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A decade ago this fall, just as social media was fracturing pop culture into a million pieces, a pair of sophomore show-runners, a start-up network, and a cast of barely of-age millennials aligned to capture one last old-fashioned teenage zeitgeist.
On the tenth anniversary of the CW’s flagship series, A decade ago this fall, just as social media was fracturing pop culture into a million pieces, a pair of sophomore show-runners, a start-up network, and a cast of barely of-age millennials aligned to capture one last old-fashioned teenage zeitgeist.
There was no shortage of high-profile guest stars throughout the run, either, as luminaries from the world of fashion, publishing, music, and art appeared on the series.
Eighteen years old at the time, she had just appeared in a small independent film and come to a crushing conclusion: “I realized that [acting] was a business as much as a craft,” she told me more than a decade after the fact, while on the West Coast, where her husband, Ryan Reynolds, was about to start shooting a prime-time soap opera about beautiful, articulate, sun-kissed teenagers living in Orange County, was wrapping up its four-year run.
The show had arrived on the scene with a tidal wave of buzz, its actors almost immediately splashed on magazine covers and pushed out onto red carpets; but after burning through plot at a rapid pace (its leading lady, Mischa Barton, saw her character get killed off somewhat unceremoniously in the third season), the show sputtered to a close, ending with a truncated final season.
magazine featured the (scantily clad) cast of the show on its cover toward the end of the first season, proclaiming in its cover headline (only semi-tongue in cheek), “BEST. EVER.”At its core, though, while the fashion and music and Lively-ness of it all no doubt drew a large swath of viewers, the central, relatable dilemmas faced by the main characters—Blair and Serena, as well as Brooklyn “lonely boy” and eventual Serena boyfriend Dan Humphrey, ostentatious bad boy and Blair soul-mate Chuck Bass, and pinup prepster Nate Archibald—were what kept people tuning in.
“Phones get updated, but the inner life of teenagers, and the things that they struggle with, are pretty timeless, regardless of what device they’re on,” Schwartz said.
But ’s creators and show-runners, Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, already had the beaches of Newport in their rearview mirror, with their sights on a next project.
They had been sent Cecily von Ziegesar’s popular ] and its kind of crazy four-year run that we wanted to take and apply to something moving forward, and we were really excited about doing something in New York,” Schwartz said over lunch in Los Angeles this past winter.
Meanwhile, a new television network, the CW, was simultaneously in the midst of a delicate birthing process.
Formed by the union of the WB and UPN, the new network—led by then President of Entertainment Dawn Ostroff—was searching for an identity.
It’s currently available on Netflix, where a new generation is discovering the show for the first time.
(Chace Crawford, who played Nate, noted, “It’s so weird how the same demographic has been frozen in time.
The official green light was a mere formality: Schwartz and Savage were off to the races.