The transition to college has always been particularly treacherous territory for teen shows. High school is such fertile ground to mine for drama, full as it is of angst and social hierarchy and romantic growing pains. High school is awful and wonderful in ways that are essentially universal. But college is different. College is where the common experiences of growing up start to diverge. College cultivates individualism instead of squashing it. College is fun, which is good for real life, but rarely as the setting for a one-hour drama.
Interestingly, Gossip Girl, which just wrapped up its fall season, seems to be navigating the waters better than many of its predecessors. Which is to say that the shift to college life hasn’t had much of an impact at all so far. This isn’t necessarily a compliment, because Gossip Girl was never really a show about high school to begin with. It’s about sex, fashion, scheming and beautiful people being young and rich in New York. Occasionally there had been a storyline revolving around college visits or an affair with a teacher (I’m fairly certain there’s never been a scene set in an actual classroom), but the show has rarely delved far enough into the inner lives of its characters for them to demonstrate any real emotional evolution or coming of age. Where the beautiful people spend their time—high school, college campuses, penthouse apartments, coffee shops—doesn’t really matter. It’s all just window dressing anyway.