Gossip Girl Reboot (2021) Episode 1 Review

The time has come! The premiere of the Gossip Girl reboot hit HBO Max today and it was….something. I actually didn’t realize that only the first episode was premiering today, and that HBO Max is going to do weekly releases for the rest of season one. That definitely foiled my plans of binging the show in less than 24 hours, but I guess it helps that I can now review the show episodically. And, boy, is there a lot to discuss… Let’s jump in!

My Thoughts

So, I’ll start off this review by saying that this first episode did not impress me at all. I was skeptical going into this show, but even amidst my skepticism, I had the smallest glimmer of hope that this show might actually be something entertaining and refreshing. I got none of that during this premiere. Instead, I sat and endured an hour of mediocre acting by way of an extremely stilted script. The original Gossip Girl had a very distinct vibe to it, and from the looks of this first episode, the reboot just seems to lack focus.

First, just as I predicted in my post discussing my thoughts on the trailer, there are way too many characters in this show. Right off the bat, we’re introduced to the in-crowd at Constance Billard, which is made up of seven characters, and I just could not keep up with who was who. The introductions were so rushed that I couldn’t find it in me to care about figuring out who most of these characters were. I opted out of not learning too much about them through the reboot’s Instagram promotions, so maybe that’s why I couldn’t grasp it, but still. The first episode is where we meet these characters that we’re eventually supposed to care about by the end of the show, so it was really disappointing that the introductions weren’t done well.

The first episode seemed to focus a lot on Julien and Zoya, so I did get the sense that the two of them will be the main characters, but nearly everyone else lacked any depth or intrigue. If I had to choose a favorite character right now, it would probably be Obie, but that’s most likely because I thought the actor who played him gave the best performance.

Not only do we get an overly expansive friend group, but we get even more characters when a group of teachers are introduced. And–surprise!–these teachers are behind new Gossip Girl. More specifically, a teacher named Ms. Keller is the one with the Gossip Girl Instagram account on her phone. I have to say, this “reveal” for the new Gossip Girl was one of the most underwhelming things I’ve ever watched. I get the effort to try and make this reboot separate from the original, but this new direction didn’t make much sense to me. Knowing Gossip Girl’s identity from the start doesn’t give me any incentive to keep watching the show. As I’ve already expressed, the script isn’t good and the acting is mediocre at best, so, really, what reason do I have to continue on? Maybe episode two will thicken the plot more, and make this early identity reveal more interesting, but right now, I highly doubt it.

I also found it extremely weird that in this new generation at Constance, no one is at least somewhat familiar with the original Gossip Girl site. One of the teachers who mentions that she attended Constance during the OG GG’s heyday, has to explain to the newer teachers what Gossip Girl was. If Gossip Girl was such a huge deal during the original show, it’s odd that the legacy of Gossip Girl wouldn’t at least be a residual rumor in this world. Ms. Keller even mentions Nate Archibald by name as someone successful that the school produced (which was also just…confusing since we’re given no context as to what about Nate she’s referring to…but I digress), so I don’t understand how they hadn’t at least heard of Gossip Girl before. The students were just as clueless until the new GG Instagram began tagging them in posts. Maybe it’s for the best, so we won’t have to sit through as many badly written references to the original cast and their Gossip Girl blasts.

There were also references to COVID-19 throughout the episode, which I feel will date the show in no time. I understand the need to feel fresh in this moment, but the mentions of quarantine felt so forced and out of place. Every time one came up, I inwardly cringed.

The plot of this first episode was definitely just exposition, so I won’t even go into the whole half-sister narrative since I genuinely have no thoughts on it right now. The characters were such a let down that I’m sure it’s going to take a lot for me to get invested in what’s going on there.

The one good thing about this first episode was Kristen Bell’s Gossip Girl narration. Don’t get me wrong, the writing is still not good, and we definitely didn’t get as many witty GG one-liners as I would have hoped, but hearing her voice was still a plus. Right now, I plan to continue watching the show since I’ve already given HBO Max my subscription payment for the month, but I’m still extremely disappointed by this show, so far. The glimmer of hope I had of it being a least a little good has long gone out. I guess we’ll have to wait and see if it can actually get any worse.

If you watched the first episode, let me know your thoughts! And if you were still on the fence about watching it–I’d save your time and money.

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