Watching the first episode of Gossip Girl, 10 years on
Omg someone saw Serena getting off the train at Grand Central
A lot can happen in a decade. Did you know it’s 10 years since the first iPhone came out. Or since Kanye West’s Graduation? Did you know, more importantly, that it’s been 10 years since the first ever episode of Gossip Girl?
Yep, everyone’s favourite raunchy teen drama first aired a decade ago, adopted from Cecily von Ziegesar’s seminal books of the same name. Before Bart Bass died and came back to life and Blair briefly became the Princess of Monaco, there was only Serena, Dan, Nate, Blair and Chuck, and their escapades as suspiciously old-looking teenagers on the Upper East Side.
So, how does the episode hold up, 10 years on? We thought we’d travel back in time and take a look.
Would it be a piece of mid-noughties pop culture without Young Folk by Peter Bjorn and John? That’s what opens Gossip Girl’s first episode, soundtracking Serena’s sad train journey back to the big city.
We’re greeted almost immediately by the familiar dulcet tones of Kristen Bell as Gossip Girl, presumably because having Penn Badgley do the voiceover would give the game away. Or maybe he’d just sound odd saying things like “World War III just broke out, and it’s wearing kneesocks.”
At Grand Central station we’re introduced to Dan himself, Lonely Boy, Dan the man, who we now know is trying to break into the world of Manhattan’s elite despite dressing like your uncle and having this haircut.
He’s mesmerised that Serena Van Der Stupid Name is back from boarding school, which he’s ascertained by the fact he happens to bump into her at Grand Central Station, a station through which an estimated 750,000 people pass daily.
Of course he’s actually here to meet his dad, who wastes no time in asking Dan and Jenny how his estranged wife is. Dan evades the question by saying he’s starving, to which Rufus replies: “Let’s go home, I’m cooking caprese salad!”, which suggests Rufus has no idea what caprese salad is.
Meanwhile, the news of Serena’s return is spreading to the Upper East Side. Of course, it’s 2007, so even someone with as much money as Blair Waldorf has to slum it with a phone which looks like this.
She’s at an opulent party hosted by her mother, who’s making some sort of bitchy comment about… wait, this isn’t Blair’s mum? Who is this woman?
We’re soon introduced to Nate, who is sporting slicked-back duck hair instead of his usual orgasm-inducing messy bangs. His dad is being a grade-A dickhead as usual, so luckily Blair has decided now is the optimum time for them to head to the most central room in the party to take each other’s virginities.
Then of course there’s Chuck, who is spending the party reclining on a chaise longue with the two female characters whose names you never bothered to learn because they never advanced the plot in any way.
Chuck is drinking a comically large glass of whisky, as you can see here.
And here he is, two minutes and 20 seconds later, already on a different glass.
Which means, assuming he’s been at the party for an hour and he’s drinking at a consistent rate, Chuck must already have tanked the best part of two bottles of Scotch already. Chuck is a 16-year-old schoolboy.
Anyway, Serena rocks up, and all of them share a lot of angsty stares as What Goes Around by Justin Timberlake plays in the background. Meanwhile Dan, the total fucking creep that he is, sits at home in the dark reading about the whole thing on his own blog.
Still, at least we now know that Dan thinks Brearley’s new uniforms are “fugly.”
Cut to: the Humphrey’s enormous apartment, where Rufus’ kids are being ungrateful little shits as per. “Dad, this is not a platform for one of your anti-capitalist rants!” squeals Jenny, wearing the private school uniform her anti-capitalist dad paid for.
They’re making fun of Rufus for being in one of the “top 10 forgotten bands of the nineties,” although Lincoln Hawk must have had at least six or seven number one singles to pay for a loft conversion in Brooklyn Heights, two kids’ tuition fees and a spacious art gallery which is literally only ever visited by Lily Van Der Woodsen.
Still, Rufus was way ahead of the curve when it comes to living in trendy Brooklyn. Not surprising, seeing as he called the choker trend 10 years early.
On the other side of the East River, Serena and Nate have a terse meeting outside the Palace Hotel before school. It doesn’t go well, but at least he has time to unwind on the bus with Chuck. Even though no-one in New York gets the bus, not least all of these private school kids.
This also means Nate’s morning schedule looks something like this:
6am-6:40am: Wake up, get changed, walk from the Upper East Side to the Palace hotel in Midtown
6:40am-7:00am: Wait for Serena, argue with Serena
7:00am-7:30am: Meet Chuck, get bus, ride bus back to the Upper East Side
7:40am: Smoke joint in Central Park with Chuck
Meanwhile, Serena and Blair have a blazing argument on the steps of the Met. Either NYC public schools are extremely lax with their opening hours or these teenagers wake up earlier than I ever managed to during puberty, seeing as they’ve already squeezed in about two hours of teen drama before registration.
Later in the day, Dan is helping his dad put up flyers for his band’s gig. Myspace exists for a reason, dad! Get a blog! These are both things he suggests, showing exactly why popular music in the mid-noughties didn’t really extend beyond the likes of Peter Bjorn and John.
They’re almost having a moment, until his bitch sister makes him go all the way to Fifth Avenue just to tell her if a dress she’s trying on looks OK. Imagine how much easier all this would have been with Snapchat.
That evening, Serena and Blair meet for drinks at the Palace bar. They have no problem getting served despite being five years off the New York drinking age, mainly because both of them look like 30-year-old actresses pretending to be teenage girls.
Blair leaves, and in comes Chuck wearing an uncomfortable-looking amount of layers, spouting off about grilled cheese and truffle oil. He forces himself on Serena, which is the first of two – TWO – sexual assaults he’ll commit in this episode.
In the meantime, Nate confesses the details of his and Serena’s sordid affair, the fallout of which spells the end of their relationship and S and B’s friendship. For two episodes.
Serena storms out on Chuck and drops her phone in the process. Luckily this fucking stalker is here pulling a dumb face and just waiting for something like this to happen, meaning in the first 25 minutes the show’s three male leads have been established as an adulterer, a sociopathic stalker and a sexual predator. Bad boys, eh?
Instead of just handing the phone in there and then, said stalker takes it home and then comes back to hand it in as some sort of romantic gesture the next day.
This prompts the hotel concierge to pull the same face as all of us when Dan actually manages to bag a date with Serena out of this.
Anyway, he gets his date. “You’d really go out with some guy you don’t know?” he asks.
She replies “Can’t be worse than the guys I do know!”, which is such a poor judgement call considering he’ll spend the next six years outing her drug habits and sexual history on his blog while shagging her cousin, her best friend and literally every other woman she knows.
Plus, for a man who’s pretty liberal with the word “fugly,” this is what he considers acceptable date attire.
Meanwhile, at the Kiss on the Lips party, Chuck spots Jenny and literally says the words “I love freshmen, they’re so fresh.” If you’re unfamiliar with the US high school grading system, he’s talking about 14-year-olds.
While Dan and Serena’s date gets off to a good start, they don’t make it to his dad’s gig because, surprise surprise, Chuck is sexually assaulting someone.
Luckily they get across town to the party, much to the chagrin of Blair and her acolytes. Dan finds Chuck attacking his sister and punches him in the face, which is a somewhat more appropriate reaction to a sexual aggressor than Buzzfeed managed.
Is he though? Is he?
That just about ties up the episode, with a baffling amount of storylines crammed into a relatively short 40 minutes. Oh, to be young again, with so much promise: Serena and Dan’s relationship had barely begun, Chuck and Blair hadn’t even got naughty in a limo yet, and Nate hadn’t… erm… got that internship at that newspaper?
Yep, a lot’s changed in the decade since episode one – and not just in the show. The days of GG were a simpler time, where gossip was so much more tantalising than screenshotted dick pics and half-hearted outings on Yik Yak. Sometimes we long for the days of 2007. Sometimes we miss it.
Mostly, we miss you. Xoxo, Gossip Girl.