Okay, first things first: How did Gossip Girl manage to have pretty much a regular-length season in the year of the writers' strike? Was it just too hip and sexy to be hurt by the strike, and thus immune? Or did the CW have the foresight to plan waaaaay ahead? Whatever it was, this five-disc set contains 18 episodes and is loaded with special features. But the slim and trim packaging is just like a true-blue Gossip Girl character: thin, sexy, and full of surprises.
Disc 1: The unaired (or "x'd," if you will) scenes from the "Pilot" include Dan's phone ringing (really; that's the entire scene); Serena telling Nate to tell Blair he'll never see Serena again, which gives him doing that a whole new weight; Blair going into a restroom to throw up (so the bulimia thing was there all along, apparently); and Serena and Eric talking about why he tried to kill himself; Jenny in a cab on her way to the party; and Jenny and Chuck pre-attempted rape (this is the scene that would have had people saying, "She was totally asking for it," because she is making out with him and a lot more willing to go to the roof with him, if you get my drift). None of these are earth-shattering, though the bulimia thing would have helped that not be such an out-of-left-field plotline later in the season. Oh, and the last scene with Chuck and Jenny has some overdubbed voices that are not Taylor Momsen and Ed Westwick. That's a little jarring.
There is one x'd scene from "The Wild Brunch": Dan being asked to wait outside by a doorman because he won't stop fidgeting, which is why he comes upon Bart and Lily before they're open about their relationship.
Disc 2: "The Handmaiden's Tale" and "Victor/Victrola" both feature x'd scenes: The one from "Handmaiden" is a pretty cute one of a masked Dan being hit on by Blair's friends at the masked ball. When he rejects them, they have this exchange: "Gay." "Totally. Next." From "Victor/Victrola," we get an x'd conversation between Serena and Lily that would have made viewers like Lily much sooner in the series; she says kind things to Serena about Dan and gives her a hug.
Disc 3: More x'd scenes. From "Hi, Society," we see Dan's mom get a "cover for me" text from Jenny intended for Dan. And in "School Lies," there's a scene between Jenny and Dan that felt like it had already happened, so... nothing new. And one between Nate and Jenny that also felt like it was in the episode, except for the part at the end when Chuck walks up and asks Nate to smoke pot before school. He's so cool.
Disc 4: Every one of the four episodes on this disc includes one x'd scene: A cute scene in which Dan and Serena talk about whether Lily will marry Bart; Dan walking in on his dad's overnight lady friend early in the morning (Sasha; did we even know she exists?); Nate giving Vanessa flowers for taking the SAT and then admitting he doesn't even know what the movie Pretty Woman is; and Serena actually looking for Georgina.
Disc 5: The bulk of the extras are on this last disc. The disc opens with an original preview for the first season of Gossip Girl followed by a trailer for a really ridiculous knockoff movie The Clique, or, as the announcer says, "Tyra Banks Presents: The Clique." Seriously?! Are we supposed to consider that a selling point? Anyway, on to the actual extras:
There's one x'd scene from the finale, "Much 'I Do' About Nothing": Vanessa putting on a dress from Little House on the Prairie for the wedding until Jenny talks her out of it and gives her one of her own designs. Jenny says, "Good thing you're a sample size," but doesn't add anything like, "And good thing I'm here to save you from dressing frumpier than we've ever seen you for the most high-society event you've gone to." I love this show, but sometimes it tests my limits.
The Beginning, xoxo is a featurette about how Gossip Girl started, from the very beginning -- Cecily von Ziegesar talks about how she came up with the idea for the book series -- on through how it became a TV show (the books were put into the hands of The O.C. wunderkind Josh Schwartz). They talk about how the concept of the books is 12 or 13 years old, so von Ziegesar was very "forward-thinking." They then go on through what came next: Even though the network brought the show to Schwartz and co-producer Stephanie Savage, they had to pitch with a script. Then they head on through the casting process, including audition footage (the casting people saw 975 actors and actresses for what ultimately became these six roles). They then walk through the cast one actor at a time. The most interesting tidbit is that they almost recast Chuck at the last minute because Ed Westwick could not get a visa to work in the States. Blake Lively, surprisingly, was the one person they had in mind for Serena from the beginning, and they had to get her interested in the books and script to convince her to do TV. Oh, and Connor Paolo (Eric) is the only New York native of the main cast. They discuss the set design, the color palette, the music, everything you might possibly have a question about. Then they have the cast and crew talk about seeing the pilot, and their reactions to it. For clocking in at only 23 minutes, it's just about the most complete featurette you could ever imagine.
The one thing not discussed in The Beginning featurette is wardrobe, and that's because there is a separate short doc, Gossip Girl Couture, dedicated to just that. It's pretty much what you'd expect: They all rave about how excellent the fashion is, that they have the best wardrobe in television, and how important this show has become in the fashion world. I'm guessing you've heard this one before, so I'll skip the nitty gritty details. I will say this: Fifteen minutes and some intense detail about how they choose Dan's and Chuck's shoes is way more than most TV fans will care about (though if you're into fashion, this is definitely the featurette for you).
A Gossip Girl Wedding is a five-minute featurette about how they made and filmed the wedding. It's interesting in that you think it's very extravagant, but you forget that the budget on a TV show is not nearly as large as a high-society couple such as Bart and Lily would spend on their actual wedding. They tell us how they made this wedding look like it cost a million dollars when it actually didn't.
There's a gag reel -- titled, appropriately, lol -- and it's terrific. It's long (12 minutes!) and includes short candid moments and bloopers. It even has an entire section dedicated to filming in New York, which obviously presents its own challenges (honking horns, people screaming, etc.).
Two music videos from The Pierces ("Boring" and "Secret") are included, as is the audiobook of the first Gossip Girl book by von Ziegesar.
In other words, buy this DVD. Everyone who's anyone should have one.