Gossip Girl initially received mixed reviews. Due to the show's pedigree as an adaptation of The New York Times bestselling novel series, the show was considered to be one of the more anticipated new shows of the 2007–2008 television season. An August 2007 survey by OTX, a global media research and consulting firm, placed the show on the list of top ten new shows that viewers were aware of. Though the pilot was the recipient of many positive reviews from publications such as Variety, The Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle and the Boston Globe, other reviewers described it as a guilty pleasure rather than an hour's worth of must-watch television. Metacritic gave it a score of 54, based on the reviews of 26 different publications.
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Toward the conclusion of the first season, Janet Malcolm of The New Yorker criticized the show for its deviations from the novels. She has stated that the series was, "related to the original only in the names and outlines of the characters." She further asserted that, "Without von Ziegesar's fast, mocking commentary to propel them, the TV episodes are sluggish and crass – a move from Barneys to Kmart." However, author Cecily von Ziegesar has expressed support for the show, noting that all of her major plot points were present in the pilot.
As the show continued its first season, the response became considerably more positive, and by the second season critical response was favorable. Metacritic gave the new season an improved score of 71. "Summer's been good to this girl," claimed Entertainment Weekly, who awarded the series its highest grade of "A." The New York Daily News claimed the show had found its footing by stating "It knows exactly what it wants and needs its new hybrid product to be. The hockey fights video of teen romance drama." Gossip Girl was designated the "Greatest Teen Drama of All Time" by New York magazine. The magazine wrote, "the show has resurrected the potential for scripted dramas to be effective social satire—to present a world more accurately than a "reality" program can. Gossip Girl presents a wealth-eye view of the city, but because it is a cartoon we can laugh along with the conspicuousness of the consumption."
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The Parents Television Council has shown particular criticism of the series, especially with its "OMFG" ad campaign from April 2008. It also named the episode "Victor/Victrola" the worst television program of the week in which the episode originally was broadcast. Quotes from the Parents Television Council review, as well as negative quotes from the San Diego Union-Tribune, New York Post and the Boston Herald, were used on various advertisements for the second season. The Hartford Courant chronicled a variety of negative responses to the ads. The ads included quotes like "Every Parent's Nightmare", "Mind-Blowingly Inappropriate" and "A Nasty Piece of Work" in what appears to be an effort to continue the 'rebellious teen' style of the show.
With the approach of the fifth season, New York Magazine reviewed the life expectancy of the show, noting its waning cultural relevancy despite the growing prominence of its actors, and the loss of its status as The CW's No.1 show, having been beaten out in terms of ratings by other shows of the network like Supernatural and 90210. "The series itself hasn't quite kept up, even if its plotting is as juicy and lunatic as ever." and that "The cast would all rather be making movies, while the showrunners are focusing on launching new projects via their nascent Fake Empire production company (including CW newcomer Hart of Dixie). Barring an unexpected brand reboot or another stab at a spinoff, we're afraid the end is near. XOXO." AOL TV ranked Gossip Girl the 20th Best School Show of All Time and the 4th TV's Biggest Guilty Pleasure. The show was declared the tenth highest rated show for the first ten years of IMDb.com Pro (2002-2012).
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In 2008, The New York Times reported the show has had a profound impact on retail, saying Gossip Girl is probably "the first [show] to have been conceived, in part, as a fashion marketing vehicle." While it has had middling success in terms of ratings, it “may well be the biggest influence in the youth culture market,” said a trendspotter.
On January 26, 2012, in honor of the series' 100th episode, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg visited the set and proclaimed the date Gossip Girl Day, citing the show's cultural influence and impact on the economy of the city. "Gossip Girl has made New York a central character. While Gossip Girl is drawing fans in with its plot twists, the show also attracts many of them to visit New York, contributing to our incredible 50.5 million visitors last year. In fact, the economic impact of Gossip Girl and other television shows and films that are made in New York really can be felt directly in all five boroughs. The 100th episode of Gossip Girl is a real landmark, and I want to congratulate the show's cast and crew," he stated.
The popularity of the series was also indirectly responsible for the creation of the reality series NYC Prep, which ran for one season on Bravo. The series has been referenced in films such as Fired Up!, Get Him To The Greek, Easy A, Vampires Suck, Just Go With It and Horrible Bosses, and TV series such as Royal Pains, Entourage, Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock, and Skins, among others.
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