Edwestwick2_paleyfest08_240Coming soon to The CW’s guilty pleasure semi-hit Gossip Girl: The return of Bad Serena (Blake Lively), the introduction of uber-bitchy Georgina Sparks (Michelle Trachtenberg), a building war between Blair (Leighton Meester) and Jenny (Taylor Momsen) and, if fans are truly lucky, one Gay Jewish Monkey.

These whole-truths, half-truths and blatant falsehoods were gleaned over the weekend at the William S. Paley Television Festival’s lively panel for Gossip Girl, a show whose fans may not rival Buffy the Vampire Slayer cultists in pure devotion, but they sure have higher-pitched squeals.

Unlike several other shows being presented at this year’s Paley Fest, Gossip Girl is actually back in production, so there were actually minor spoilers to be gleaned at the Saturday (March 22) event.

While the second half of the Gossip Girl season was originally arced for nine episodes, the since-settled writers strike has reduced that order to only five, which executive producer and co-developer Stephanie Savage described as a boon.

"It’s just pure adrenaline storytelling from here to the end," Savage promised. "There are no D-storylines, only A’s."

When we last left the girls who gossip, Blair’s status had been dragged through the mud by an anonymous blogger, leaving her a social pariah, but don’t expect that to make Blair suddenly sweet and meek.

"It’s really fun and I would like to say a challenge to be bitchy," Meester said, "But not too much."

Blakelively_paleyfest08_240It doesn’t take much impetus to bring out Blair’s unpleasant side, but Serena has mostly been all sweet and reformed since returning to New York City, but don’t expect that to last too long.

"It’s like Serena’s superpower is Bad Serena," executive producer and co-developer Josh Schwartz said.

It sounded, though, like nobody on the Gossip Girl dais relished the idea of being innocent.

"I’d like to see Dan dirtied up," said Penn Badgley. "He’s too sweet and nice. It could be that that’s on the horizon."

"It is," added Schwartz.

It was already announced that Trachtenberg will be joining the cast for an arc playing a girl from Bad Serena’s past, but what about that pesky Gay Jewish Monkey.

Well, the first thing you have to know here is that Cecily von Ziegesar (who I desperately want to call "Cecily Van Der Snoot" for reasons I can’t explain), the creator of the Gossip Girl books, loves what Schwartz and Savage have done for the small screen.

"I’m just overwhelmingly happy," she said on Saturday. "No offense to anybody, but my expectations were just so low."

Von Ziegesar hadn’t seen Schwartz and Savage’s previous work on The O.C., but it still made her nervous, as she put it, "I was like ‘Oh God, this is going to be on a beach and Nate is going to be a lifeguard and Serena’s going to be a beach volleyball player.’"

But just because von Ziegesar was "peeing her pants" (her colorful words, not mine) when she saw the pilot, doesn’t mean that she was without suggestions to bring the TV show back into the universe of the books.

"Vanessa (Jessica Szhor) has to shave her head and Chuck (Ed Westwick), I’m sorry, but you have to get a monkey," von Ziegesar said.

Now fans of the books know that Chuck’s monkey coincides with a particular period of sexual exploration on his part. And those in attendance at the Paley know that one of Lively’s initial stipulations going out for the role was that she wouldn’t have to work with a monkey. But could the production kill multiple birds with a single stone? Session moderator Tim Stack asked Schwartz where the gay characters were hiding.

"The only question we get more than ‘Where are the gays?’ is ‘Where are the Jews?’" Schwartz said, before immediately hitting on "Gay Jewish Monkey!"

As he put it, "Season two writes itself."

Taylormomsen_paleyfest08_240Then again, von Ziegesar also expressed displeasure with the size of Jenny’s breasts, a major trait in the books, telling coltish 14-year-old Momsen, "I mean, you haven’t really gone through puberty yet."

Ick.

A couple other quick tidbits from the Paley:

  • Szhor landed the role of Jessica not after auditioning, but after showing up at a BBQ at Schwartz’s house. "You opened the door and I said ‘That’s Vanessa,’" Schwartz said, with Savage adding "I had to go home and IMDB her to make sure she was actually an actress."
  • After Do Over, The Mountain and Bedford Diaries, Badgley had concerns at getting the Gossip Girl script. As he put it, "I’d done three other WB series and I was like ‘Oh God. Now it’s The CW. Can I go back there?"
  • Originally, Vanessa was supposed to beat Serena at Guitar Hero in one product placement-tastic episode, but Lively was having none of that. The actress, who said that she’s entered tournaments, boldly declared, "I’m pretty incredible at it. It’s my No. 1 skill." Lively later admitted that really her expertise on the game is only at medium level, prompting Badgley, when describing his own gifts on the actual guitar to say, "Yeah, but I’m nothing impressive. I’m maybe medium."
  • Posted by:Daniel Fienberg