From time to time I like having guest writers for this little blog about the fandom and my good friend, the March Hare, came up with their own idea for this. Since the March Hare is much closer to the fandom and knows a little more of it’s inner workings, I was happy to oblige. Now that my introduction is complete, I give you the March Hare:
How One Man Destroyed Gossip Girl: The Josh Safran Story
What will be Josh Safran’s legacy when Gossip Girl ends? One of the few writers leftthat have been there since the beginning, he took over in season 4 and changed the show forever. What was once a special teenage soap where friendships trumped all suddenly became a frightening http://polldaddy.com/poll/5943879/
of OMG moments that never fully resulted in anyone saying OMG. Spoilers became an issue, writers teamed up with fans to attack other fans, producers started calling people names online; and, most importantly, over 50% of viewers moved on.
Who is to blame and what went wrong? After the debacle that has been the last 3 episodes, I decided to look back on the words of Safran and see where this tale of woe begins. One of the first interviews that made meaware of Safran was a 3-part Examiner interview from September 5, 2009. Having occurred just before the season 3 premiere and the NYU saga it brought us, this interview was perhaps as a sign of things to come. I will take two segments from each part to illustrate Josh Safran’s thoughts circa 2009
AG: Any final thoughts on the show before Monday?
JS: It bothers me when people think of this show merely as a guilty pleasure because I think it’s more than that, and I hope it’ll stand the test of time. The show is smart, sharp. The writing staff is full of emotionally intuitive people who pull from their own personal histories as much as they do from headlines. And, of course, we draw from classic works like “Les Liaisons Dangereuses” and “The Great Gatsby” as much as we do from pop culture. Blair can quote Chekhov and Britney in the same breath. I feel like it’s that strange mix that makes Gossip Girl special.
AG: Let’s talk about the female friendships and the relationships between mothers and daughters. The two episodes where I cried were “The Serena Also Rises” and “Valley Girls”. Those episodes mined the mechanics of both those kinds of relationships. I think on Gossip Girl, like in real life, they can have some of the same intensity as romantic relationships.
JS: Serena and Blair are the central relationship of the show. They always have been, and always will be. Second to that are the friendships and family relationships across the board. We try to write from that theme, although it isn’t always recognizable on first glance. “Valley Girls,” for instance, was about mothers and daughters, female friendships, and how they grow and change and deepen through surprising circumstances. In “The Serena Always Rises” when Serena told Blair to step out of her light, leading into their catfight the next episode, a lot of the writing of that relationship and its issues came from a very personal place for the writers, myself included. It doesn’t matter that I’m not a teenage girl. The guys on the staff get female relationships, and the girls get things like Nate and Dan’s bromance. We’re good in each other’s skins. This season, with Serena and Blair in different places, their friendship might be tested. But their bond is always so strong underneath. It’s funny, at the very beginning, people talked about how Blair was dark and Serena was light, but as we’ve shown, they each have both. Which is universal. And it’s some of this stuff that we’re talking about that makes me hope people will still be talking about these characters in ten years, like they do about Angela and Rayanne from My So-Called Life, or Rory and Lorelei from Gilmore Girls.
Now I admit I read this and smiled. Well, no, I didn’t - but I did go back to Google to find more. Let’s come back to present time. This is a quote from January 13th, 2012, from an interview with Safran and Nicole Karlis:
HL: And what about Blair’s friendship with Serena (Blake Lively)? Does Dan mess that up at all?
JS: What I will say is that Serena and Blair’s friendship is that I know some people feel like we didn’t service it fully in the first half of the season. But we believe they were very close — with the exception of episode five when they sort of had their arguments. But they live together, they share a bathroom, they’re really close friends, and that’s something we wanted to showcase even more coming up. People sort of felt like, ‘Wait, where have Serena and Blair gone?’ And in our mind, we were like, ‘It’s because they’re not having problems. They’re just happy friends. Hugging was sort of enough.’ In the wedding, Serena is very much by Blair’s side throughout that entire episode for instance. In our minds„ because because hey’re not having problems, we’re like, they’re friends. We haven’t necessarily showcased that as much as the fans would like. In our brains, we thought we had. We’re just making sure to hit that even harder.
Are you laughing? Are you crying? Let’s compare 2009 and 2012 or, as I call it, Before Stephanie Savage and After. We went from the central relationship in the show and that which drives everything to “We didn’t realize people would notice they were not sharing scenes” Now I watched last episode, and I cried for SB. SB was killed for DB. They can not be saved. Don’t bother trending or tweeting. There was a decision to be made, and Josh Safran chose Dan over Serena. Now, season 3 premiered to 2.52 million viewers while only 1.17 million viewers watched the end of the SB friendship. So in 2 seasons, they lost the core pairing of the show and 50% of the audience. I am sure that these facts are not related. I could (and will) write a long post about how the destruction of SB killed Gossip Girl, but for now I will leave you with this: imagine Gilmore Girlswithout Rory and Lorelei. Imagine The OC without Seth and Ryan. Can you see it? You can’t. That is your new and improved Safran-led Gossip Girl. Now with 100% more Dan.
Seasons 1 and 2 will stand the test of time. Season 3 is a huge WTF, and season 4 is a completely different show. Which leads me to my next segment.
Josh Safran vs. Chuck Bass/Nate Archibald
I am sure you are wondering why these are together, and I ask you all stay with me as I tie Josh’s hatred for Chuck Bass to his hatred for the fans. I hope that you all read the three part interview at the beginning of this post. Just to set the scene, remember this was conducted right before season 3. The season where the characters firstgo to college, and the only season in which Chuck and Blair are a couple. You will notice the big focus on NYU, Hilary Duff and Scott. Or, as I call them, The Trifecta of Fail. Now, I don’t want to speak for everyone, but who here was excited for NYU, Scott or Hilary Duff? No one? Really? Shocking.
There was also another subtle change that occurred, one which does not get a lot of notice, and that is the end of screen time for Chuck Bass. I join in with fans mocking Josh for refusing to discuss Chuck in the producer previews, and for often having to be reminded by his partner that Chuck exists, but there is actual proof to show that Chuck - and to a lesser extent Nate - is not a Josh Safran favorite. In seasons 1 - 3, we saw all main characters get screen time. Blair and Serena dominated, but in general all the boys also got their fair share. In season 4, we saw Chuck and Nate get a very reduced load. Chuck still was a plot vocal point, but he actually was able to do so without actually appearing. 4.20 was perhaps one of the most discussed episodes of season 4, all because of Chuck’s behavior, but he actually was not in that many scenes and barely appeared in the beginning of the episode. Nate has become a joke. Once he apologized to Dan for being mad about Dan kissing his girlfriend in the season 3 finale, he never recovered. He dates whatever guest star the writers are obsessed with, and he hangs out at his apt with Chuck. That is Nate. After fan outcry, he got more of a significant story in season 5, but he is still the go-to guy for all female guest stars. He did not even warrant sharing a scene with Blair after his cousin killed her baby.
So why the hate for Nate and Chuck? Lets roll back to season 3. The second part of season 3, saw three couple emerge on Gossip Girl: Chuck/Blair, Nate/Serena and Dan/Vanessa. Fans were thrilled and excited to have the NJBC together and in a couple. They were thrilled to see Dan and Vanessa condensed in one storyline for ease of ignoring. This replaced the NYU Dan/Vanessa focused storyline and, in myopinion, Josh never forgave. Both NJBC couples were deconstructed to plan for a Dan-centered arc. Why? Was Dan a fan favorite? Were viewers asking for this? Nope, but the very popular Nate and Chuck were put on the back burner or, in Chuck’s case, thrown under a very big bus to facilitate making both girls all about Dan.
Josh Safran vs. The Fan
I am not going to discuss Spoilergate. It has been discussed before and in-depth. I have a very close friend who constantly says that there was never a leak. It was discussed before on this blog, so I won’t go into detail because most of you know what happened. What I will say is this: Josh Safran contacted fans and asked them to spy on other fans who shipped different things. He traded spoilers and information, and even named a character after someone who helped. This witch hunt was led by Josh with his approval. The buck stops there. I know it generated buzz and it took the focus away from a weak season 4 finale, but can you think of one other showrunner that would do this? I can’t. That is not even the worst of it. There has also been complaint tweets from the @ggwriters about fans complaining, a production assistant that RTs negative tweets about CB fans, and a multitude of interviews where he has pointed out how awful the fans are. I am not asking for him to kiss anyone’s ass, but showing some respect for the people who care about and watch your program would be a start. His distast for and hatred of all the fans is in sharp contrast to Josh Schwartz, who tries to make everything light and fun, and Stephanie Savage who - despite not loving the spotlight - always took the time to thank the viewers. Josh Safran, with his protected twitter and his team of writers, seems to despise anyone who does not respond to his genius in a way he likes. I fear that he has lost sight of the fact that he is basically feeding himself off the goodwill that Schwartz and Savage earned. Under his reign of terror, the ratings have plummeted and NYMag hasdowngraded The Greatest Show Of Our Time to just a show. No one thinks a show run by fans is a great idea. I can’t think of anything worse. That being said, before you destroy Blair/Serena and dismiss the two male leads, you might want to do a temperature check because that is a big move that is not fan-friendly at all.
I can’t imagine jumping into the next Josh Safran show once this show is put out of its misery. Can you?
Lastly, Josh Safran is a writer who clearly spent some part of his youth/young adult life living in Brooklyn. Perhaps, instead of using therapy, he is working out issues through his self insert?
~The March Hare