There’s more diversity in the new Gossip Girl

Wednesday: Gossip Girl; (BBC One, 10.35pm)

By Claire Cartmill
Tuesday, 24th August 2021, 5:00 pm

There’s a theory that there are only so many plots out there, and that all stories are variations on those.

Even if you bear that in mind, it still appears to be rather soon to be considering a revamp of Gossip Girl, the glossy pop culture classic that ran from 2007 to 2012.

Nevertheless, that’s exactly what is happening. It seems its makers feel that in the nine years since the last series, a whole new generation of potential fans have appeared and are in desperate need of a fresh take on the drama. And they could be right – a lot has happened in the intervening period, not least the ever-growing fascination with social media, which is now so central to the lives of the show’s target audience.

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Akeno 'Aki' Menzies, Max, Audrey, Otto ‘Obie’ Bergman, Julien, Monet and Luna

The original Gossip Girl was based on a series of novels by Cecily von Ziegesar and was narrated by a mysterious blogger, voiced by Kristen Bell. Each episode focused on the lives of wealthy adolescents living on Manhattan’s swanky Upper East Side.

At its centre was Serena van der Woodsen, played by Blake Lively, who, in the first run, returned to her prestigious school following a mystery absence. The story revolved around her and her circle of equally photogenic friends.

The new version retains Bell as the narrator, but features an all-new set of characters. Showrunner Joshua Safran, who was a writer and executive producer on the original series, has described it as taking place in a shared universe with its predecessor.

This time a new batch of upper-class teens are set to grab our attention, and we should be able to delve deeper into their lives thanks to advances in social surveillance. We’ve also been promised more adult content than before, which perhaps explains the show’s rather late time slot. Plus, Safran has introduced more diversity by creating non-white leads and LGBTQ+ characters. He’s also hinted that a few familiar faces from the past could reappear.

With Serena now presumably married with a couple of kids, her position as the resident ‘It’ girl is taken by Jordan Alexander as Julien Calloway. She’s a fashion influencer who has recently been reunited with her younger half-sister Zoya (Whitney Peak).

Zoya, meanwhile, is morally upstanding and is about to form a relationship with Obie (Eli Brown), Julien’s ex-boyfriend, who is known as a wealthy do-gooder. They’re surrounded by a vast array of unforgettable fellow students who are sure to capture the imagination over the next few weeks.

Dan McGolpin, director of BBC iPlayer and Channels says: “The BBC has a rich track record of acquiring some of the best content from around the world to complement our original commissions and we are delighted to be reacquainting existing fans and introducing new viewers to the iconic world of Gossip Girl. The original series defined an era and we cannot wait for everyone to see the new series with its exciting new generation.”

By the way, all six seasons of the first incarnation are being made available on the iPlayer so that fans old and new can contrast and compare.

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