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Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Gossip Girl 1x01 - Pilot

Sneaking it in under the wire here -- busy day, not a lot of time for reading (trying to put some serious mileage on a new draft of my Pipeline pitch bible).

So lets just dive right in.

What we have here is a 60 page pilot by Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage based off the novel Gossip Girl by Cecily Von Ziegesar, dated 12/20/06 (download here).  It's a cold open and five acts, breaking down like so: 10/12/8/7/13/9.  There's no mention about what draft this might be, but it's incredibly polished... so it could easily be the final shooting script.

This is an interesting script for me to read because, honestly, I'm torn on how I feel about it.

The pacing, the way the writers play with and build tension... it's truly something that deserves to be recognized  Hands down, the introduction of Serena (the main character) is one of the best lead character introductions I've ever seen/read.  The tease of who she is and why everyone's feathers are ruffled about her return is masterfully done.

Plus, the world - and its rules - are set up immediately and are consistent throughout.

It's... a fucking awesome script.

And yet as I read it - as much as I got sucked into it - I couldn't help but find this little birdie chirping away in the back of my mind:

It's a very carefully designed beast - manipulative to its very core, seducing you (and by you I mean 'regular tweenage girls') with this idea of the reformed, rich, beautiful wild child who's had a 'life-changing experience' and suddenly realizes that poor people have more depth of character than the people she formerly called friends.


And the Pilot doesn't deny any of this... in fact, it goes out of its way to show just how shallow and pathetic the Rich Kids' (tm) world is.  For all the glitz and glamour, for all the money and privilege, none of them are happy.  They're banal, boring, back-stabbing and addicted to a TMZ-like website called 'Gossip Girl' (thus the clever title).

But, yet again... it's a fantastic script.

It sucks you in, makes you wonder -- I never CARED about any of these people, most of them were still mere sketches of archetypes; the mystery of who they are far more interesting than the actuality... but it all served to make me wonder.  Made me turn the page.

Which, as a pilot, is what you want to do.

There was one relationship that I almost wanted to like -- but it too is such a manipulation that when I realized it, it almost made me cringe.  The tough/reborn Serena finds her brother Eric in the hospital, surviving his latest (so it's hinted) suicide attempt.  They have a nice bit of chemistry... until you realize that the guy is only there so that she can show the requisite amount of Humanity to get us to like her.

You see, they spend the first 10 pages showing her arriving on a train, the 'world' reacting to the rumour of her return, her return to the 'good' life... and then she ditches it all to go sleep (in a chair! hurting her neck!) by the side of her blue-haired brother in the hospital.

It's brilliant.  And he only shows up for like two more scenes in the whole script.  One of which is to basically say 'You go girl' in a brotherly-love sort of way.

And yet I swallowed it, hook, line and sinker.  It made me turn the page, keep reading.

If there's any sort of actual criticism I can level at this script at all it's that it's cold.  Clinical.  This is a fantastic telling of the same sort of story we've seen since the original 90210.  It draws you in, makes you wonder, makes you want to know more... but I didn't give two licks about a single person in this script.  I put the script down and, knowing how it all played out, I was good.

I had no interest in seeing what happens next.

But it got them a TV show... and it's still on the air.  So kudos to them.  It truly is a fantastic piece of writing and it deserved to get made. (He says, as if he's any sort of authority on the subject).

On a technical level, the pacing is mostly controlled due to the pointed use of sentence structure in the descriptions.  It manages to get a lot of information out while keeping things trim -- quite well done.

ie:  Candles are lit for maximum romantic effect.  Blair’s dressed in nothing but bra and panties.  Examines herself in the mirror.  Sucks in her tummy, adjusts her boobs.  Better...

and: Dan enters.  Nervous.  Thinks about leaving.  Doesn’t.  Scours the place.  Looking into the lounge.  No sign of Serena.  Turns away when he collides with --

All-in-all, I don't think this show's my cup of tea... it's a brilliant read and it'll suck away an hour of your life without a second of pity... but I just don't care about what happens next.

That said, I'm sure they'll take any such criticisms well as they surf on what is sure to be a large pile of money.

And hey, they deserve it.

Tomorrow's script is the Pilot for Modern Family -- a show that I still quite like.  I can't really remember the pilot tho' so this'll be an interesting refresher.

Until tomorrow!


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