Two television series about private schools have received a certain amount of buzz recently. Gossip Girl airs on CW . NYC Prep is on Bravo.
Gossip Girl is based on the novels of Cecily von Ziegesar. Ms. von Ziegsar herself is a graduate of Nightingale-Bamford, a Manhattan girls' school. The Gossip Girl series made it to the best seller lists in 2002. It chronicles the lives and exploits of the wealthy teens attending The Constance Billard School for Girls. Gossip Girl premiered on CW in 2007.
What's to Like
The cinematography is fabulous. You will have plenty of New York City vistas, shops and restaurants, as well as those incredible Park Avenue apartments to soak up. HDTV makes it a breath-taking experience without doubt.
The fact that the show really does not depict what actually goes on in a fine old Manhattan girls' school. That's a good thing. Because we can only imagine what those poor teachers and administrators have to deal with on a daily basis. New York is a vibrant, exciting city, but it can be terribly rough and 'in your face'. It takes a very tough teacher to face some of those parents and children in a conference room discussing little Rebecca's failing grade in calculus, that's for sure.
The clothes. No American city does clothes better than New York. And these kids know how to wear those clothes. And where to wear them. Fashionistas will find much to savor in each episode.
What's Not to Like
The fact that the teens in Gossip Girl seem to be irresponsible, aimless and unfocused is kind of sad. You would think that children from great wealth and privilege would be taught by their parents that wealth and privilege has its obligations and responsibilities.
Most of the characters are teens. Teens are rather boring simply because they don't know that much and are very opinionated about what they think they know.
Gossip Girl gives the impression that private schools as a genre are just for rich kids. That's just not true anymore. Ms. von Ziegsar attended Nightingale-Bamford back in the 70s and 80s. Much has changed since then. Yes, children from very wealthy families still attend private school. Yes, the offspring of corporate titans and famous neurosurgeons still attend private school. But nowadays so do the policeman's daughter and the truck driver's son. Diversity rules in private schools pretty much everywhere these days, except perhaps at Le Rosey.
NYC Prep hit the small screen in June 2009. It purports to be a reality show. In reality it's very unreal.
What's to Like
All the same things written above about Gossip Girl apply. The New York scenery is simply amazing. Because the show uses the reality format, the photography is more natural with far fewer retakes. That can be appealing for the fluid scenes with plenty of action. It doesn't work as well with conversation scenes and closeups simply because the actors don't always project the emotion tight closeups require to be effective.
NYC Prep focuses on just six main characters. Unfortunately they are teens, so you have to wade through a lot of inanities to unlock the personality of each character.
The vicarious element is definitely delicious. Enjoying some of those neighborhood restaurants only New York seems to have in great abundance is great fun. Once again, the boutique and spa scenes reveal the opulence of the life style of the extremely rich.
What's Not to Like
These children have far too much time on their hands. If they were in boarding school in New Hampshire or Connecticut, they would be leading structured lives 24/7. Since their parents aren't actively supervising their lives, with the exception of one poor girl's overzealous mother, it's no wonder these kids wander about so aimlessly, spending tons of money which they haven't earned, filling their days with frivolous pursuits with not a care for anything or anyone but themselves. This selfish side of growing up rich in Manhattan is kind of hard to take.
Take Gossip Girl and NYC prep with a grain of salt. Actually, take them with many grains of salt. They may claim to portray the lives of real students who attend the best Manhattan private schools. In truth they portray the lives of some students who attend a few schools of the hundreds of private schools Manhattan offers. For every Gossip Girl or NYC Prep student who is struggling with shopping, there are hundreds of students struggling to make better lives for themselves by doing the very hard academic work a private school expects.