Gossip Girl: Looking back at the '80s-set spin-off that never was
Once upon a time, Gossip Girl almost had a spin-off: During The CW show’s second season, the teen drama aired a backdoor pilot for what would have been a series about Lily van der Woodsen’s rockstar-adjacent past — and EW was on the set for it. To celebrate Gossip Girl premiering 10 years ago this month, we’re revisiting that story, which was originally published in the May 8, 2009 issue of the magazine.
Deep inside a damp warehouse in downtown Los Angeles lies a time portal to 1983. Throngs of young clubbers, clad in every good/bad ’80s trend imaginable (jean jackets paired with pearls, poufy miniskirts), down beer and socialize while awaiting a performance from a hot local punk band. This way-radical anachronism isn’t the work of Doc Brown and a garbage-guzzling DeLorean: It’s actually part of a Gossip Girl flashback to the hard-partying teenage days of Lily van der Woodsen (Kelly Rutherford) that will air on The CW May 11. And this may not be a one-time time trip: GG exec producers Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage hope that this episode — starring Hairspray‘s Brittany Snow as the young Lily — will evolve into a spin-off series all about the future socialite’s groupie past. Says Savage, ”It would address the question ‘How did this woman who grew up with all this Upper East Side snobbery once end up in the back of a Nine Inch Nails bus?”’
The rocker-to-riches saga begins as grown Lily reflects on her tumultuous teen years after daughter Serena (Blake Lively) faces her own crisis. At 17, Lily — who has been kicked out of her posh Montecito boarding school — goes in search of her music-exec father (played by ’80s icon Andrew McCarthy). Along the way, she reconnects with her black-sheep sister Carol (Gilmore Girls’ Krysten Ritter) as the duo hits the aforementioned club to see a band called Snowed Out — played by guest stars No Doubt. ”I’ve been TiVoing [Gossip Girl] but it’s hard with the babies,” says lead singer (and mom of two) Gwen Stefani. ”But we’re gonna take [the TiVo] on tour.”
When rumors first swirled last summer that The CW wanted a companion series to Gossip Girl, the rumblings were that Taylor Momsen’s Jenny Humphrey would be the one to break out on her own. But Schwartz and Savage didn’t want to lose any of their stars, and felt that Lily’s backstory — think hookups with Trent Reznor and Slash — held the most promise. Says Schwartz, ”The idea of creating a new universe that can live outside of the show but still be connected, and doing a series set in L.A. in the ’80s — that got us really excited.” At first, CW president of entertainment Dawn Ostroff needed convincing — ”I literally held her hand as I pitched it,” recalls Schwartz — but Ostroff now swears she’s all over it like lacy fingerless gloves on Madonna. ”I would do anything with [the producers], even if they wanted to do a series about paint drying,” she says. ”I believe in them that much.”
Well, nearly that much: The CW hasn’t yet greenlit the still-untitled series (the network will announce its fall schedule on May 21). But if it does go through, the cast is game to live in the ’80s full-time, even if it comes with the occasional head trip — Snow, 23, is good friends with the 21-year-old Lively, who technically plays her TV daughter. Jokes the actress, ”I’m gonna give her a call and be like, ‘Are you eating your vegetables? What time did you get home?”’