TV Spotlight

''Gossip Girl'': Psst...Did You Hear?

This racy teen soap -- one of the most buzzed-about new shows of the fall -- is a big hit with teens (and even some of their parents) via downloads and DVRs. So who cares if it ranks 105th in the ratings?

Blake Lively | BLAKE LIVELY ''I feel like more people stop me a week on the street than the numbers are showing about how many people watch. How…
Image credit: PHOTOGRAPH BY GUY AROCH
BLAKE LIVELY ''I feel like more people stop me a week on the street than the numbers are showing about how many people watch. How is that even possible?''

On a crisp autumn day in early November, on the ice at Central Park's Wollman Rink, Blair (Leighton Meester) is pissed. It's several hours into a shoot for the new CW show Gossip Girl, a teen soap about fabulously dressed, shockingly loaded, and occasionally evil high school kids on Manhattan's Upper East Side. During the episode filming today, tortured princess Blair is hanging with her recently outed, frequently absent father (John Shea), who's brought his Boy Toy along on what was supposed to be a quality afternoon with his daughter. As Boy Toy skates past, Blair looks up from her Sidekick, shoots a chilly glare, sticks out an ice-skate-clad foot, and...splat.

You'd think such a spectacle would draw attention from passersby, especially given the tangle of cameras, crew members, production tents, and trendily clothed extras. Strangely, nobody walking past the set seems even slightly intrigued.

If you look at ratings, however, that might not seem so surprising. On paper, this Sex and the City- meets-Mean Girls drama is not very successful, drawing a relatively lame 2.6 million viewers and languishing near the bottom of the Nielsen chart. (It's at No. 105, to be exact.) But in a season with few new breakouts, Gossip Girl is redefining what it means to be a TV hit. Based on Cecily von Ziegesar's hugely popular book series about an anonymous blog writer who chronicles private-school scandal, Gossip Girl is luring a new breed of viewer who can't always be counted by old-school methods. ''This show is a bigger deal than the ratings are reflecting,'' says executive producer Josh Schwartz, who knows something about teen shows, having also created The O.C. ''We have a great formula,'' adds Meester, 21, straightening her chic pom-pom hat between takes. ''Really great characters, great clothes, hot people, good locations, and rich people with really messed-up lives. What's not to love?''

So where are all those obsessive fans during this morning shoot? Well, they're probably just finishing up second period. And why doesn't anyone seem concerned about Gossip Girl's early performance? As it turns out, slumming at the bottom of the ratings chart isn't so bad if you're the only show kids are talking about.

NEXT PAGE: ''We're not trying to make a documentary about the life and times of the Upper East Side. People should know the show has been embellished.''

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