central components of the show which fall into this category. First, what stupid thing is Dan going to do next to push Serena away? Apparently the makers of Gossip Girl want this couple to be the Ross & Rachel of the show, as they keep getting together and breaking up. But, it always seems to be Dan's decision to end things, and once he does, he won't talk to Serena about it. Watching Dan's "I can't be here right now" reactions when Serena engages him is unintentionally hilarious, and I'd love to have a compilation of those scenes. The other reason to keep watching the show is Chuck Bass. As played by Brit Ed Westwick, Chuck has a very soft voice and he speaks very slowly. As the season progressed, I swear that his voice just kept getting softer and softer until he was unintelligible. So, here's this guy wearing an ascot speaking at barely a whisper and everyone is afraid of him. You've got to love it.

Silly and soapy, I get the feeling that on some level, Gossip Girl wants to be taken seriously, as it does occasionally tackles real teen problems. But, for the most part, the show is over the top and if one watches it with tongue planted firmly in cheek, it can be fun.

Gossip Girl: The Complete Second Season brings in Wallace Shawn of all people on DVD courtesy of Warner Home Video. The seven disc boxed set contains all 26 episodes from the show's second season. The episodes are letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing only mild grain at times and no defects from the source material. The colors look good, most notably strong bold reds and blues, and the image is never too dark or bright. This transfer rivals digital broadcast quality. The DVD feature a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The numerous New York City street scenes provide ample stereo and surround sound effects, although the surround is often quite subdued. In show music often delivers good bass effects.

The Gossip Girl: The Complete Second Season contains a few extras. Several episodes feature "Unaired Scenes" and these are scattered amongst the set. Disc 3 contains "Jenny's Fashion Music Video" (3 minutes), which allows us to see the entire version of the video which is only glimpsed in the background of the episode "There Might Be Blood". The remainder of the extras can be found on Disc 7. "5th Ave. Meets Gossip Girl" is an interactive map which allows the viewer to tour various locations in Manhattan, Brooklyn & Queens and Long Island. By choosing one of the icons on the map, you are treated to a short video which offers a look at the location and comments from the show's makers who discuss the look and feel of the place. "Faces Behind the Design" (17 minutes) profiles the show's fashion designers, offering comments from the fashion gurus and a look at the clothes and sketches. "Gossip Girl: Chasing Dorota" is a series of six episodes which focus on the adventures of Blair's maid. This has a very different vibe than the show, and as usual Dorota is funny. "LOL" is an 11-minute gag reel.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long