“While we haven’t pulled in blockbuster ratings, we have helped create an identity for the network—or rather, an identifying show for the network,” Josh Schwartz, the 32-year-old creator of the CW network show Gossip Girl, told the Transom via phone from his office in Burbank, Calif., the other day. To New Yorkers’ alternate delight and horror, the new season of Mr. Schwartz’s show began on Monday evening with guest appearances by Tinsley Mortimer and Jay McInerney, who played Dan Humphrey’s “literary mentor.”
“The challenge last year was when I was telling people, ‘Oh, I have this new show on the CW,’ and they were like, ‘What’s the CW?’”
New York magazine recently quoted Mr. Schwartz as saying that some choices that the network has made regarding his show have made him feel “weird”; specifically, the ads in which criticisms of the show—“Mind-Blowingly Inappropriate” and “Every Parent’s Nightmare”—are used to market the show. But Mr. Schwartz now claims he was misquoted, or at least, misinterpreted.
“Totally wrong!” he said, seeming somewhat offended (or at least pretending to be). “I was kidding around. I had a big smile on my face.”
He continued: “I mean, look, when you have someone calling you every parent’s nightmare and you’re a nice Jewish boy, that’s a little weird, but ultimately I think the ad campaign spoke to the tone of the show.”
That being said, Mr. Schwartz admitted that he hasn’t always been in agreement with the network.
“We were very dissatisfied with the initial ad campaign last year. It was the one where all of them are standing in Times Square or what looked like a generic city with lasers coming out of their heads or what not. We were very vocal about that,” he said. “But then they came up with the OMG campaign and the new ads this year, and we were excited. I felt very bad when that article ran.
“It would be hard for me to be the guy who did The O.C. and now does Gossip Girl and be offended about a show that’s called ‘mind-blowingly inappropriate.’ I would have to have some serious level of Jekyll and Hyde to my personality,” he added.
According to Mr. Schwartz, he and executive producer Stephanie Savage have no qualms, in fact, about being called inappropriate.
“This is not a show that pulls its punches,” he said. “If there are any punches pulled, it’s because the network tells us that we just can’t do it.”
The show’s appeal, said Mr. Schwartz, is that it’s “the most exciting city in the world at the most exciting time of your life. It’s that you just hadn’t seen New York through the eyes of a teenager before.”
Whatever happens, Mr. Schwartz said he’s not worried. He says he’s grown since his debut as an executive producer.
“I got the full gamut while working on The O.C. At first no one knew who we were, then the show had this wildly successful first season where it became a hot show, then there was a backlash, an audience drop-off, and by the final season we were very proud of the show creatively even if no one was watching anymore,” said Mr. Schwartz, perhaps a little wistfully. “So I don’t worry about that stuff anymore. You can only be the hot show for so long.”