If Hollywood’s own Gossip Girl is to be believed, Josh Schwartz’s planned Gossip Girl spinoff won’t be coming to televisions this fall. As Deadline Hollywood Daily’s Nikki Finke “reported” last week, the potential series, which is built around show matriarch Lily van der Woodsen (née Rhodes) and her early years as a rebellious teenager in California, is probably “dead,” this despite the fact that Warner Brothers Television president Peter Roth a big fan (Warner Brothers is the parent company of The CW). Ms. Finke’s TOLDJA! negativity aside, last night’s episode of Gossip Girl, titled “Valley Girls”, served as a backdoor pilot to the now-questionable new series, and the results were decidedly mixed. The 1983-set flashbacks were a pastiche of tired clichés, lame jokes and bizarrely sepia-tinged film stock (who knew Southern California circa 1983 looked straight out of The Godfather?). Still, since it mildly had to do with Gossip Girl (and was one of the few episodes written this year by Mr. Schwartz and his co-producer Stephanie Savage), we were kinda hooked. Wondering what should stay and what should go if Lily (that’s the rumored title) actually goes to series? Here’s a checklist.
All hail Andrew McCarthy! Playing Lily’s previously unreferenced father, Mr. McCarthy only appeared in the episode’s first five minutes, yet he was so perfectly smarmy, detached and charming that he instantly became our favorite part of the pilot. Working under a pair of Aviator sunglasses and wearing Guy Pearce’s suit from Memento, Mr. McCarthy got to play what seems to be a rarity in the Josh Schwartz-oeuvre: the well-meaning but flawed dad. Since most fathers Mr. Schwartz creates are either cool and hip (see: Gossip Girl’s Rufus Humphrey) or rich and heartless (see: Gossip Girl’s Bart Bass), this muddying of the water is progress. We also found Brittany Snow, as Young Lily, to be equally wonderful, even though the way her character was written she seemed more like Blair than future-daughter Serena.
If you’re a fan of Lost you’ll be happy to know that we finally found out where Libby has been hiding: she’s bringing down the Gossip Girl spinoff, one blank glance into space at a time. Cynthia Watros, the actress who played Libby on Lost and here appears as Lily’s mother CeCe, is so bland that she makes Blake Lively seem well, lively. Simply, she has to go. And maybe she can take Shiloh Fernandez, who plays Lily’s soon-to-be boyfriend, Owen, with her. Wooden and forced, with looks that combine all the bad parts of Robert Pattinson and Ed Westwick (believe us, there are bad parts), Mr. Fernandez manages to be an unappealing match for Ms. Snow. Also, not to nitpick, but why is Lily falling in love with Owen, and not Rufus, in the first place?
As if the sepia-tones weren’t bad enough, the spinoff just looked plain cheap. The sets had a summer stock vibe; as if Mr. Schwartz and his team tried the best they could to make Silvercup Studios in Queens look like “Los Angeles.” It doesn’t work. Additionally, while we always appreciate Mr. Schwartz’s musical choices, scoring a montage of frantic clothes-changing to “Dancing with Myself” by Billy Idol was just plain cruel. Mr. Schwartz, we know you’re better than that!