By Ugochi Uzoigwe
Television’s traditions in episodic dramas and sitcoms were transformed with the rise in serialized shows like the Sopranos. Ever since then, they are more serialized shows and—in the case of Gossip Girl, shows with serialized elements. This switch, along with more avenues of getting your TV fix (Netflix, DVDs) has changed our values of TV watching experience. So it brings up the questions: Is it better to watch TV slowly? Is always starting at the beginning of a series worth the effort? And what does that mean for you GG viewers? TV critics Scott Tobias and Noel Murray and Todd VanDerWerff open up discussion on this change in their AV club articles.
In “How has the culture of TV (and TV-watching) changed,” Tobias and Murray generally hold opposing views about TV. Murray prefers the episodic shows, known for their episode-length plots and more static characters. He likes the ease of “jumping in” and “catching on” to these shows, which is why mid-season watching is “no big deal” for Murray. . He also adds that it’s not always worth watching a series whose start is lackluster.
Tobias’s P.O.V is completely different. He enjoys television programming like Lost and The Wire, both characterized by serialized storytelling (i.e. ongoing plots and developing characters). Watching serial television is like reading a book, and this dissuades him from starting just anywhere. Besides, Tobias feels that the pay-off in devoting the time to watch a series is greater. For example, the Friday Night Lights’ episode “The Son”, Murray believes that the events of that episode can still connect with any casual viewer, whereas Tobias thinks that the back-story is essential in understanding the plight of character Matt Saracen and eliciting an emotional response.
VanderWerff goes over the pace of watching a series. He thinks watching a show an episode at a time brings distinction and attention to individual episodes of a series; it’s those distinctions that help viewers to think over what each episode and each character does for the series as a whole. Overall, he feels that “taking it slow” with certain shows creates a more satisfying and TV-realistic experience.
Gossip Girl has a good mix of serial and episodic elements: there’s drama on every episode, but the characters definitely change and grow throughout the series (hello, Jenny into Little J). With everything that goes on in Gossip Girl, where’s the best place to start? In my opinion, where ever! Murray feels that you can dive into almost any show if you have a basic understanding of how TV storytelling works, and I agree. Each episode of GG is centered on an event, big or small, soon-approaching, (ex. Blair’s slumber party, Cotillion, etc.) and the drama that unfolds because of it. Plus, changes in characters and their relationships can draw out along several episodes. Perfect example? Talk of Chuck and Blair’s hookup and the growing feelings a more sentimental (and less philandering) Chuck Bass occurred over many episodes. Also, GG isn’t hinted at and revealed until near the end of the series, so you’ll be fine if u jump in.
When it comes to the pace at which Gossip Girl it should be watched, binging on the show isn’t bad, but it’s not ideal. I know this from experience of watching the first half of Gossip Girl’s Season 1 back-to back; after finishing I could barely remember some of the characters’ names. Also, slower-paced viewing helps you to savor all of the drama, from the teens (ex. Serena and Dan’s relationship) to the parents (ex. Lily and Rufus’s).
Because Gossip Girl is not entirely serialized, a more easy going approach can be taken in where one starts. But don’t start too late! And don’t go binging, GG isn’t going anywhere so take it slow.
Scott Tobias & Noel Murray. “How Has the Culture of TV (and TV-watching) Changed?” · Crosstalk · The A.V. Club. N.p., 18 June 2010. Web. 20 Apr. 2014. <http://www.avclub.com/article/how-has-the-culture-of-tv-and-tv-watching-changed-42274>.